A few summers ago, I expressed to a friend’s grandmother that I was exhausted and eagerly awaiting my child’s return to school. She (with the very best intentions) told me she could never understand mothers who thought that way, that she always treasured every summer and holiday break with her children. Children were not a burden but a treasure, she informed me.
Never mind that she wasn’t working full-time on a night shift during her summers with her kids. And never mind that back then, kids freely ran the neighborhood and didn’t come home until dinner time.
Children were a treasure. True, yet equally as real as mom fatigue.
Because meanwhile, I wondered what the secret was to surviving summer with kids. How do I engage my child during summer break? And how can I make the most of the summer with my kids?
And frankly…how do kids survive summer at home? How do moms?!
Thank God, I’ve figured it out over the last few summers. Luckily for you, I’ve learned the hard way so that you don’t have to.
So…what’s the secret to surviving summer with kids? Let’s dive in!
Surviving Summer With Kids Means: Plan, Plan, Plan
Plan your summer together.
I spent many summers assuming my daughter wanted to do big things – constant crafts and activities, theme parks, weekend trips, and more. But when I actually asked her what she wanted to do last summer, she voted to visit new parks, play Monopoly Jr., and “pet a nice goat.” It turned out I was working a lot harder than necessary.
So sit down with your kids and ask them what they’d like to do. Then spread those activities out over a calendar that they can see every day. It will give them something to look forward to on the calendar and will help to inspire them when they’re bored.
Plan for weekly, recurring activities.
Give your kids something simple to look forward to, and yourself something simple to plan. For example, my daughter and I try a new public park we’ve never visited before once a week. It takes almost zero effort on my part, yet regularly introduces her to a brand-new experience.
We also try one new restaurant a week (food trucks, fast food, traditional restaurants, everything counts) and one bigger outing (zoo, aquarium, trampoline park, arcade, etc.) every week. And don’t forget to count our weekly movie night! Buy snacks, find a movie we’ve never seen before on Hulu, done!
Schedule a weekly class.
Even if we don’t do anything else the entire day, my daughter counts her twice-weekly taekwondo class days as activity days. Who am I to tell her any differently?
Take advantage of day camps.
From camps offered by gymnastics and soccer clubs to those offered by local community programs, all camps give kids an opportunity to shake up their summer and make new friends. Are they too nervous to venture to camp alone? Enlist a friend or two to join them!
My daughter’s school offers a Facebook group for parents that’s used for sharing important updates during the school year. But it also functions as a sort of message board throughout the summer – “Hey, we’re going to this church camp next week! Here’s the link if your kids want to join us!”
Alternate activity days.
On Monday of last week, we visited a local waterpark. On Tuesday, we did absolutely nothing at all.
I told my daughter her body needed time to rest and recover and she spent the day watching movies, drawing, and playing in the backyard. I’ve found she’s more open to and content with “rest days” when they immediately follow a day of activity. And let’s be honest…they give parents a day to recover, too!
Spring for season passes.
We’re blessed to live outside of a large city that offers two theme parks, two water parks, and more. I’ve found that an annual pass to Sea World costs less than two, one-time day passes. While it’s a larger up-front purchase, it offers an entire summer (plus fall and Christmas activities!) of endless rides, shows, and splash pads, $1 popcorn bucket refills, and parking lot lunches.
Send them outside to make their own fun.
It is okay for kids to be bored. Boredom provides a break from the lights, sounds, and nonstop action screens provide and allows kids to nurture their creativity. So throw them in the backyard with balls, bubbles, sprinklers, chalk, and more and see what happens!
Surviving Summer With Kids Means: Enlisting Help
Enlist their friends.
Schedule regular time with friends, aka the ultimate summer entertainers. When my child is alone, she may feel there’s “nothing to do.” Placed in the same exact setting with a friend, she’s immediately playing “the floor is lava” or running outside for a baseball game. Make it a goal to meet up with friends at least once or twice a week to help maintain your sanity.
Enlist your friends and family.
As long as you’re setting up a playdate, why not drop your child off at their friend’s house if you feel comfortable? Then offer for the friend’s parent to drop them at your house the next time!
My daughter also loves going out to eat with her grandparents, visiting my aunt (and her dogs) for a few hours, and performing trampoline stunts in her cousins’ backyard. Scheduling regular time with friends and family, even if only to do the same things in a different location, is a relatively low-lift activity that will help to fill your days.
Make chores work for you!
Without school in full swing, kids have more time to help out! Why not use chores as a tool to not only free yourself up for other summer responsibilities, but also to help balance your kids’ summer habits?
For example, you could require your kids to make their beds, put their breakfast dishes in the sink, and brush their teeth before they can pick up their video game. You could even incorporate healthy habits, like reading for 15 minutes or playing outside for 30 minutes, to earn additional screen time.
Surviving Summer With Kids Means: Embracing the Season For What It Is
Ahhh, the adventures that we’ve missed or lessened by not being prepared! Keep a “summer bag” in your trunk with sunscreen, bug spray, a picnic blanket, cups, snacks, towels, a change of clothes, and first aid kit so that when someone suggests last-minute plans…or your plans last longer than you had anticipated…you’re ready to roll. This will not only better prepare you for whatever life might throw your way, but lower your stress levels when it does.
Go with the flow.
You may have planned on leaving for the library at noon…or putting them to bed at 7:30. But if your kids are engaged in an activity, having fun, not fighting, and not requiring any effort on your part, why not take advantage and allow the moment to linger? Or even naturally end? (Of course, this only works when you’re not trying to arrive at a scheduled time.)
Let it go.
Accept that your kids may wear pajamas all day on your rest days, shower less often than you prefer, and eat their weight in popsicles. They may go on a movie binge or a hot dog binge that make you feel like a bad parent.
But guess what? Your parenting is not judged on a single day…or week.
Accept that summer will look different! The most important thing is that your family is safe and loved, with their basic needs met. Eating and activities will ebb and flow and life will go on, I promise!
During the school year, I spend at least one morning a week practicing self-care – whether it’s writing at my local coffeeshop, getting a pedicure, or catching up with a friend over brunch. And for many summers, I assumed those options were off the table until my daughter returned to school.
This year, I’ve realized there’s absolutely no reason that I shouldn’t still catch a few hours a week for myself. And so…I have! I’ve woken up earlier, enlisted my husband’s help, and taken advantage of times my daughter is with friends and family to invest some time back into myself.
After all, the summer is my most challenging season of doing it all. So why would I make my most challenging season the one in which I stop caring for myself?
You are perfectly capable of surviving summer with kids! By planning accordingly, enlisting help, and embracing the season for what it is, you’ll be shopping for school supplies before you know it. You’ve got this!
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