The kids are out of school for the whole summer.
Does the thought of this daunt you? For those of us with school-age kids who will be our kids’ primary sources of supervision this summer, this prospect can be a bit jarring after nine months of full-time support. While I can’t guarantee they won’t argue or whine, with a little thought, planning, and heaping serving of grace, everyone can enjoy these days of freedom.
#1: Get (Them) Out of the House
Bust out that calendar, Mama. It’s time to schedule some away time. If you haven’t already signed the kids up for camps and classes, there are plenty out there. Plan a day trip or two. Experiencing the world outside your home will help foster independence and allow the kids to explore their world. Also, absence makes the heart grow fonder….
#2: Make a Plan
When there is nothing formally on the calendar, the teacher in me invites you to loosely schedule the week and the day. It’s important to stress the word loosely because kids of different ages need different things, as well as the fact that last minute opportunities will present themselves.
Pick an activity for each day of the week as the backbone of your daily schedule. My plan goes like this: Monday is park day, Tuesday is pool day, Wednesday is library day, Thursday is “field trip” day, and Friday is pool day again.
I made these daily schedule cards to help frame out each day and to give my kids a visual representation of what to expect. Post-it notes, chalkboards, or wipe off boards also work well for this.
Before bed each night, the girls and I check the weather and lay out the next day’s itinerary, adjusting the daily activity as necessary. It helps us to be ready for a great next day. I also find that if my kids are jacked about what they are doing that day, they are less of a pain in the butt get ready more quickly in the morning. Knowing the plan in advance helps us all transition through the day a bit more easily.
#3: Pinterest Is Your Friend
Usually, I don’t feel very warm and fuzzy towards Pinterest and its 250 recipes to make your own organic hand soap. However, it does excel at giving me fun, cheap, easy ideas to keep my kids busy. Last summer, the winner was “Ice Eggs.” These are simply frozen water balloons minus the balloon once it’s frozen. If you’re really ambitious, you can slip toys or glitter into the balloon before you freeze it. My then three-year old went nuts for these and they took up endless quiet outdoor time.
Take an hour or so before we are knee deep in summer to make indoor and outdoor summer activity boards (or peek at the ones you already have –ahem-me). Then run to Michaels and the dollar store to stock up on the items you will need to make these projects right away, before the summer starts. Better yet, have your older kids help you sift through the Pinterest gold to find projects and activities they think would be cool to do. Kick them a few bucks each at the dollar store and see what fun “treasures” they come up with. Put your haul in a box or Rubber Maid tote and keep this box of tricks handy for rainy or “boring” days. You’ll hopefully fend off a wee bit of whining.
#4: Take a Deep Breath and Be Present
This is your only summer with this child. Next year, they will be a different person. When attitudes or tantrums or fighting or whatever behavior that bugs you rears its ugly head, try to remember that next summer, it will have changed. This time is precious. It does end. One summer, these kids will back a car out of the driveway and never come back. I want lots of fond, giggly, messy memories to hold onto once summer is “mine” again some day. I never want to wish away my fleeting moments with my babies.
I hope these tips help you to focus on fun when your kids are out of school so that everyone is sad when September rolls around.