Now that we have entered the school age years, I want to be so intentional with the time we have and make the most of summer break. I often set these high expectations, because I want it to be the best summer ever! While this is great, there is also the reality side where you still have to work, the house still needs to be cleaned, laundry needs to be done, and oh yes, money doesn’t grow on trees. So how do we balance it all while creating a fun, memorable summer. Below are 10 ways to balance reality with kids summer break.
1. Plan Out Each Week with a Planner
Unless you are great at thinking weeks ahead, I don’t recommend planning out your days more than 2 weeks at a time because life happens, and things change. But, getting out a notebook and pen and consciously thinking through your plan, a couple of weeks at a time, can be so beneficial for you and the kids. This is really helpful if you are a working mom, as I know summer can be challenging.
2. Share the Plan with Your Kids
Our daughter is a planner!! Every morning without fail, she asks me what the plan is for the day. I’m a planner too, so I get it, she likes to know what’s ahead. If you’re kids are like this, share the plan with them. Let them know in advance if it is going to be a catch-up day where you are staying home to get stuff done. (I have to prepare our daughter for these days). And also let them know about those days that are going to be really fun, that they get to look forward to!
3. Set Summer Goals
Summer is the best time to work on some goals! The great thing about goals is that they can be implemented at any age. For younger kids, maybe a goal is to learn how to ride their bike without training wheels. For older kids, maybe it is to get 2 babysitting jobs or mow three neighbors yards for extra cash. Whatever age your kids are, involve them in creating summer goals and encourage them to meet them. Don’t forget to celebrate when they meet their goals!
4. Encourage Kids to Use Their Imaginations to Play
Parent’s, we don’t have to feel the responsibility of entertaining our kids all day, every day! This is a hard one for me. I feel the mom guilt if I have a to-do list for the day and my kids have to play independently for a while. However, I try to consciously remind myself that it is HEALTHY for them to play on their own.
As a kid, I would entertain myself for hours in front of the mirror, doing my makeup, curling my hair, putting on pretend shows with my 80’s neon flashing light microphone. I had the best time, living in my pretend world all by myself! We live in a day where kids aren’t forced to use their imaginations like they use to because there are SO many resources at their disposal. However, it is still so important to encourage our kids to use their imaginations and play independently.
I recently read an article that was so helpful. It said to make a list of 10 things your child enjoys doing. At least 5 of those things need to be independent activities. The first time your kids tells you they are bored, send them to the list to pick out an activity. The second time they say it in the same day, have a job for them to do. I haven’t tried this out yet, but I plan to!
5. Schedule in Screen Time
Especially during summer break, it can be so easy to turn on the television or tablet and before you know it, 2 hours have gone by and the morning is half gone. If you have to, set a timer, and let your kids know, when the timer goes off the screen goes off! A timer works wonders in our house and for some strange reason, they listen to it so much more than my voice.
6. Keep Fresh Fruit Easily Accessible in the Refrigerator
When kids are home all day, they often feel the need to snack all day. Asking for cookies or chips over and over, starts to get under my skin a little bit. I have found, if I keep their favorite fruits washed, cut, and easily accessible or literally even on the counter for them to grab and eat, they don’t ask for junk (as much). Our son loves grapes. The other day, I just left a big bowl of grapes on the table and he worked his way through those all day and never asked for junk food. Also remember, it is hot in the summer and often fruit sounds refreshing to them once you bring it up, so take advantage of it!
7. Scout Out the Free Summer Activities
I talked about this topic in greater detail here, but more than likely, your city has some great free summer activities happening throughout the week. Take advantage of them! Check out your local movie theater for $1 movie days, look up concerts in the park, find out what days the museum offers free admission. If you google, “free things to do around (insert your city) with kids” you will more than likely find some great blogs and resources with a list of helpful ideas.
8. Make a Plan to Stay on Top of Your Housework
Kids home all day long means the house can become a hot mess, quick! If messes stress you out, then you need a plan, because summer break equals, messes. Here are some things I have implemented that have been so helpful.
- Utilize your outdoor hose! Make the kids rinse off their feet and hands if they are full of mud or rinse the paint off their bodies (after they have painted their body and not the paper). Don’t track the mess through the house if you don’t have to!
- Keep an old towel easily accessible for outdoor use. Whether it is to dry off the feet after using the hose, or wiping down a table, I have been grabbing for a towel so much lately, so having one accessible is really helpful.
- Buy a dry mop and run it over your floor at least once a day. We have lovely Bermuda grass and my kids track in the dry straw every single time they come in from outside. I despise Bermuda grass for this reason alone! It’s unrealistic to pull out the vacuum every time they track something in (although I want to). But, it has helped so much to just leave the mess alone, and get the dry mop out and sweep it up when they are completely done playing (often after bedtime).
- Set a cleaning schedule. I talked about my cleaning schedule in detail, here. I have found that it is harder to keep up with my normal cleaning schedule in the summer. However, because I break up my tasks by day, I can play catch up on different days if I need to.
- To elaborate on the cleaning schedule, give your children some of the housework responsibilities during the summer, it is good for them! Make that chore chart you keep meaning to implement, and give them their tasks. Whether it is just getting into the routine of making their bed every morning, or helping to empty the dishwasher, or vacuuming the floor, it is so good for them to learn these responsibilities.
9. Wake Up Before Your Kids
I am currently sitting here, writing this blog post at 5:30am because it is just the best time to fit in my work life during summer break. When the alarm goes off, it is painful, but SO beneficial. Summer break can be a tempting time to let your responsibilities slide or just get into the habit of sleeping in with your kids. Don’t get me wrong, I still have cheat days where I let myself do this. But, I have found it is helpful to wake up before them and get those tasks done that I HAVE to get done. This also helps so much with my attitude for the day. By the time they get up, I am ready to start my day with them!
10. Don’t Forget to Have FUN during Summer Break!
I saved the most important tip for last! This is also the one I have to intentionally think about every single day. Summer break should be FUN for kids! No, this doesn’t mean you have to fill each day with endless fun activities and blow your budget. But give some grace in some areas. Let them stay up a little later some nights, have a campout in the backyard, go bug catching, go get ice cream on those hot days, and swim all day long.
I recently read this article, talking about how we only get 18 summer breaks with our kids. Our daughter is 6 which means we only have 12 summers left! When you look at summer this way, it can be a little heartbreaking. The years go by so fast, don’t wish them away or drown them in to-do lists all summer long. Enjoy the days, embrace the mess, create memories they will remember forever. Some day we will all want these years back.