Tips for a Suck-Free Family Summer
My kids have another week left of school and I am beyond ready. I’m so over making lunches, tracking permission slips, arguing about closed-toe shoes, and dragging my angsty tween out of bed way too early. I’m ready for leisurely days and family bonding. I still work over the summer, so my vision of the break is a bit more halcyon than my husband’s, who’s staring down seventy-five days of trying to keep the heathens from destroying the village. We’ve come to learn that a good plan is the key to a successful summer. I try to make sure that our summers are open enough to be relaxing but full enough to not be slovenly. I also try to get a good variety of free or nearly free activities so that we’re not stressed out trying to work a lot of entertainment into our budget.
Learn something new as a family. Maybe a craft like knitting? Check out this awesome video on hand-knitting, which is easy enough that even the littlest can do it. One summer we were dedicated to perfecting the homemade popsicle. Everything from super sugary kool-aid versions to an adult (read: alcoholic) mojito popsicle with fresh hand-muddled mint. We would collaborate on flavors over the dinner table and more than once I found the whole family huddled over recipes they’d found on the internet. Last summer my son, inspired by good friends of ours, got us all into Australian football. Summer is a great time to get completely immersed in a new hobby!
Make a summer bucket list. I have a friend that documents their bucket list on Facebook every summer and it’s awesome to watch. She makes a giant, colorful poster with check boxes. We like to write ours on a big piece of butcher paper that we hang in the hallway. Kelle Hampton at Enjoying the Small Things (Summer Dreams: 4 Ways to Make a Summer Bucket List) has some really fun ideas for how to organize your list. Be creative about what you include! The activities don’t need to be expensive, exhausting or complicated. Get your kids involved in this! It will guarantee a well-varied, likely eclectic, summer experience. Some ideas to get you started: tie-dye a shirt, have a backyard camp out, make ice cream in a baggie, watch all of the Harry Potter (or Star Wars) movies in order, go to the zoo. The possibilities are endless, and it will help avoid the inevitable “what should we do today?” days.
Take advantage of library programs. I LOVE the library summer reading program! Plus the libraries often put on great, free events throughout the summer We’re actually lucky enough to be in the right location to take advantage of two separate libraries, so we do two different programs each summer. We designate a weekly library day, usually one that coincides with a favorite story time, and work our way through the challenges. Our libraries have different challenges for different age groups, so it’s super fun whether you’re a pre-reader or an adult. And there’re prizes at the end!. One of our first stops when school gets out is to sign up for the program and pick up the calendar of events.
Explore your hometown. One summer my husband and kids visited the local Parks and Recreation office and picked up a map of local parks. We were shocked to find out that our little town had over thirty! The spent the summer visiting each of them and checking them off. Some were pretty lame but they found a few great, unknown playgrounds and even a frisbee golf course! There are so many great splash parks in our area that we rarely ever go to the public pool.
Get outside! Here in California, the summers can get HOT, so we try to get outside early and veg out later in the day. We splurge every year on a Poppy Pass, which buys us access to all of the California State Parks (otherwise there’s a $10-$15 parking fee.) I’m a big fan of spending money that buys us freedom later. This way, we can stop in at the lake or go for a hike to the falls and still bail early if it’s too crowded or we’re not having fun. We take a picnic dinner to the local lake at least once a week during the summer and it’s a great way for the whole family to reconnect at the end of the day.
And don’t forget about friends! A trip to the dollar movie or the splash park becomes infinitely more fun when you invite another family to join you. The kids get the novelty of hanging out with their friends away from school and you get another parent to talk to (just remember that she probably doesn’t need reminding to go potty before the movie starts).
What are your best tips and tricks for summer fun? Leave a comment with your favorite ideas!