10 Ways To Give Your Kids a 1970s Summer

Melissa Fenton

School is officially out. The Pinterest pages, Facebook feeds, and family magazine features are loaded up with all the activities you should do with your kids’ summer. AS. IF. As if we need more activities. MORE I say! As if I am sitting here, OK, really lying here in my end-of-school-year coma, thinking, “OMG! I CANNOT wait to tackle that homemade moon sand recipe! We will dye ourselves with the skin of organic vegetables, then shape our homemade sand into a perfect replica of the Millenium Falcon! ”

Or, “Why yes, I am going to schlep four kids to that new science museum two hours away, where we will eagerly wander through the exhibits, each completing the 10-page scavenger hunt I created last night. Then we will come home and ‘discuss’ at great length the scientific theories we learned, because, brace yourself, what if we don’t keep our minds active ALL summer?”

“GASP! Wait, hold it! We must, just MUST go to the dollar store and buy 125 pool noodles to construct a backyard water park! We will invite the neighborhood kids over, serve vegan popsicles, watermelon chunks cut out like dolphins, and a vegetable crudité platter shaped like a palm tree. And what summer pool party would be complete without nitrate, skin, meat, additive, and taste free hot dogs on gluten-free buns covered in artisanal ketchup?”

I am done. Sort of like I how I was done with the school year, but I am already done with summer. And by done, I mean I am done with all the forced smile-inducing, uber-planned and supervised, over-the-top summer life experiences I am supposed to provide for my kids. You know what I want my kids to experience this summer? The same type of summer I would have experienced in the late 1970s. The exact same one. I survived it, and they will too. As a matter of fact, it must have been pretty memorable because 30 years later I can tell you exactly what it entailed. It entailed FUN. Fun we made all on our own. What. A. Concept.

My top 10 ways to give your kids a 1970s summer.

1970s summer tv

1.  Let them watch TV. Plenty of it. But only the TV Land channel. I want my kids to watch The Love Boat, The Carol Burnett Show, The Jefferson’s, Charlie’s Angels, My Three Sons, The Six Million Dollar Man, Gilligan’s Island, $100,000 Pyramid, and my personal favorite, Hart to Hart. Seriously, what little girl in the late ’70s didn’t want to be an amateur detective married to the CEO of Hart Industries and driving around in a yellow Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster, all while sporting a matching lilac pantsuit and perfectly coiffed butterfly winged wavy brown hair? Because I sure as hell did.

1970s summer 6

2.  Eat whatever you want, and/or whatever can find. There will be no more pantries full of organic vegetable chips and non-GMO graham crackers. No more refrigerators full of anti-pesticide fruit, free range eggs, and cold pressed juice. This will be the summer of Frito-Lay and Red Dye #5. I want to see my kid’s reaction when I tear open a tiny envelope of cherry Kool-Aid, sprinkle it into a BPA-laden plastic pitcher, dump four cups of regular, granulated, white, and maybe even generic sugar (not raw, stevia, or agave) then add water from the tap, and voila! You are hydrated! I will be over here drinking a Tab. Lunch will be fried bologna and a blue can of Planter’s Cheese Balls, and for dinner, we will pile in the car and go pick up a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a styrofoam quart of mashed potatoes, and O. M. Geee, dessert will be pineapple upside cake! Made from canned pineapples in…….wait for it……syrup!

1970s summer 7

3.  Make them play outside. Like all day. All. Damn. Day. Hot? Drink from the hose. Run through the sprinklers. Swim in the pool until your hair feels like straw, turns green, and the bottom of your feet are calloused from the bottom of the pool. Search for ladybugs, play hide ‘n seek between the houses, run down the street gutters after a rain storm. Read under a tree. I hear this lady named Judy Blume writes good stuff.

1970s summer 8

4.  Send them to the movies for the entire day. I will drop you off at around 11 am and pick you up for dinner. It’s real simple. You sneak from one theater to the next. Nobody cares.

1970s summer 9

5.  Spend three nights in a row at your best friend’s house. No, you don’t have to call to check in every hour. And yes, it’s totally OK that her parents will be at work and nobody will be home all day. It will give you plenty of time for #1, 2, and 3.

1970s summer 10

6.  Make stuff, like from stuff you find. No trips to Hobby Lobby for pre-cut, pre-stuck, pre-fabricated crafts. Find crap in the garage and assemble it into something you can play with. No, you can’t Google how to do it. Ropes are fun.

1970s summer 4

7.  Have them put on a talent show. A real, genuine sing and dance and entertain-the-hell-out-of-me talent show. I promise I won’t upload it to YouTube or share it on Facebook. I pinky swear. No, there are no themes, no requirements, no directions, no anything. No, there is no right way to do it. You have an imagination. Please use it.

1970s summer 2

8.  Play Simon until you want to throw it against the wall or smash into 1,000 pieces. It’s the original train your brain app.

1970s summer 3

9.  Build a fort in the backyard. No, I am not gonna help. Yes, you can use the $125 Pottery Barn Kids duvet cover from your bed. I don’t care anymore. Making a memory trumps 400-thread-count cotton.

1970s summer 1

10.  Finally, learn to find the amazing in the ordinary. Trust me. You will need this skill in your 40s. I pinky swear.


Let's start with drinking from the hose. Give your kids a 1970's Summer


Melissa is mom to four sons, wannabe bakery and yarn shop owner, cookbook hoarding adjunct librarian, mother, runner, and sometimes a humor writer. She blogs at 4 Boys Mother.