Epic Theme Days to Rock Out All Summer

Activities at Home

We love hearing about creativity from local families. The Chicago suburbs has amazing parents, grandparents, and caregivers that are excited about thinking of family fun and getting their creative juices flowing.

Not only are these ideas that your family can try, they are tried and tested theme days that other families have gotten into and enjoyed. Take the guess work out of theme days and learn from the families below!

Summer Music Theme Days

For years I have been so impressed (and a little envious!) of the Eavenson Music Festival Summer and have always wanted to try it. Immersing yourself in a band or artist for a day sounds so fun and a bonding experience with your kids.

But how does she do it?! I asked Katie to share the origin of her music theme days and how we all can do it too.

Kidlist welcomes Katie Eavenson, mother of three and Western Springs resident, as a guest contributor!

Our summer music family tradition started in 2017. My daughter Lola and I were walking home from her last day of kindergarten when a Fed Ex truck drove past us, blasting a song. A song that she didn’t recognize by a band she had never heard of, but that she instantly loved and wanted to know everything about.

My husband and I are super music fans. All genres. All decades. Our babies were raised with constant music in the background. How is it possible that we missed “The Mountains Win Again” by Blues Traveler? I’m kidding. I mean, it’s not exactly one of the mega hits of all time.

I remember thinking then, if she wanted to know more, then maybe a more comprehensive education could be fun. And what better time than the lazy, no-plans days of summer with three little kids at home? The next day we started our first Music Festival Summer.     

We picked a different band or artist every day. Requests were welcome.

We listened to that band all day, at home and in the car. We watched music videos, looked up little known facts and learned as much as we could about each one. At the end of each day, everyone would pick a song to add to the Music Festival Summer play list.

We kept it low stress and fun. If a day was too busy, we’d skip it and pick it up with a new band the next day. It made great memories, and my husband and I learned just as much as the kids did. 

Years have gone by, and they’ve gotten older and busier. But every spring they start asking if we’re doing Music Festival Summer. And we have. We’ve done a version every year since the first one.

Sometimes we pick a theme for the whole summer. We’ve done all Black artists, One Hit Wonders, we did a “two” theme for 2022. Last year, we backed off to highlighting one song from a different artist each day. I’ll text my teens the song in the morning and then we’ll all talk about it together later that night.  It makes for great dinner conversation.   

Their lives are certainly more independent now.  We are much farther from the early days of raising babies surrounded by music, but I know this tradition has stuck with them. They recognize random songs all the time, they remember learning about them.

Now they send me bands and songs that they’ve discovered, and that they think I would like. And they’re usually right!

My kids have surrounded themselves with music and they don’t really need me for it anymore. But as long as they keep asking, I’ll keep posting bands on the board, all summer long.

Our 2023 theme is “Name That Tune”, songs with names for titles. I think we’ll kick it off with “Lola.”

Theme Days for a School Break to Remember

When Debbie and her family had to cancel their spring break plans, they decided to find a way to make their own fun at home. The big idea? Theme nights.

Some people are calling these ideas for “spirit week” . . . but let’s face it, that was a lot to remember even when our kids were leaving our homes to go to school! Let’s not add more work for ourselves. What these theme nights do is give us something to plan our days around. It gives us a fresh start and ways to reinvent fun in our houses!

I am blown away by Debbie and her family, so I asked her to outline what they have been doing each day. Their themes are not only creative, but fully immersive. There are plenty of ideas in here for each theme, so you can pick and choose, go all in, or be inspired to lean into your family’s own interests.

Kidlist welcomes Debbie Pawlowski, mother of two and Western Springs resident, as a guest contributor!

With the new social distancing and stay-at-home order, we had to cancel all of our Spring break plans. The kids were really sad, so I wanted to do something to make the week memorable. We decided that everyone would pick a night to decide on dinner. That idea quickly tuned into “theme nights” where each family member could pick the theme of the night along with what we would have for dinner.

The kids were super excited and got really into it each day. Most of the decorating and food were things we already had in the house, but we did make one run to the store since we needed some essentials and were able to pick up some items we would not normally have.

Casino Night

We kicked off the week by getting all dressed up!

What to Eat: We wanted to eat fancy, so we had steaks and potatoes, and also made mocktails so we could all use special glasses.

How to Decorate: We own a large card playing board so we laid that on the dining room table after dinner. That was the main décor for the night but the kids did make signs such as “The Golden Nugget” and other casino names.

What to Wear: We got all dressed up in fancy clothes, just like we were in Vegas.

Make it Fun: We played blackjack most of the night. It was really fun to teach the kids the game and see how they decided whether to hit or stand. We played a bit of poker as well. It was fun watching the kids strategize. My daughter bluffed us all and made us all fold even though she had nothing in her hand. We could not stop laughing!

All Fortnite, All the Time

My son, Milo, decided he wanted to have the whole family play the Fortnite video game. None of us were too thrilled at first, but we ended up having the best time. Milo was beside himself with joy that we all played with him. We formed our own “squad,” played as a team, and got a Victory Royale (first place) in every game we played!

