Whether the last weeks of summer mean taking it easy at home or packing your bags for one more family trip before the first day of school, we’ve put together a list of 10 essentials for making the most of those last summer days and getting ready for the year ahead—including some savvy suggestions from local experts.
To check out our tips for family fun at popular summer destinations in and out of the city, click HERE.
Take a professional-quality family photo: “Think clean—solid tones, light backgrounds, and repetitive patterns! Need [backdrop] inspiration? A solid brick wall next to a store; lying down in the sand, shot from above…in front of the waves at dusk when no one else is around. If you do find something unique to stand in front of…make sure that the kiddos are positioned in the neutral space between the details. Also, angle yourself to avoid a pole, tree, or a strong element that appears to come out of their heads.” –Classic Kids Photography, classickids.com
Get lost in one more beach read: Say goodbye to summer with one of these Brooklyn-set beach reads. In Emma Straub’s (a local mom herself) Modern Lovers, former college band members (now middle-aged Ditmas Park neighbors) reckon with what it means to finally grow up as their children hit their teens. For middle-grade readers, When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin tells the touching story of a Coney Island foster child and his friendship with a fellow bookworm. –Lauren Vespoli
Barbecue in the middle of the city: Stuck without a roof or patio and wondering where you can throw an end-of-summer BBQ in your ‘hood? The New York City Parks Department offers an online directory of designated barbecuing areas with grills in city parks at nycgovparks.org/facilities/barbecue. Because the grills are first-come, first-served, make sure to get to your chosen spot early in the day! –Samantha Lauriello
Buy the best bug spray: According to guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), you should avoid using any bug repellent containing DEET on children younger than 2 months (though it is safe for pregnant women). We love the Honest Co.’s DEET-free, hypoallergenic, organic, vegan Bug Spray ($12.95, honest.com), which uses natural essential aromatic oils such as citronella, peppermint, and lemongrass to keep critters away from baby. As your kids grow older, look for repellents containing 10-30 percent DEET, such as OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent 1 (Smooth & Dry) ($5.58, amazon.com). Its non-oily texture and natural scent is great for the whole family. Safety guidelines available at aap.org & cdc.gov –SL
Find a last-minute vacation rental: For those last-minute planners or the lucky families with some unexpected extra time, it’s not too late to snag a rental! Flipkey (a TripAdvisor company) has a devoted last-minute rental directory, available at flipkey.com/last-minute-rentals. You can enter where you want to go, or pick from its massive list of vacation spots with last-minute availability. Ownerdirect.com also has a section specifically for eleventh-hour vacation rentals. You can browse by destination, or check out the “Today’s Top 20 Deals” section for inspiration. –Benjamin Berk
Build an awesome sandcastle—with supplies from your apartment: The kids don’t need a fancy kit to build the castle of their dreams. Use an old storage or cleaning bucket (or plastic flower pots) to sculpt the body of your castle. Flatten edges and burst air pockets using a two-by-two board, and carve doors and windows with rounded measuring spoons. For the decorations, collect plastic utensils, straws, and old cookie cutters, which can be used to draw a sand sketch or decorate a castle. –SL
Play a fun sidewalk game: Everyone knows hopscotch and four square, but box out is another game younger and older kids will love. Simple for younger kids but strategic for the older ones, all you need is sidewalk chalk and space. Draw a box with smaller boxes inside, like a chess board. Each player starts somewhere on the perimeter. Players take turns moving one box in any direction, but once you leave a box, you cross it out, and no one can step in it again. If a player is stuck, they’re out! Last one standing wins. –BB
Rock your family road trip: Ending the summer with a family road trip? Classic games like “I Spy” and “the License Plate Game” definitely entertain, and geography buffs will enjoy tracing your route on the map. But what happens when the iPad’s dead and you’re driving at night? Bring glow sticks to keep kids content while on the road in the dark. When the sun sets, fashion them into bracelets or necklaces for the kids to wear (most brands come with connectors). That way, kids can read or draw without the driver having to contend with the light on in the car. –BB
Get excited for the school year with a fun craft: “Back-to-School Desk Accessory Supply Jars are a fun way to decorate your own containers for your back-to-school supplies! We love using recycled mason jars, but any glass or plastic jar could work,” says Lindsay Peers, the owner of the Craft Studio (craftstudionyc.com) on the Upper East Side. For complete step-by-step instructions for making your own decouapge photo jar, pom pom jar, and googly eye monster jar, click HERE!
…and get organized with this handy tip: “Set up a three-tier organization system with your child before the school year begins. Tier 1 is a ‘working notebook,’ or a notebook that your child carries to school with him on a regular basis. Tier 2 is an accordion file that he leaves at home and that contains three sections for every class: Handouts, notes, and tests/quizzes. Help him deem one day per week as his ‘clean out my working notebook day’ where he transfers any papers he no longer needs to carry with him into the appropriate section of his accordion file. Tier 3 is a file cabinet, where he stores any essays, tests, or projects that he wants to save for the long-run.” –Dr. Emily Levy, founder of EBL Coaching, eblcoaching.com