This summer may look a little bit different than most, but that does not mean that it has to lose its spark. There are still plenty of activities for all ages that can be done right in the comfort of your home… or maybe in the backyard! Here is a list of ideas for the family nights to come:
Whether you are an expert on the night sky or you just like looking at the stars, this activity is enjoyable for all. There are multiple meteor showers projected to take place this summer, too. The most popular of them are the Perseids. This shower is expected to take place throughout August and will be most active on the nights of August 11th and 12th.  Grab a blanket, locate the constellation of Perseus, and enjoy the show!
The stars aren’t the only sparkling show that you can see from your backyard. Fireflies come out to play in the summer months, and they can be quite fun to watch. If you are interested in catching these “show-offs,” you will want to do so carefully as the firefly population is dwindling.  Some tips for safe catching are as follows:
- Use a net instead of your hands. The soft material of the net should not harm the firefly.
- Once caught, place the firefly into a jar with holes punched into the top to allow for fresh air. Add a moist paper towel in the jar to keep the air humid.
- Don’t keep the flies for longer than 1-2 days. The best time to release them is at night when they are most active. 
Make a night of your stargazing and firefly activities by spending the night outside. You don’t necessarily need a tent. Pull sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows out onto your covered back porch and bundle up. Make sure to bring a flashlight too for making shadow puppets!
Some foods just taste better in the summer, and they taste even better when made with those you love. Check out these ideas for a snack, dinner, and dessert to make with the whole family.
Trail Mix: Use whole-grain cereals, nuts, and dried fruits to make a homemade trail mix that has something for everyone.
Summer Catfish in a Packet: Click here for this dinner recipe idea that includes fresh, colorful ingredients. The best part of this meal? It cooks in a foil packet, so clean up is easy! You can also prepare this meal outside over the fire using a skillet. Other recipes that you could cook outside over the fire or a patio grill are Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers, 15 Minute Chili, and Chicken Chili with White Beans.
Note: To ensure that the meat in these dishes cook to a safe internal temperature, you should check them with a food thermometer. Fish should be cooked to 145 degrees, ground meat to 160, and chicken to 165.
S’ mores: Stoke the fire back up from dinner and roast your marshmallow to your heart’s desire. Happy summer!
Written by Darci Bell, RDN, LD, Ph.D. Student | Edited by Laurel Sanville, MS, RDN, LD