Summertime offers a unique blend of joys and challenges for parents. The typical shakeup in daily rhythm and routines can leave parents scrambling. They may begin to feel like their children’s personal cruise directors as they attempt to find entertainment and activities to keep them occupied on a day-to-day basis.
However, with just a little forethought and planning, the joys of summer—quality family time, hours of free play and exploration, sunshine and immersion in nature, and the adventure of a getaway or two—can far outweigh the challenges.
Here are 10 things to consider before summer gets underway.
Set Up Signposts
What adventures will your family embark on together this year? Whether it’s a simple camping trip or a luxurious vacation, stepping away from the day-to-day grind and heading out onto the open road is an invaluable experience for a family. Such adventures strengthen family bonds, provide unparalleled education (for kids and adults alike), and allow for every member of the family to be present with one another and focus on the same experience in a way that can be hard to come by in everyday life.
These adventures will act as the signposts of your summer—those you’ll look forward to as they draw nearer on the calendar, and those you’ll look back at as the memories that defined the season.
Once your big signposts are in place, schedule any activities you or your children will participate in this summer. Camps, lessons, or regular gatherings with friends or family should be finalized and noted on your calendar.
In addition to scheduled activities, jot down some ideas for outings you’ll enjoy throughout the summer. For example, visits to the park, pool, beach, or library are simple ways to take advantage of summer days. Additionally, perhaps there’s a local museum, amusement park, or historic site you’ve wanted to take the kids to. This may just be the summer to do it.
Establish a Rhythm
Moving from a macro perspective to a more micro perspective, take time to consider the rhythm of your days in the summertime. While keeping things relaxed and easy is the glorious way of summer, there are benefits to maintaining a predictable and regular rhythm to the day. Children (and adults) thrive within the comfort of predictability and regularity. It’s good for sleep cycles and overall health.
Rather than setting up a rigid and ambitious daily routine, aim for a gentle and simple rhythm to your days. Consider, for example, the key sections of the day: waking time, morning, lunchtime, afternoon, dinner time, evening, and bedtime. Any good habits and routines that can be incorporated into those sections of the day will make for a steady and predictable rhythm that carries everyone through.
It’s a new summer and your children are one year older than they were last summer. What new responsibilities can they take on? What new skills can they sharpen? What can they do for themselves this year that they may not have been able to do last year? Summertime is a great opportunity to encourage your children’s ongoing development into self-reliant and responsible adults.
Tackle a Project
A family or household project is another element that can add color and enjoyment to your summer. Is there a project you’ve struggled to find time to tackle? Is there a home improvement idea that the whole family can get behind? Commit to completing a project this summer.
Cheer On Boredom
Of course, not all of your children’s time in summer needs to be scheduled. You’ll no doubt get to that inevitable point in every parent’s summer life when your children declare, “We’re bored!” There is really only one response to give them: “That’s awesome!”
Let your children know that you think boredom is the best thing since sliced bread, as creativity and ingenuity tend to emerge out of a state of boredom. Resist the temptation to suggest or provide an activity for them. Ignore complaints and whining and wait for the magic to begin once they begin to figure out how to occupy themselves.
Turn Down the Tech
Of course, the beauty of boredom will be lost on the child who has constant access to digital devices and video games. Give your children the benefits of as low-tech a summer as you can manage. Lay down rules when it comes to these and remember, you’re in charge.
Prep Healthy Snacks
I don’t know what it is about summer, but it seems to make kids hungry all the time. Have you ever noticed that? Ensure your kids have access to healthy drinks and snacks—think fruits and veggies, cheeses, nuts, and other unprocessed and low-sugar options. Ideally, set up a system where they can grab them snacks themselves. For beverages, stick with water.
Cherish These Days
Finally, do some math. While summertime parenting can be both joyous and challenging, it’s always fleeting. How many more summers will you have your children at home and the need to think these things through? Bask in gratitude for this summer that lies ahead and the gift you’ve been given to make summertime memories together as a family. It’s truly a blessing.