Summer is best when it includes plenty of downtime. When you streamline your summer with kids, you can make it all about free time, enjoying nature, and simplicity.
to me, those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
~ Henry James
Summer holds a special place in our hearts. Reading a book under the trees on a warm day, playing in the surf and building sand castles, or lying on a blanket under the stars… our memories can be simple or they can be momentous.
The one thing most of these memories have in common is time.
No hurried schedule, no early bedtime for school the next day. When a child’s world is simplified, they have the time and space to feel more calm and contentment.
How to Streamline Your Summer
Some families run smoothly only with a schedule and firm boundaries.
Others run just fine by taking every hour as it comes. No matter where you fall in between, here are some ways you can make the most of this summer, while still keeping it simple.
Follow a (flexible) schedule
Even though your time isn’t as structured as during the school year, many young children thrive with routine.
Break up your time into defined chunks so everyone knows what to expect. Keep mealtimes and bedtime consistent, but having big blocks of unscheduled activities is what brings the imagination to life!
Explore your local surroundings
A big vacation is fantastic, but if extensive travel isn’t an option this year, your family can enjoy nature, history, and most likely an amazing library in your own community. Pack your kids’ favorite healthy lunch or snacks and visit different, unexplored playgrounds and walking trails around your city. Or try some of these fun staycation ideas to help recreate family favorite destinations right at home.
The kids will get exercise, their daily dose of Vitamin N, and you’ll get out of the house (for free!)
Deal with summer boredom (or don’t)
“Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It is an itch to scratch. Boredom is the dawn of ideas. Boredom is curiosity knocking gently at your mind, asking to play,” explains Bunmi Laditan.
A fascinating German project called, “Der Spielzeugfreie Kindergarten” (toy-free kindergarten) removed all toys from their classrooms for three months. The children were free to choose their own activities and their days were deliberately left unstructured to minimize rushing around.
On the first day, the children appeared confused and bored as they peered apprehensively around their big empty classroom. By the second day, they were playing with chairs and blankets, making forts with blankets and weighing them down with shoes. In the following days, they began to excitedly run and chat around the room. By the end of the third month, they engaged in wildly imaginative play. They also showed improved concentration and communication skills.
So, this one’s up to you. Let them see what comes from their boredom. Or maybe keep a little stash of craft supplies, books, bubbles, board games, or a rotation of seldom-seen toys for when their boredom impedes on your ability to get stuff done.
Be ready for anything
Keep a summer survival kit in your car with sunscreen, safe insect repellent, picnic blanket, umbrella, ball or frisbee, basket for library books, and extra reusable water bottles… so you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way. Or if you’re heading to the beach, here’s a great guide to beach going with little ones.
If you need a little inspiration, here are 35 activities to treasure while your child is still little and 50 fun screen-free activities.
Create a summer bucket list
As a family, write down a list of activities (camping out in the yard, bowling, pillow forts, making ice pops) to do over the summer, then consult your list when boredom strikes. Ideally, these are inexpensive things you can do locally. But it’s also fun to give each family member a small budget for one item on their bucket list.
Relive the memories
At the end of the summer, create an album of photos from all your family’s adventures – both big and small. Talk about everyone’s favorite days. You might be surprised at how much fun you’ve packed into just a few months. And you’ll have a new family heirloom the kids will want to flip through on a cold day during the school year… and even when they’re all grown up.