Milo also assigned us all usernames that we used in the game. Each one was about the person and were really funny. “Thespian Nerd” for his acting-loving sister, “Slytherin Hater” for his Harry Potter-loving mom, “Twisted Dough” for his ice cream-loving dad, and “Gucci Guy” for himself since he loves Gucci. 

What to Eat: Milo got to pick this one so we made what we thought someone who hung out in the basement playing games all day would eat: Tater tots, chicken nuggets, and Mountain Dew. These are not things we would normally have for dinner, so the kids were thrilled to eat some things that are usually off-limits. We also ate on TV trays, which the kids loved. 

How to Decorate: We did not decorate much for this since Milo has a bit of a gaming setup in the basement.

What to Wear: We got all dressed in clothes that represented our user names. Thespain Nerd wore a shirt from the play Wicked and a Hamilton hat. Slytherin Hater wore a Gryffindor shirt, and Gucci Guy wore his Gucci shirt. 

Make it Fun: We played four games of Fortnite. I am shocked to say we had so much fun! Milo taught everyone how to sign up on their phones and he played on the Xbox. He felt pretty cool teaching us all how to play and was jumping and screaming when we won. He truly had a blast. The greasy food and Mountain Dew were worth it once we saw how happy he was.

Harry Potter Night

We are a big Harry Potter family, so I decided we would celebrate our favorite wizard. 

What to Eat: We wanted to make a meal worthy of the Great Hall, which is where all the feasts happen. We made a pork roast, potato dumplings, and veggies. (We wanted to make butterbeer, but did not have the ingredients handy, so we made do with some special hot chocolate.)

We also made a makeshift Honeydukes candy shop, which we filled with our most colorful candy. My daughter came up with spider cookies for dessert, which were fun to make and so cute! 

How to Decorate: A few years back, we had a Harry Potter birthday party for my daughter, so we had some leftover decorations. We used what we had on hand and printed out some fun stuff to make it feel like we were living in Hogwarts. Delilah created the brick wall you need to tap in order to enter Diagon Alley. She used a cellophane sheet we had in the basement with paint and a sponge. It turned out great. Our place settings were a sheet saying what house you were and a wand.

What to Wear: We all wore our favorite Harry Potter shirts. You could also dress it up with a scarf and draw a lightning bolt on your forehead with makeup.

Make it Fun: We made some potions before dinner, and it was fun to see what they could create. We played Harry Potter Scrabble and then watched the first Harry Potter movie. Before the movie, we all went on the wizardingworld.com and got sorted into houses. You can also find out what your wand and Patronus will be.

Baseball Opening Day

March 26 was supposed to be the opening day of the baseball season, so we decided we would celebrate baseball at home.  

What to Eat: We had fun with this one: hot pretzels, nachos, popcorn, and peanuts. All traditional baseball food. We also made hot dogs for dinner, so it really felt like a night at the ballpark. 

How to Decorate: We brought out a bunch of White Sox memorabilia and placed it throughout the house. It was fun for the kids to see the old stuff as well as the new items.

What to Wear: We all wore our favorite White Sox shirts. You can also throw on baseball caps.

Make it Fun: We played White Sox Monopoly and watched mark Buerhle’s perfect game. The game was from 2007 so we pulled it up on YouTube and watched it on TV. We loved it since there were no commercials!

’80s Night

My daughter, Delilah is a huge fan of the ’80s so we knew we would have fun with this night.  

What to Eat: We did not have a lot of ’80s snacks, but we made do with potato chips and a taco dip. For dinner, Delilah wanted Chinese takeout so we had a no-contact delivery of Chinese food. We also had to eat on TV trays while watching TV. Classic ’80s!

How to Decorate: We put out some old grade school photos of Mom and Dad from the ’80s, as well as some DVDs of ’80s movies we had in the attic. Delilah also made a home made boom box using a large box, an egg crate, and spray paint. It was so cool!

What to Wear: For clothes, Delilah and I put on tons of blue eye shadow and went with the side pony tails. The boys wore Sox shirts from the ’83 team. 

Make it Fun: We had quite a few games that were around in the ’80s, so we played some Yahtzee, Connect 4, and Trouble. We introduced the kids to ’80s TV shows, like Family Ties and MacGyver, and ended by watching Grease 2, which they both loved. 

Fiesta Time

We had to be sure to include Chiquita, our Chihuahua, in the fun. She got a fiesta! 

What to Eat: We had quesadillas and guacamole for appetizers and tacos for dinner. The kids made churro chips for dessert and they were delicious!

How to Decorate: We had a lot of fun with the decorations. We wanted to be super colorful, so we used a green table cloth and yellow place mats. We also made a tissue paper banner which was fun since everyone was able to make some squares. We had some sugar skull plant holders and cacti so we made that the center piece.

What to Wear: We all dressed in really bright colors. We also made homemade horchata and sangria so we could toast our favorite perro.

Make it Fun: We played lots of latino music and danced like crazy. We also watched the movie Coco, which always makes everyone cry, but is a beautiful movie.

Thanks so much to Debbie for sharing her family’s spring break fun and Katie for sharing her amazing summer music festival! For more inspiration, check out our at-home bucket list.

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