Summer is almost here (or maybe already is for some of you!).
Tally is out of preschool and the other three girls finish school this week, so I’m in full on summer prep.
I’ll share our summer schedule with you next week, but before that I wanted to share some of the tips that help me think about how I make a summer plan.
I hope it helps you make a summer plan and schedule that works for YOU and your family:
tips for summer planning
- Remember that your job is NOT to entertain your children around the clock. If there is ONE thing I can say about planning for the summer, it’s this. It’s exhausting to feel like it’s your job to keep your children from ever being bored. Here’s one of my best parenting secrets: it’s okay for kids to be bored. It’s GOOD for kids to be bored – the magic of imagination and creativity is on the other side of boredom. Know that they’ll probably whine and complain about being bored and that you can handle it. Don’t take on their boredom as your personal problem to solve.
- Summer does not need to look like the school year. I got so many messages this month asking about workbooks and writing/reading/math/STEM schedules to keep kids learning this summer, and I just want to hug these parents and tell them it’s okay for summer to look different from the school year! Kids learn so much by having time to explore their own interests and try new things. My three younger girls all do Savvy Reading during the summer to keep their reading skills up and progressing, we have lots of time for reading aloud and personal reading and I usually order a few workbooks because I have kids that love them, but we don’t have a rigid schedule of material to get through during the summer or daily time that everyone sits down and does worksheets. (If that works for you, GREAT. I’ll never tell you to ditch something that is a fit for your family and your life, but if you’re feeling stress about needing to provide your child tons of school-type work, know that it’s more than okay to not do that).
- You can make summer feel special without going over the top. I had lots of working moms ask how to make summer feel special when they’re at a 9-5 every day all summer long. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a trip to Disneyland or all day at the local pool to be special. Maybe it’s eating dinner outside once a week when the weather is nice. Maybe it’s a few extra stories at bedtime. Maybe it’s going for a family bike ride after dinner. You don’t need 18 hour a day with your child to make wonderful summer memories. Even 15 minutes of dedicated time makes a huge difference.
- Choose a FEW activities. There can be so much pressure to do it ALL during the summer, but that usually ends up stressful and unsustainable. Instead, pick a couple of things you really want to do during the summer and lean into those. Last summer, we got season tickets for a screaming deal to our local water park and we went a couple of times a week. It was so easy because we got into a good rhythm and everyone knew what to expect when we went, what to pack, and how long was long enough to be fun without being too exhausting. Having a few consistent things we do over and over makes the summer feel memorable and special and also makes it easier.
- Choose things YOU like to do. If you hate getting in a community pool or hiking is not your idea of a good time at all, you don’t have to do those things. Pick things YOU want to do and lean into those. Maybe you love playing pickleball and your family can do that together. Maybe you love sitting by the pool in the mornings while your kids play. Maybe you love to grill or watch an outdoor movie. Summer should be fun for you too!
- Let your kids have buy in. Sometimes we feel like we should plan it all and then the kids can just hop aboard the summer train, but when they get a chance to share what they want to do and learn over the summer, you’re much more likely to get a workable plan. I feel the same about books – you could make a giant list of books for them to read during the summer or you could let them be part of the choosing process and odds are they’ll be much more invested in the whole experience because they have some ownership.
- Identify likely trouble spots. The good news is that you’re going into summer with yourself and your family – people you already know well! You’re not starting with a bunch of strangers. Which means you probably already know where things are likely to go off the rails. Is it getting dinner on the table? Is it the house becoming an absolute disaster? Is it endless bickering? Is it trying to get work in while your kids are at home? Write down what you suspect will be challenging and then brainstorm ways to head those off beforehand. Bart pushed hard for a nanny this summer and then posted a listing on Care.com because he’s been around long enough to know that when I don’t have any childcare, my work situation becomes very stressful. If you know dinner is going to be harried every night, make a super simple meal plan and repeat it all summer long.
- Set clear expectations. In our house, we often say “expectations are the key to happiness.” Make sure everyone is on the same page about what summer will be like and what to expect. We sat down with our girls on a Sunday afternoon this month and walked everyone through what each morning of summer would like, what our weekly schedule would be like, and then wrote out a three month family calendar for the fridge so they knew what to expect all summer long as far as trips and events went.
- Make a screen time plan. Many of us know that screen time can be a total nightmare to manage in the summer. Make a clear plan for how screen time will be part of your summer, make sure everyone understands it, and then STICK to it (I promise, giving in a few times because of whining just teaches your kids that whining about it is a great way to get what they want and they’ll just whine MORE). In our family, summer screen time looks like CodeSpark on the tablets while the other girls do their Savvy Reading classes and a family movie on Friday evening. Yours might have an hour of shows every morning before breakfast or video games in the afternoon. You get to choose what it’s going to look like but CHOOSING in advance will make a huge difference instead of letting it take over and then trying to reign it back in afterward.
- Your schedule should work for YOU, not the other way around. A schedule is a tool in your toolbox – it’s not the end-all-be-all boss! If a few weeks into summer, it’s clear your plans aren’t meeting your family’s needs, go back to the drawing board and adjust. You might want the most minimal schedule because you love freedom and little framework. You might want a much more rigid schedule with lots of activities. You might want to stay mostly home. You might want to get out of the house every day. There’s no right answer – just try to plan something that works for your family and your personality and be willing to switch it up as needed.
- Be realistic. In a dream world, everyone would just be frolicking happily in the backyard together all summer. In the real world, there will be bickering and whining, kids who are sOOOOOOO BORED, afternoons that seem like they’ll never end, and days so hot you wish for winter. Recognize that it’s part of life and it’s okay for it to not be perfect. Expect there to be crying or bad sportsmanship or overtired kids. When you don’t expect perfection, it’s much less frustrating when it doesn’t happen.
- This summer is not every summer. Don’t feel like this summer has to dictate how every summer will be for the rest of forever. Some summers, you have little babies and toddlers who need naps. Some summers you have plenty of money or energy and some summers you don’t. Make plans that fit what your life looks like now and next summer, you can make different plans if your life is different then. My summer this year will look much different than it did five years ago when I had a house full of toddlers and we lived in Arizona where it was too hot to go anywhere but the pool.
What are your best tips for planning for summer? I’d love to hear!