The Summer Challenge: How to Enjoy Summer Like a Kid Again

Summer used to be my favorite part of the whole year.

There was something magical about having four months without obligations.  I felt like anything could happen, or that I could do whatever I wanted.  If I was going to be whisked away on some fantastical adventure straight out of a fantasy book--or just spend all day reading said fantasy book--it was going to happen during the summer.  

So, me being me, I always started the summer off by making a list.  (Yes, I know.  I was obsessed with goal setting even when I was in grade school).  It was always an ambitious list, usually involving spending lots of time hiking outdoors, reading dozens of books, making art, having adventures, and writing a novel.  Granted, I never completed my whole list.  But that was okay: just having it seemed to make the possibilities of summer that much closer to becoming a reality. 

This all changed when I finished school.  Suddenly, summer wasn’t special anymore.  It felt like that limitless potential had drained away.  May would come around on the calendar, but the magic was gone.  And I missed it.  I wanted that childhood feeling of freedom and possibility back.  

And then I learned about the summer challenge.

It’s the best way I’ve found to rediscover the childhood joy that summer used to hold.

At its core, the summer challenge is a list of fun things to do over the next four months.  Challenges range from trivial (wear flip flops, eat sushi) to difficult (sky dive, leave the country).  The list varies slightly each year, so there’s always some traditional favorites as well as something new.   And it’s the best way I’ve found to rediscover the childhood joy that summer used to hold.  

This year, we’re opening up the challenge to anyone who wants to join in on the fun.  It’s previously been only word-of-mouth between friends, and even with that we have almost 100 people competing all over the state. And it’s been so rewarding, we want to share it with everybody else, too. 

Most of us post our photos to either Facebook or Instagram (mine are all on my Instagram account).  We’re using the hashtag #summerchallenge2015 for anyone that wants to follow along or join in. 

The list of summer challenges can be found HERE.  There are only a few simple rules if you want to play. 

--First and foremost, the summer challenge is a competition, and the point is winning.

Okay, not really.  The point is having fun, and even losing the summer challenge is fun.  But friendly joshing is always encouraged. 

Completing the point "jump into a pool with clothes on."

Completing the point "jump into a pool with clothes on."

--For each challenge you complete off of the official list, you get one point.

--You can only complete each challenge once—at least for the sake of score-keeping.  Feel free to eat sushi as many times as you want; just don’t expect to get more than one point for it!

-- Bonus points are add-ons to challenges (like getting a group together or doing multiple challenges in the same hour) that make them a little bit harder and a lot more interesting.  Just like the normal challenges, they can only be achieved once, and count for one additional point.   

--Ever heard the phrase “Pics or it didn’t happen?”  It applies here too.  Make sure to document each point with photographic evidence. 

--The “goal” is to get the most points, thereby numerically proving your summer was better than everybody else’s. 

--Bragging, like joshing, is very important.  Especially if you win. 

--The challenge starts May 1st and ends August 31st every year, so no cheating and starting early. 

--Speaking of cheating, we are watching you like a hawk.  (Naw, it’s pretty much the honors system.  Cheat all you want.  It probably won’t be nearly as fun though.)

--And last but certainly not least: the letter of the law is king.  Grammatically correct but irreverent interpretations of a challenge are highly encouraged.  Don’t have a horse for the horseback riding challenge?  No problem; just put a quarter in the kiddie ride outside of the grocery store.  

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Riding on a toy horse may sound ridiculous, but the challenge is all about motivating you to get out and try things you otherwise wouldn’t have.  I know that I wouldn’t do all these silly, fun, audacious things without it. 

Plus, it makes you notice and appreciate all the fun things you’re already doing.  You start thinking about the ordinary as special, and really enjoy the extraordinary.  Just like that, the magic is back, and summer is suddenly full of limitless possibilities again.   

So why not try it out?  Everyone is welcome.  And maybe the summer challenge will remind you how to enjoy summer like a kid again, too.