Bucket List for Kids: 101 Things to Experience in Childhood

What should your child do, see or experience before he or she turns 18? Metro Parent assembled this essential kit, with the help of southeast Michigan parents.

Bucket List for Kids

We want to give our kids the world. Yet those wonder years only last so long – and can only contain so much. Every day, each experience, no matter how mundane, fills it up a bit more. Kind of like sand in a beach pail.

You’re probably familiar with a “bucket list” as grownup goals. Largely popularized by the 2007 movie of the same title, the idea was a couple of guys with terminal cancer hit the road to do stuff they’d only dreamed of before they kicked the, well, bucket. These days, seems everyone has one.

Which got us thinking. What about kids? Sure, in some ways, the bar’s a bit lower: Your offspring doesn’t need to scale the Great Pyramid of Giza or soar over the North Pole (though Disney World is pretty damn cool, if you can swing it). But there’s so much that makes childhood memorable – from the frivolous and fun to the sobering and self-building.

In that spirit, Metro Parent canvassed moms and dads in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties in a quest to find what would make the lists – for their kids. It’s merry and messy and sometimes even mud-caked. Which struck us as just about perfect.

Plus, while it’s summer here in Michigan, why not check out these 10 summer fun activities highlighted in our June 2015 issue that kids should experience?

Take a peek at Metro Parent’s list of 101 things to experience in childhood!

1. Have a no-reason, not-because-they’re-sick, Bueller-caliber free day off of school.

2. Trick-or-treat without needing a jacket one year, and during a snowstorm another. To prove the Michigan weather stereotype true!

– Aaron Toro, clinical rehab manager and Huron Township dad of three, ages 16, 7 and 5

3. Soak up the night sky away from the city lights.

4. Get dirty! Splashing in puddles, making mud pies and rolling around in the grass gives kids a fun, carefree feeling.

– Michelle Liabenow RePass of Garden City, mom of Madison, 11 and Ryanna, 3

5. Break a bone.

6. Correspond with a pen pal from another state or country. (Handwritten letters a plus.)

7. Learn yoga and meditation. Such great tools to help calm the mind!

– Cindy Levine, a yoga teacher in Franklin, mom of four boys ages 21, 18, 15 and 12

8. Experience something you loved as a kid – whether it’s a Cabbage Patch Kid or an Atari.

9. Get exposure to all sorts of music. I constantly sing and play music for my boy – The Beatles, Neil Young, Elton John, Prince, Chaka Khan, Baby Mozart and Bach. It is a great way to connect to people.

– Natalie Hensel of Ann Arbor, mom of a 1-year-old

10. Drink rain.

– jessica Care moore, Detroit poet, mom of King TJ Moore, 6

11. Go to overnight camp . They’ll meet kids from other areas, make friendships that could last a lifetime – and taste life away from home.

12. Care for a pet – especially feeding it. It teaches kids how to be in charge, creates respect and loyalty, and helps them focus.

– Donna J. Zaj, dog trainer at Dog Zone in Clinton Township, mom of a 12-year-old girl

13. Learn to swim, sans water wings.

14. Go to a Tigers game at Comerica Park. Get there early to hit the Ferris wheel and the carousel before the game; then grab a couple hot dogs and take in all the sights and sounds.

– Zak Walsh of Royal Oak, dad of Beckett, 4 and Emmett, 2

15. Learn how to sew a button or do small mending.

16. Run amuck playing classic schoolyard games – hopscotch, Red Rover, tag, hide-and-seek, Mother May I?, Red-Light Green-Light, etc.

17. Get involved in charitable giving/volunteering – in a hands-on way. It really helps them identify what “giving” means and develop appreciation for all they have.

– Marybeth Levine of Canton, founder of the Detroit Area Diaper Bank, boys are 10, 8 and 6

18. Visit some other country – or at least be immersed in some other culture. I visited Japan at age 16 as an exchange student, and it changed my life.

