It’s that time again! School’s out for summer and the sweet, well-behaved children that have been attending school have changed. Right before your eyes your darling little princess or prince has turned feral. Not only that—these people, who you know for a fact ate only breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks, and dinner during a school day have turned into ravenous piranhas that eat every crumb of food in the house and start looking for more. 

These pint-sized humans are struggling because they miss their friends, their teacher, and their routine. Some of their friends are taking amazing trips to Disney World or another state and your kids aren’t. (Or, at least, my kids aren’t) and they suddenly feel ripped off because they don’t get to go see Mickey Mouse. 

What I’m trying to say is that summer is hard for some kids—especially children who adopted from foster care. If you have multiple children adopted from hard places, summertime can be the most stress-inducing time of the year coming in a close second only to Christmas-time. 

And if it’s hard for the kids, you know it is going to be a difficult time for us parents. 

It’s difficult to explain to some people that while you might truly appreciate the invitation to join them at the splash pad/water park/science center, you can’t unless you’ve had about 24-48 hours’ notice. Otherwise your “fun, spontaneous trip” will quickly spiral into nightmare fuel. 

So, what do we do? Well, for me, a lot of time we spend together I’m trying to build attachment. My kids still struggle to trust that I mean them no harm so we try hard to be a safe place. We don’t always get it right. But, we are all getting better. Here’s a list of some things we love that foster attachment and bring big smiles to everyone.

Water Balloon Games

Play water balloon toss like an old-school egg toss—but with a water balloon. Have your child toss the balloon to a sibling or you. Toss the balloon back. Both of you take a big step backward and repeat until the balloon bursts.

Water balloon freeze tag is another favorite around here. One person is it and has a cache of balloons. When you’re hit with a balloon and it breaks that person is frozen and can only move if an unfrozen person touches them. Continue until the balloons are out or everyone is frozen.

Backyard Camping

This is great because you get the fun of camping without the worry of going somewhere overnight with a kid who might struggle with a big new experience. Backyard camping is new enough to be fun but not so foreign as to cause undo amounts of distress. 

Weekly Summer Movie Nights

This could be done year round of course. The summer is a good time though, because you don’t have to worry about school nights and disrupted schedules as much. Lay out blankets on the floor, pop popcorn and make ice cream sundaes—then watch a movie you all enjoy.

Nerf Gun Battles

While shooting at each other doesn’t necessarily seem like it would build attachment, sometimes this is just what everyone needs to get some aggression out in a safe way. 

Day Spa

Obviously this isn’t just a summer activity, but we do this much more often in the summer when we are bored and wondering what to do. The dollar store carries a variety of cheap face masks, nail polish, hair brushes, hair spray, and makeup. This can be either parent-led or child-led. Now that my kids are older, I actually really enjoy letting them play with my hair and do wild things to it. 

I’ve done this in a variety of ways: foot bath with orbees or marbles, hand massage, hair styling, whatever. The point is about the closeness and the give-and-take of asking and receiving requests and praise. 

Photo Albums

My kids love looking at photo albums from when I was a kid, and before they were in our lives. It always starts great conversations and usually leads to talking about how our family is different and how it is the same as others. It was during one such discussion that I found out my youngest thought everyone was adopted. She was very offended to find out her aunt hadn’t been adopted by my parents. She thought that meant my sister just didn’t have a family. It was a good conversation and also reminded me that so many people in our circle are touched by adoption that it seems like the default situation for my kids. 

Ice Cream for Dinner 

This might not be a great idea for your family but it was a really fun bonding experience for mine. The kid’s incredulity at being allowed and encouraged to make ice cream sundaes for dinner was entertaining and it’s a memory they talk about almost a year later. I plan to do it at least once this summer. 

Sidewalk Chalk

Draw out a hopscotch pattern. At the end, write a direction, like, hop on one foot for 3 hops, then add another hopscotch board, then write “hop like a frog” or “twirl like a ballerina” or whatever else you can think of. Get creative and, when it’s all done, make sure you do it with them. My kids delight in seeing me do “kid” things like hopscotch or swings. A good way to make this an attachment activity is to ask them to hold your hand while you’re blindfolded and have them lead you through the obstacle course. If you’re nervous about hopping around maybe draw out a maze and have them lead you through it. 

Many activities can be adapted to build attachment with your adopted child. The point is to be part of their world and play. Even if you’d rather not participate the fact that you allow them to have fun with you goes a long way towards building connection. Happy summer!