Even with the mad dashes to swim practice and the lazy vibes of summer afternoons, you know it’s only a matter of time before they’ll be begging to hang with their classroom chums. If they live across town or if they’ve hit the road for June, July and August, we’ve got great ideas for maintaining school ties. From old-fashioned snail mail to interactive group chats, scroll down to find your favorite below.

Send Snail Mail
Who doesn’t love getting mail? Sending letters to friends is a great way to sharpen handwriting skills, build vocabulary, and keep in touch. Gather postcards from places you’ve traveled or have your little artists create their own stationery (a great rainy day activity). You can even personalize the stamps online through sites like Zazzle! Tip: collect everyone’s mailing info before the end of the school year, and don’t forget camp addresses.

Writing a letterphoto: Susan via Little in Cowes

Plan a Trip
A group getaway gives everyone something to look forward to, and allows for quality bonding time. Whether you spend a weekend camping in the woods (or the backyard) or a day at the beach, you can guarantee long-lasting memories and adorable photo opts.

Splash at the beachphoto: amanda tipton Flickr creative commons

Have an Ice Cream Social
There are few better ways to satisfy a sweet tooth than with an ice cream social. Visit your favorite stand or set up a make-your-own sundae bar at home with colorful cups, fun flavors and loads of toppings. Feeling crafty? You can even DIY an ice cream truck like Kristen and Allison of Celebrate Always.

Ice Cream Sundaesphoto: Allison and Kristen via Celebrate Always: Make Life a Party

Have a Slumber Party
Not everyone spends the summer away at camp, so give the other parents a night off! Host a slumber party, complete with pillow fights, movie marathons, and delicious late night snacks. We adore this Night Owl Slumber Party designed by Tash Kimlin of Whimsy Petite Styling for some lucky little owlets. Check out all the details at Kara’s Party Ideas.

Night Owl Slumber Partyphoto: Kara Allen via Kara’s Party Ideas

Throw a BBQ
Looking for an excuse to fire up the grill and show off your culinary skills? It doesn’t have to be July 4th or Labor Day to host a backyard BBQ. Go potluck style, and have everyone bring their favorite seasonal sides. And be sure to plan outdoor activities for your small fries. We’re thinking slip-and-slide!

bbq kidsphoto: Lisa Johnston

Share Photos
Keep the crew updated on the latest vacation happenings with photo sharing. Cluster and Google + are great options, and sending digital postcards is a snap with Postagram. It’s an easy way for your shutterbug to share photos of their favorite spots!

Kids taking photosphoto: Alan Levine via Flickr creative commons

Plan Swim Dates
Get ready to make a splash! Whether at the community pool, the local lake or in someone’s backyard, your little fish will love getting the whole school together for an afternoon of swimming, diving, and cannon ball contests. How else would they be able to host several dozen underwater tea parties?

Enjoy Park Outings
The local playground is a great (and free) meeting spot. Plan ahead and pack a picnic of their favorite foods (check out these seriously easy-pack homemade snacks), so they’ll be full of energy to spend the afternoon swinging, sliding, and giggling.

Swingingphoto: Don Price via Flickr creative commons

Re-enact The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Choose an item that can share in everyone’s summer adventures (think bracelet, stuffed animal, or a pair of magical jeans). Simply divvy up the calendar, and be sure to have your tiny traveler write a letter about their experiences with the item before mailing it on to the next caretaker. Don’t forget to include photos!

packagephoto: Olga Ezova-Denisova via Flickr creative commons

Start a Book Club
Make a group activity out of required reading and get your little bookworms together to discuss their favorite characters and plot twists. If you’ll be out of town for an extended vacation, consider setting up a digital discussion group on Google + Hangouts, your kiddo won’t miss a moment. Looking for fresh picks to read? Find your new favorite selection here.

READING

Play Online Games
For days when the weather is less than sunny, (parent-approved) online games are a great resource for keeping the kids engaged, entertained, and interacting with their peers. We love the idea of smashing your buddies ships to smithereens during a round of Battleship, even if he lives across town. It’s available on both iTunes and Android. If you want media time spent doing something slightly more brainy, there’s always the classic Word with Friends (free on both iTunes and Android).

computer gamesphoto: Lucélia Ribeiro via Flickr creative commons

How do your kids keep in touch with friends over the summer? Let us know in the comments below!

— Lauren Hill