10 Ways to Have Summer Fun with Young Adult Children

Family at Farmer's Market

Varda Meyers Epstein is a mid-life mother of 12, and a communications writer and blogger at Kars4Kidsa Guidestar gold medal charity. You can follow Varda on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


When the kids were little, it was easy to arrange a family outing to the zoo or a local amusement park. The main trick was in not letting them know too far ahead, lest they get wound up, and on the off chance the outing somehow didn't happen (oh, the tantrums!).

As children morph into young adults, however, it becomes ever more complicated to plan and find appropriate outings to enjoy as a family unit.

For one thing, adult children always seem to have plans. Finding and coordinating shared free time with them can be a chore. For another thing, there's a cultural age gap—it can be difficult to find activities that both parents and adult children can enjoy together. Finally, even when you do find things you can enjoy together, the activities tend to be on the pricy side. That's not cool when you're pinching pennies to put them through college.

In spite of the difficulties, most parents yearn to spend time with their adult children and are willing to get creative to make that happen. At the same time, adult children may find your desire to spend time with them inconvenient. When you do manage to pull it off, however, the consensus is it's wonderful for all.

That's why you shouldn't let their excuses deter you from making it happen. Making time to be with those you love is always worth the extra effort.

Here are 10 great ways to spend time together as parent and (young adult) child:

1) Check out free concerts in the park in your city. Every city has free events.

And when they're held in a park, the atmosphere is so much friendlier. There's this great bond between the audience members because it's all so laid-back. The trick is finding a concert with music adult children and parents both enjoy. Jazz or classic rock can be perfect unifiers for narrowing that musical gap.

2) Take a class together. Have you always wanted to take a yoga class? Or learn how to throw pots? Many colleges and community centers offer summer courses that pack a lot of learning into a short span of time. Such courses, while not cheap, are certainly a better deal than flying to a faraway destination and paying for hotel rooms and meals. Plus, you both have a goal to achieve and you experience it together. Great for family bonding!

3) Go stargazing. There's just something about anything you do at night under the velvety sky pricked with sparkly white stars and constellations. You don't need any special equipment. You can stargaze from your local observatory/planetarium or spread a blanket and stretch out flat on your backs at a certified dark sky park. Get a sense of the vastness of the universe. Fill yourselves with awe over the incredible sky pictures you see. Neither you nor your adult children will ever forget this ageless, matchless experience.

4) Embark on a self-guided walking tour. Face it, you always wanted to explore your city in depth. But little kids tend to find this stuff boring. Adult kids, on the other hand, can dig it! Google "self-guided tour" with your city name and you may be pleasantly surprised to find the wealth of available information for absolutely free. A random search shows you downloadable self-guided tours for Pittsburgh, online walking tours of Chicago, and your choice of downloadable or online self-guided tours of the Boston Freedom Trail.

5) Volunteer together. There are more feel-good endorphins to volunteering than you ever got from the heartiest exercise! Besides, have you ever noticed how some of the best conversations you've had with your adult kids have occurred while you're cooking or ironing? Something about being busy with your hands makes it easier to talk.

Why not take a day to volunteer together at a soup kitchen or shelter? Aside from being busy with your hands, you'll bond over this shared experience of helping others. Not sure what volunteer opportunities are available in your neighborhood? Enter your location on the form at the Kars4Kids volunteer page to see what's available where you live.

6) Visit a farmers' market, then make something delicious. Go with no expectations. Buy whatever looks fresh and beautiful, and then figure out what you will cook together as a team. Beautiful plum tomatoes and aromatic basil leaves? Put up a huge pot of homemade tomato sauce to can or freeze. Every time one of you uses some of that tomato sauce, even months later, the smell of summer and loving memories of cooking together will come flooding back.

7) Have a movie night. Everyone has movies that are family favorites. Don't be afraid to get really retro. Were musicals a family favorite when your children were growing up? Watch three of them back to back. Do this on a stormy night. Stock up on awesome movie snacks like buttered popcorn and milk duds. Get totally silly. Sing and dance around your living room. You'll all remember what you liked so much about being a family. You'll discover it's still there!

8) Game night. Whether it's Monopoly, chess, or word games like Scrabble or Boggle, games are a fun way to bond. You can't keep your personality from peeking through your game moves and how you win and lose. Secretive, clever, or sly? Good sport? It's all going to come out. Put out some bridge mix, or perhaps, now that you're all grownups, some wine. There's just one rule: no one leaves early. You all have stay at it until there's a clear winner. Hint: silly prizes are a nice touch.

9) Go bowling. It's an old favorite, it's got a down-home kind of flavor, and it won't break the bank. Also, you'll find it easy to chillax with your adult children in the easy atmosphere of the local bowling alley. Not to mention, every city has one.

10) Take a boat trip. So neither of you have the time, the inclination, or the money to take a cruise on a ship. But that shouldn't stop you from taking an afternoon or evening boat trip. You can take an afternoon sightseeing trip or an evening dining cruise. It's fun and different. Your adult child will not be able to say no to the idea of getting out on the water, guaranteed!

Are the wheels turning in your head at some of these ideas? Were you thinking, "He'd go for that," or, "That would be fun," as you read through this list of leisure activities you can do with your adult children?

So think of that as your starting point. Then go on and choose another. Each time you and your adult child have a successful outing or leisure activity, you're making it more likely you'll all want to try another one.