How to get your kids (and you) off the couch this summer


See those things up there? Those are what we use to help guide our summers.

The best thing about summer is all that time for lazy meandering. But sometimes that time can work against you. Too many mornings spent aimlessly wandering about the yard, too many afternoons spent napping on the couch, too many mindless trips to the same lake and suddenly it’s the end of August, with no adventures to remember. So we use a couple of tools to keep us thinking and discovering new areas.

First is Friends of Acadia’s Acadia Quest. Now in it’s eighth year–we’ve been doing it for three–it’s like a scavenger hunt of experiences through the park. This year it is a “sensory” quest, with activities in the Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch, and optional Taste categories. Finish the minimum number of activities and you get an Acadia Quest patch, a park pass for the next year, and a chance to win a bigger grand prize. Not everything is on Mount Desert Island, there are options for the Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut sections of the park as well. This year they also have  Speed Quest option for those of you who might only visit the park once or twice this summer. We find Acadia Quest a great option for building more creative adventures in the park, as well as for motivating the kids to get outside. There are few things our family likes better than a nice, organized checklist. (That may just be me.)

Our second tool is the Maine State Parks Passport program. Unlike Acadia Quest, this program is continual and isn’t limited to one season–which is good because there are a lot of state parks and that would be one busy summer. Simply pick up a passport book at any park’s visitor center and get started. You have to search each park for its stamping station, enter the secret code (the year the park was established) to open the padlock, and stamp that park’s page. The more stamps you get, the better the prizes. The passport book itself is full of useful information: maps, descriptions, and facilities information. This little guide has been great for helping us plan adventures further afield, many to parks we didn’t know existed.

Don’t visit Acadia often? Don’t have a lot of time to travel around the state? Check with your local land trust to see if they have a passport or trail challenge program (many do) or simply get a map of nearby trails and set a goal of how many you’d like to try out this summer. Get together with friends and design your own quest in your area–I’m sure Friends of Acadia wouldn’t mind if you use theirs as inspiration–then compete to see which family can check off the most items. Or simply take an evening with your kids and make a list of summer goals–dream a bit–then tackle them one by one.

Whatever you do, make sure that you keep one eye on the bigger picture. Because when your kid has to write the inevitable “What I did on my summer vacation” essay in a few months, do you really want it to just say: “Nothing”? Get out there.


Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.