Summer in Tyler

Free Week of Healthy Kids Inc Meal Planner

For some parents, summer means an increase of precious one-on-one time with their children. It’s a blank canvas of fun and possibilities. You don’t need camps, or VBS, or Jen Hatmaker telling you to lock your kids out of the house while you sip a mimosa (or glass of orange juice, whatever).

If that’s you, I’m jealous of your mom genes and you’re not allowed to read this list.

Because, despite the eternal love that I have for my charming children, the colossal blank canvas of summer blinds me and all I see is my 3-year-old daughter unlocking my bathroom door with a screwdriver (which has actually happened) just to say hi.

So, motivated (my husband might say “haunted”) by Summers Past, I’m fighting for a Summer 2015 that inspires creativity, independence, adventure, fencing, fighting, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escape, true love, miracles* {name that movie} … but I’ll be content with survival.

Here are a few ideas! There should be a little something for every age, with a mix of daytime, weekend and evening activities.


Blessed camps. There are sports camps, there are educational camps, there are weeklong expensive overnight camps! There are free (I think?) camps and artsy.kid.camps, but unfortunately most of these are also school-age camps. You can even Create Your Own Camp and pitch a tent in the backyard. I hear children love that kind of thing. Or you can actually go … camping.

It’s impossible for me to know about every provider of every camp, but here are ones I’ve heard about (in addition to a few linked above). Just: with all these suggestions, do your own research too so that I’m not blamed if your child was not a happy camper.

TJC Sports Camps: my son started doing the soccer camp at age 4 (see “Ankle Biters”), and he enjoyed it! (Note: my two-cents is that a camp is a good way to introduce your child to a sport before he or she joins a league.)

UT Tyler Summer Fun Camp: Ages 5 – 9, this is another one that gets rave reviews.

Zoo Camps: Most of these have closed registration, but there are still several available if your kid is age 9 or older.

In my searching, I also found this list, which may or may not be helpful.


That amazing free thing where kids are occupied for a couple hours a day and learn about Jesus. I don’t think this one needs explaining. The most complicated thing about Vacation Bible School is that there are approximately 1 million of them in Tyler. Here’s an attempt to list those that I’ve known friends to attend. If your VBS of choice isn’t on this list, I’m sorry – that means I need to widen my friend circle. But please please include it in the comments. The more the merrier!

P.S. Check the minimum age; they vary!

Green Acres Baptist Church: June 8-12

Colonial Hills: June 15-19

Sylvania Church: June 22-26 (bonus: this is 6-8pm if you need an evening VBS)

First Baptist Church downtown: June 22-26

Pollard UMC: June 22-26

Marvin UMC: July 13-17

Grace Community Church: July 20-24

Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church: July 27-31


A former college classmate once kicked off her children’s summer by hanging giant F-U-N letters on her playroom wall and then strung a list of summer to-do’s – like a clothesline – beneath. (I know this because of Instagram.) Then she took a photo of her family accomplishing each activity, adding it to the activity’s page. It was beautiful and inspiring, and some of you may have done this very thing or something similar to it. I have never done such a thing and likely never will. This is OK.

I have seen Pinterest flooded with ways to create a Summer Bucket List. I have read blogs written by moms who are proudly anti Bucket Lists. There’s probably something like “10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone About a Bucket List” out there. Regardless of your stance regarding bucket lists, it does seem like a handy idea to have a few go-to’s for the one week your child isn’t in VBS.

Here are a few:

Times Square discount movies. (Carmike and Studio Movie Grill do this too.) Because what better way to spend the lazy days of summer than sitting in a dark room with air-conditioning and popcorn? I know I’ll be there! My daughter is 3-and-a-half and, I think, for the first time is ready for such an experience. My son was able to sit through a theater movie at 2-and-a-half. (I’m not sure of which child I should be prouder.)

Blueberry picking! Grab the bug spray and head to the farm!

TJC Planetarium: Educational and a unique experience for the kids! I first took my son when he was 3. His sister slept in her stroller.

Sci-Port Museum in Shreveport: Take a daytrip!

Tyler Museum of Art Family Days: website says “children and adults are invited to learn about the Museum’s exhibitions through art activities, storytelling, treasure hunts and more. Family days are offered at the TMA every second Saturday of the month. Participating families also receive free admission to all exhibitions.”

City of Tyler Library: The library has reading programs, movies and more! Check out some books and head to Bergfeld Park for a picnic. …

… Or wander down to Dory’s Gardens at the corner of Philips and College. Dory — the sweetest, most plant-nurturing lady in the world — is there Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Her small garden space is whimsical + beloved. And Dory is hospitable and patient with my two kids, always giving them food for her few goldfish and gracious to let them play in the pea gravel. I’ve even heard that she’s let a few school-age kids have a tea party there. (Note: I wouldn’t bring several toddlers there — because there are breakable things — but we live nearby in the Azalea District and mine are always excited to go see Dory.)

Nature walk at Faulkner Park: Take the kiddos for a walk at Faulkner Park! My crew had a blast collecting rollie-pollies and putting them into Ziplocks. I brought my all-terrain stroller for my then-2-year-old – which was necessary.

Places like The Toy Store have creative classes for young ones, and check out Mornings with Mommy in Tyler. She facilitates a variety of activities for moms to do with their kids, ages birth to preschool, at Bouncin off the Wallz.

Splash Parks: You can cool off after the nature walk at the Faulkner Park splash pad, or save the splash pad for another day and try the one in Whitehouse.

Trail at Green Acres ROC: This is the perfect loop trail for bikes, scooters and stroller walks!

Tyler State Park: You can wear your babies in a carrier and choose the Whispering Pines Nature Trail (3/4 a mile) for young walkers. I saw that a friend did this with her young boys a few days ago. They woke up early, walked the trail and then rented a pedal boat. I thought of my own morning, which included sleeping in while my children begged us for breakfast.

Last but not least, show yourself so much grace. This list is for you if you need it; I promise, your kids will feel loved this summer even if they never go on a nature scavenger hunt. My husband can *quote the entire Princess Bride screenplay because he (supposedly) watched it every single day for years, and I think he turned out fine.

What would you add? Do you have any must-do things for this summer?

P.S. Here’s a list:

Surviving Summer

Surviving Summer printable