Two weeks ago, we finished the last math problem and closed the last book of the school year.
As I packed away the textbooks, my kids cheered for summer break. I felt excited about the reprieve as well, but as it happens every year, I know within a few days the initial excitement will wear off. The kids start to get a little restless, and I start to think about what we are going to actually do with all our time this summer. I want to make sure my kids have an epic summer this year!
With all the upheaval in the world in the last few months, it seems especially important to me to make this summer a good one. Our kids are not immune to all this. They have dealt with much uncertainty and stress of their own through coronavirus and all it has brought. I want to make sure this summer is not just more of the same for them. Even though it’s a little trickier to plan for an epic summer with some places still closed, I am pulling out my calendar and creativity to make the most of it. This is how I usually go about summer planning.
Do Some Research
Before plugging any activities into our schedule, I like to sit down and make a list of all the things we could do this summer. Inevitably we won’t get to all of my ideas, but having a master list gives me something to work with.
I start by writing down all the places we could go, the things we could potentially do out of the house, and the activities I’d like to do at home. Then I look up all the dates and times that these things would need to happen. For example, if we want to go stargazing, I might see if there are any interesting astronomical events coming up. If we want to visit a historical site, I’ll check for hours of operation and closures. If there are fun activities happening at our library, I need to see which days are available.
Having all this information from the start allows me to prioritize our calendar, and also to see which ideas will actually work out, and which ones might not be feasible.
Start Plugging Things Into Your Calendar
Once I’ve worked through my list and figured out our top summer to-do’s, I sit down with my calendar. And this is perhaps my biggest piece of advice for making the summer epic – I highly recommend marking even simple events on an actual calendar – check out some fun options on Etsy to make planning fun.
I know from personal experience that if you don’t write things down, it’s all too easy to let the summer slip lazily by without doing the things that you really wanted to do. A note on a calendar makes the activity so much more likely to actually happen! So get yourself a cute planner and start plugging things in.
Time-sensitive events are easy since they will only happen on certain days, so I start with those. For the rest of my ideas, I try to alternate at-home activities with out-of-the-house ideas, simple treats with more planned-out events, etc. One way I’ve done this in the past is to use color-coded mini sticky notes. I’ll assign different colors to at-home plans, time-sensitive events, and out-and-about ideas, and then play with how I want to arrange them on the calendar.
Allow For Some Flexibility
With so many usual summer events up in the air, I think flexibility is especially important this summer, but even in a normal year, it’s nice to leave yourself some wiggle-room. Maybe you planned for a huge water-balloon fight, but the day arrives and everyone is too worn out to do it justice. You don’t have to do everything you planned on the day you planned it. This is where keeping your ideas on sticky notes can come in really handy – if the day arrives and you find yourself not wanting to fill up hundreds of water balloons, after all, just switch around a few sticky notes.
Try Weekly Traditions
Over our state’s lockdown this spring, my husband and I fell into a routine where every Friday night we bought cheap pizzas and did a movie night with the kids. We are not the type of family that normally does weekly traditions, but it just sort of…happened. The kids pile on the floor with their blankets and pillows, bursting with excitement. I get a break from making dinner. Inevitably all seven of us end up squished together on the couch by the end of the movie, laughing at the funny parts, and squirming to get comfortable, usually one or two kids partially on my lap. But my husband will sometimes meet my eyes over five brown-haired heads, and I know that we’re making some memories that will last.
My last bit of summer wisdom to pass on is that simple plans usually win the day. Make things easy on yourself. Prioritize activities that you actually enjoy. Remember that even little tweaks – like keeping a pitcher of fruit-infused water on the counter, or passing out store-bought popsicles to your kids each afternoon – those little things make the summer days feel special. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Some Ideas To Get You Started
Nature-Related Activities –
This is going to be regionally sensitive, but find out what fruit ripens at what point in the summer, when different flowers will be at their peak, or if there are any migrations or astronomical events happening in the next couple months. Go star-gazing, bug-hunting, fruit-picking, or take some photos in a wildflower field.
Library-Related Activities –
If you are lucky enough to live somewhere that libraries are open again, check their calendars online. A lot of libraries have all kinds of interesting crafts, science experiments, or other events planned for summer break, or resources for activities to do with your kids at home. See if any pique your interest.
Food-Related Activities –
Did you know there are a bunch of food-holidays in the summer? Do a little googling, pick your favorites, and eat those foods on their designated day! It sounds silly, but you would be surprised how much your kids (and you!) can get into it. To get you started, Fried Chicken Day (July 6), Strawberry Sundae Day (July 7), and Ice Cream Day (July 19) are coming right up.
Out-Of-The-House Activities –
Pools and playground are open in many parts of the country – if you feel comfortable, plan out which days you will take advantage of them and invite some friends to join you! If those options are not open in your state, check out your local hiking trails, beaches, state parks, bird-watching hotspots, or other interesting destinations. Or plan a night to head down to the local fast food restaurant for summer slushes or ice cream.
At-Home Activities –
All kinds of fun can be had at home. Plan some weekly traditions like I mentioned above. Create your own summer reward program for reading books, memorizing scripture, or learning new skills, and take your kids to the store for a treat when they reach certain checkpoints. Order some seeds or even a butterfly kit, and watch your plant or insects through their different life cycle phases. Make homemade popsicles (and try some interesting flavors!). Buy a kiddie pool to splash around in, or just to cool your feet while you read a book. Roast marshmallows over a backyard campfire (following local fire guidelines, of course). If you have a trampoline, show off your trampoline skills to your kids or introduce them to a new trampoline game. Plan that water balloon fight. Throw a just-because barbecue with friends, or even just with your own family.
If your summer break is looking different than it normally would, I want to encourage you that it doesn’t take much to make summer feel different and special for your kids.
You don’t have to plan for an expensive vacation, or even have access to all your usual activities. If you are still largely restricted to your home, perhaps it’s even more important to make memories as the days get longer. Simple changes and a little planning can make a big difference. And yes, put all your plans, big and small, on the calendar! It’s the best way to ensure that the summer doesn’t pass you by.