– Anne Hooghart of Ypsilanti, Hinoki International School board president, mom to Kasey, 6 and Cassidy, 5

19. See a Broadway show. At least once. The first one Jessica saw was The Lion King in Toronto when she was 6 – and she now has a love for the theater.

– Sandy Hazelton Pianko, Wolverine Lake (Jessica’s 17)

20. Go to the Target Fireworks or America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade live in Detroit.

21. Make videos. The girls and I have made a bunch, and they remember each one fondly. We did one with my entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins), and that one will be very special as everyone gets older.

– Jeff Reiter of Huntington Woods, Realtor, daughters are 16 and 13

22. See a classic movie, like Gone with the Wind.

– Elizabeth Neidbala of Sterling Heights, age 16

23. Visit a science center. Who knows – it may inspire them to be a doctor, engineer, astronaut, chemist or one of many other STEM careers.

– Kerri Budde of Rochester Hills, Michigan Science Center marketing manager and mom of Cole, 12 and Brian, 8

24. Get a taste of art appreciation, creation and history. It gives a wide breadth of insight into humanity (religion, happiness, sadness, anger, joy, love, hate, politics, etc).

– Shelli Gutholm of Royal Oak, mom to an 11-year-old and two step kids (now 22 and 20)

25. Learn about their family history or heritage.

26. Know how to let go of things they no longer need in life: outgrown clothes, an old toy or old habits that no longer serve them well.

– Carolyn Anderson-Fermann of Dexter, organizing expert of Simply Organized Life and mom of two (ages 5 and 3)

27. Try a daredevil stunt that lets them free fall – skydiving, zip lining, bungee jumping.

28. Play. Play daily and as fully, unfettered and as freely as one possibly can.

– Ann Stevenson of Clarkston, mom of Cassius, 9 and Coco, 8

29. Learn how to give and receive constructive criticism.

30. Go to a rock concert by the time they’re 5. For the shock value. I saw Kiss at Cobo when I was about 9. It was badass.

– Brett Dowdican of Chesterfield Township, hair stylist and dad of Jaden, 4 and Maddox, 3 months

31. Indulge in unstructured, no-TV time where they have the chance to use their unique imaginations and create fantasy worlds and fun games by themselves.

– Frances Todd of Bloomfield Hills, WeeHands baby sign language teacher, mom of Isla, 6, Oliver, 4 and Finn, 2

32. Eat hometown grub. Better Made chips, Mexicantown taqueria tacos, Hamtramck paczki, Faygo pop (not soda).

33. Go camping. Not in a campground with hundreds of people, campers with TVs and hot showers. I’m talking about wilderness – no electricity, no other people. Just you, your kids and nature at its very finest. And there’s no place better than here in Michigan.

– Leila Freijy, lawyer, Oakland Township, mom of Cyrus Keshtkar, 15

34. Jump into one of the Great Lakes (brrr!).

35. Explore a cave.

36. Go to a drive-in theater. Preferably one with the original sound speakers (i.e., the Ford Drive-In in Dearborn).

37. Plant something and tend to it, watching it grow.

38. Shake hands with a favorite celebrity. It’s a thrill – yet kids learn they’re just real people, too.

39. Experience unconditional love.

– Shelley Sherman Dube of Farmington Hills, mom of four ages 25, 23, 21 and 16

40. Build a tree fort.

– Joe Gall of Royal Oak, photographer, dad of son, age 7

41. Learn how to be responsible on social media, from guarding their private info to being respectful to themselves and others.

42. Give up something you really like for a week. Or month.

43. Learn to cook or bake something they love to eat. The kitchen is the heart of the home – and, besides nourishment, provides important lessons.

– Annie Lehmann of West Bloomfield, mom of kids ages 29, 22 and 20

44. Wear a costume when it’s not Halloween.

45. Work hard to earn enough money to buy something they love (like their first two-wheel bike).

– Mary C. Craft of Davisburg, child life specialist, mom of three sons ages 34, 32 and 30

46. Do something crazy or “risky” with their appearance, whether it’s letting them get whatever haircut they pick – or scribbling on their Converse shoes.

