By Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

I love summer: the long nights that I can spend in my garden, weekend afternoons at our local pool, and tired, happy children coming home from day camp every afternoon ready to chill out. Our family is on a much less structured schedule right now, with dance lessons and soccer practice on hiatus. I appreciate how mid-summer’s pace helps us all slow down and recharge.

The laid-back summer environment can be the perfect time for you and your children to create special Jewish memories. Here are a few ideas that have worked in my home~ I would love you to share comments about what has worked well for you:

  • Shabbat Picnics: Who says that Shabbat dinner needs to take place around a formal dining room table? It’s fun to pack a picnic dinner (or Saturday afternoon lunch) and take a big blanket to the park or the beach~ or spread out right in your backyard. Keep it simple and easy (Rotisserie chicken anyone?). We like to eat our picnic and then go home to light candles.
  • Tikkun Olam around the House: Join our jkidphilly Venturer program and so fun Jewish values activities in your home and community through the summer!
  • Field Trips: If your kids are getting a bit too glued to the TV or other electronics, mix things up with a Jewish field trip. For elementary age kids and teens, Philadelphia offers The National Museum of American Jewish History and The Penn Museum that features great exhibits on ancient history. If you feel like taking a drive (or train ride), there are also lots of interesting exhibits and walking tours in New York and Baltimore.
  • Try a Recipe: Cooking a favorite Jewish recipe together can be a really fun way to connect. With the High Holidays coming in early September, you could start trying out some honey cake and other Rosh Hashanah recipes. The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen (a PJ Library book) and jkidphilly’s new Rosh Hashanah Pinterest board are great places to begin. Cooking is a great activity for kids of all ages and abilities.
  • Reading Books: The light nights stretch out the bedtime routines in my house~I get it; it is hard to close your eyes when the sun is still out. Since my kids have been part of PJ Library for some time, we have all of our books on a special bookshelf that they call their “PJ Library.” Summer nights are a great time to go back and pick out favorite Jewish stories to enjoy together.

We’d love to hear about how you and your jkids make Jewish summer meories–post pictures on our jkidphilly facebook page.