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7 free family activities to enjoy before school starts

Just because school is about to start doesn’t mean there isn’t still time for some free family fun!

Regardless of where you live, how you educate your children or when they start school, these seven FREE kids’ activities are sure to create family memories that will last throughout the school year and beyond.

7 Free Kids’ Activities to try before School Starts

  1. Family Zones at festivals/concerts/runs
    Even if you aren’t interested in attending the paid event, most events offer free family zones on the day leading up to it with bouncy houses, face-painting, vendors, etc.
  2. Visit your local library
    Many think of the library for books, but your library is a great choice for free movies rentals, video games, CD’s and even MP3 downloads (Just make sure you return the audio/video materials on time because they carry heftier late fines than books). The Nashville Public Library also offers excellent puppet shows that the whole family can enjoy.
  3. Free Kids Workshops
    Every other week, some of the major home improvement stores offer free kids workshops where kids can not only build a free project (that typically involves hammers, paint and stickers…or some combination of them all!), but will also receive an apron and certificate of completion.
  4. Make a Summer Scrapbook
    Before your kids start school, have them draw pictures of everything they did this summer, and then paste in actual pictures of them doing those activities next to their drawings. Even though I created a list of my 20 favorite Summer Boredom Busters, the summer scrapbook is one of my all-time favorites my kids love taking back to school to show-off.
  5. Free Movies
    Nashville offers several cheap summer movie options out there, including free movies in the park, advance movie preview screenings and even free rentals from movie kiosks so you can host your own free movie night.
  6. Create a Scavenger Hunt
    Whether in your own home, around town, or at a summer vacation destination, children LOVE scavenger hunts! Even if you don’t have a road trip planned anytime soon, even a drive across town can become more fun when you’re all hunting for something.
  7. Catch Lightning Bugs
    Catching lightning bugs is one of everyone’s favorite summer pastimes. After dinner one night, head out as a family to see how many of these little critters you can capture…just make sure to release them before you go inside.

As you can see from the list, it doesn’t take a ton of money OR time to make memories together as a family this summer before the kids start school again. The most important thing is that you intentionally make time to spend time together doing something you all can enjoy and share.

How do you plan to spend time together as a family before the kids start back to school?



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I once read that it’s the hearts you touch, not the things you get, that determine your success in life.

Today, you might look at me and say I have achieved success. I have raised four children and have been blessed to see and be a part of the lives of 13 grandchildren. I have been at Vanderbilt for more than 30 years with a career that allows me to help new parents welcome healthy or critically ill newborns into this world — two strikingly different experiences, and I have been fortunate to be a part of both.

In health care, we measure and count things all the time, but I can’t begin to count my true measures of success. It lies in the many hearts I have touched and that have touched me back over the years. I have lived, laughed, and cried my way through many ups and downs in my 60+ years, and when I reflect on it, I see success not as achievements or things accumulated in those memories and experiences.

I have cried with families when the news was not good and we had nothing left to offer but our arms around a mom and dad. I have laughed with parents when a baby recovering from abdominal surgery pooped — a milestone we celebrated together.

I have had the honor of helping a new mom reach her husband through Skype on Christmas Day so that he could see his new baby son from his post in Iraq, and I have proudly escorted a family to their car with armloads of baby’s belongings after an 11-month hospital stay in the NICU.

I remember the delivery of a baby when we discovered a ‘hidden’ twin! The family was ecstatic and kept in touch with me for years and years.

And then there was the day day someone told me to go to the NICU to find a crib card on an incubator with baby’s first name: Marlee. I was so excited to congratulate the father on such a great name choice, as I proudly showed him my own name badge. It was only then that I realized it was my birthday — this tiny Marlee came into the world on the same date as this grown-up Marlee. The father and I laughed and laughed.

There have been so many “firsts,” from introducing a big brother or sister to their new sibling to offering a mom or dad a first chance to feed their baby from a bottle after weeks, and sometimes months, in the NICU. Oh, the tears!

And there have been hundreds of times I was called to greet someone with their baby to show off to the team that helped care for him or her.

How do I begin to put a value on those memories and experiences? When I made the life-altering decision to attend nursing school at the age of 30, with 4 children in tow, I could never have dreamed of all the “success” that this decision would bring into my life.

Not too long ago, at the end of a big family dinner, we were playing a game in which you choose a card and take turns answering questions on the card. One of my grandchildren read, “If you could be anybody in the world who would it be and why?”

“I would want to be like Mingy because she is so good and so smart!”

Folks, for this “Mingy,” that’s success.



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