47. Play an instrument.

48. Drive a stick shift.

49. Experience wonder – whether it’s believing in fairies, watching a beautiful sunrise or discovering new creatures in their backyard. Something that they can stand there, wide-eyed, and simply say, “Wow!”

– Jennifer Lavender-Schott of Ferndale, mom to Violet, 8 and Owen, 5

50. Learn how to read a mechanical clock – with minute and hour hands. Don’t rely on digital clocks being at your disposal.

51. Go to work with mom or dad – a real day at work – so they develop a sense of what it means. Visit a college campus for the same reason.

– Kim Enders of Shelby Township

52. Get knocked around a wave pool.

53. Take an Amtrak trip – to Chicago, Texas, Washington, D.C., California (or just Royal Oak to Ann Arbor). My kids loved the freedom of moving around on the train. When they were smaller, they met many kids they could play with in the lounge car. The conductors treated the kids like royalty and put down their beds at night, made sure they had juice and joked with them.

– Peggy Miller-Zelinko, Oxford, mom of Andrew, 22, Rachel, 19, Dylan, 16 and Rebecca, 11

54. Visit a farm to milk a cow or goat, see food being pulled from the ground – or, if possible, witness an animal giving birth.

55. Create something original out of LEGOs.

– Sarah Jacobs of Franklin, owns The Robot Garage in Birmingham, daughters are 14, 12 and 9

56. Learn to listen – really listen – to others.

57. Have a picnic lunch out in nature.

58. Take a bike “tour,” whether around your neighborhood, along a shoreline or through a city.

59. Go ice skating outside (Campus Martius in Detroit is choice).

60. Have a treasure hunt with, and for, your kids. It was one of my favorite memories with my own dad, and my kids still talk about how much fun they had (on theirs).

– Chantel Maloney of Ferndale (and Metro Parent), kids are 14, 12 and 8

61. See the Grand Canyon (and have dinner at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of it!).

– Krista Orr of Plymouth, mom of William, 10 and Jacob, 8

62. Climb a tree.

63. Drive down Woodward Avenue from Pontiac to downtown Detroit to have an appreciation of the history of the city and the cultural diversity of the community.

– Jack Elder, physician, Bloomfield Township, dad of five kids ages 33-18

64. Dig through an estate sale, garage sale or antique or salvage shop. You never know what you can find, repurpose – or barter over.

65. Travel, travel, travel. Especially to the National Parks! We’ve been to the Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Mammoth Cave, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest and Washington, D.C. Along with the usual beachy Florida vacations (a must). It’s a beautiful country out there – go and see it.

– Paula Messner of Royal Oak, aka Almond Joy in kid-rock Candy Band, mom of Charlotte, 14 and Rebecca, 12

66. Experience the uninterrupted vista of 100,000-plus people at a U-M home game. It does give you a sense of how big human life is.

– Daniel Madaj of Ann Arbor, dad of Nat, 39 and Emily, 17

67. Learn how to tie a necktie. It’s imperative for boys and can come in handy for girls, too, when they grow up.

68. Create art in a large, open area with all white walls (or big sheets of paper tacked up) with paint in all colors imaginable. Go to town!

– Andrea Eckert of Ferndale, artist, kids are 8 and 4

69. Go to an amusement park. Definitely ride a roller coaster.

70. Beat on a drum set till their heart’s content. Without mom telling you it’s too loud!

– Jason Gittinger, pro drummer, founder of The Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music and Royal Oak dad of two, ages 6 and 4

71. Take ballroom – or some type of “couples” – dance lessons. Super handy for formal events of all shapes and sizes.

72. Get treated like royalty in a blowout birthday party they’ll never forget.

73. Craft anything (noodle art, button jewelry, newspaper hat, clothespin critters) without critique.

74. Eat a meal – or just dessert – at Coach Insignia at the top of the Renaissance Center in Detroit and enjoy the view.

Melissa Summers, Royal Oak mom of two, ages 14 and 11

75. Try Lafayette and American Coney dogs. Establish your allegiance.

76. Make – and lose – a friend.

77. Write a story or song.

78. Go to an old-school roller skating rink.

– Pamela Jamieson of Grosse Pointe, mom of two, ages 10 and 8

79. Build a fire. Preferably with bramble and matches.

80. Experience a power outage in the evening during a summer thunderstorm – complete with candlelit board games and flashlights.

