For several years now, I’ve aspired to foster a “slow summer” for our family. Despite my best efforts, the calendar always filled with sports, camps, family reunions, the county fair and small-town festivals. While I look forward to a future when our favorite summer activities return, 2020 will go down as the summer we embraced a slower pace and new adventures.

In the midst of balancing personal and work responsibilities during a pandemic, we all need downtime healthy activities that clear your mind. Instead of sport practices and games or the county fair this summer, our calendars are open and it’s up to us to decide what we do with our time.

Our daughters have set two summer break goals for themselves: track how many minutes they read and the number of baskets they make on the basketball hoop in the driveway. If they reach their goals, I will reward them. One daughter wants guinea pigs as her reward. The other wants her own iPhone. Neither of those rewards are in line with what I had in mind.

In addition to setting goals, we’ve made a list. I’m a mom who needs lists. Our list isn’t about checking off boxes but rather about being intentional with our precious time. Here’s our list (and I’d love to hear what’s on your summer list):

  1. Visit family roots. One of our daughters is interested in knowing and seeing where her late paternal great-grandparents once lived and where they are buried, as well as learning more about family history. Thanks to online resources, that information is more accessible than ever before. It’s also a good summer for a drive or road trip to visit the farmland, farmsteads, small towns and rural cemeteries where our kids have never ventured.
  2. See a drive-in movie. Scores of drive-in movie screens once dotted our prairies. Today, we’re seeing a bit of a resurgence in drive-in movie theaters. With a little online research, I found six drive-in movie theaters remain open in Minnesota and another six in South Dakota. We have a couple options within 80 to 100 miles of us.
  3. Go camping. We used to own a fifth-wheel camper and enjoy camping as a family. Our girls have never camped in a tent, though.
  4. Visit a state park to hike, bike and explore with a packed a picnic basket and a cooler to eat outside.
  5. Lay under the stars … after applying mosquito spray. If you aren’t from the Northern Plains, you might not have experienced the vastness of our skies or seen the northern lights.
  6. Roast marshmallows and hot dogs — both of which taste like summer to me. My father-in-law has taught us to cook over coals from his Boy Scout leader days. Making an entire meal over a firepit could be next for us this summer.
  7. Board games and puzzles. We’ve played more Catan, Clue and Monopoly in the past two months than the past decade combined. Add in some puzzles and we have several new activities for rainy summer nights.
  8. Garden. There are so many resources and easy ways to get started with gardening. Green thumb. Black thumb. Create a space and start gardening to grow a few things for yourself this summer.
  9. Plan outdoor activities. Go fishing, ride a bike or play golf. Have you tried disc golf? Go to the races if they’re still being held in a nearby small town.

How will you fill your summer evenings and weekends? I’d love to compile more ideas for our slow summer list. Email me and I will share a mid-summer update with expanded experience ideas.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.