– Suzy Cody of Macomb Township, derby girl and aero engineer, mom of Lance, 7 and Roman, 5

81. Have a “moment” on stage, wherein the prep work of rehearsal, team building, memorization and other elements of creativity come to fruition in that fearful moment of performance in front of your peers and others.

– Ben Hubbard of Ann Arbor, dad of 22-year-old twin boys (one started with Ann Arbor Young Actors Guild in 1998)

82. Go on a boat trip. Bring bait-and-tackle and fish – or latch gear onto the back for a water-skiing/tubing ride.

83. Accept – and execute – a dare, double-dare or, best of all, triple-dog dare.

84. Experience one unplugged weekend. Take away all the cell phones, video games and the television. Spend time with your kids walking along the beach or through the woods, looking for birds, gazing at the stars. Once your kids get over the initial withdrawal, they will discover a whole new world.

– Denise Semion of Plymouth Township, mom of John Mogos, 29 and Greg Mogos, 20

85. Sell lemonade to your neighbors.

86. Learn that manners are more than “please” and “thank you,” but the way you treat people.

87. Have a spontaneous dance party at home. Those make for great family memories and plenty of laughs.

– Erika Bonet-Bonk of Chesterfield, hula dancer, mom to Madelaina, 7 and Tyler, 6

88. Bask in quiet time. It allows them to get centered and better hear their inner voice with clarity.

– Janet Mullings, OB/GYN with St. John Providence in metro Detroit and mom of two

89. Take a road trip with car games like “I Spy” or finding the letters of the alphabet along the way by way of billboards, license plates, road side restaurant signs, etc. – and sing-alongs. The whole experience of packing for the trip and looking at a map for major landmarks is a fun way to travel.

– Sandra van Meek, Birmingham; daughter is 4, son is 2 (they make frequent road trips to NYC, where her husband is from)

90. Learn to give a sincere compliment when it strikes you and how to receive one with grace and humility.

91. Want something but not get it.

92. Have an experience with death – whether a person or pet, direct or indirect. With guidance, it can teach kids about the cycle of life and healing.

93. Fail. It’s through failing that you know what success means – and that there are things that are more important than some of these dreams we have or goals we set. It’s humbling.

– Eric Herman of Livonia, psychologist, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, dad of 12-year-old twins

94. Visit Mackinac Island, complete with a horse-drawn carriage tour, a hike up the Fort Mackinac ramp and, of course, fudge.

95. Enjoy a fall weekend working outdoors raking leaves with their parents. Hauling leaves into a pile. Jumping and rolling in the leaves and popping out again, with bits of broken foliage and pine needles stuck to their hair.

– Lauren Larabell-Martinak, Commerce Township mom of three, ages 23, 21 and 15

96. Grasp basic geography. Know the names and locations of major countries and continents. Bonus: Master the capitals of all 50 states here at home.

97. Learn to accept when someone doesn’t like you. Focus on those who do, instead.

96. Learn how to be part of a team, whether it is sports or another activity.

– Stacey Verkeyn of Pleasant Ridge, mom of two daughters, ages 10 and 7

99. Blow something up in a science experiment.

– Jennie Sue of Oakland County, mom of two boys, ages 8 and 6

100. Stay up all night and watch the sunrise.

101. Take photos. Your point of view and reference as a child is so different from an adult.

– Suzanne M. Fawaz of Dearborn, mom of a 2-year-old daughter

Add 10 more items to the list. Make sure the kids experience these summer activities featured in our June 2015 issue of Metro Parent!

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Metro Parent.


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