Okay, let’s be honest. Who else simultaneously loves the idea of summer break (no lunches to pack, no more getting everyone up early and out the door, less routine) while also sort of dreading it? The thought of three months of coming up with ways to entertain my three kids at home is daunting to me. What will we do all day, EVERY DAY? It’s overwhelming. Part of me is excited to be carefree this summer and go with the flow….but part of me is screaming out for ROUTINE PLEASE! So, if this is how you feel, I promise you that you are not alone! I’m struggling with it too, and I felt the exact same way last year. The only difference is now I have a few strategies in place to keep some routine and structure to our days, while still allowing for some spontaneous laid back summer fun.
So, with that said, here is how I structure our days during summer break:
1. Prepare in Advance
In April, I start to research what types of summer camps are available for my kids (ages 6 and 4. My 2 year old isn’t old enough just yet). Summer camps are a great way for kids to have a structured activity during the summer to look forward to! Around here, most camps for younger kids are in the morning for a few hours for 3-4 days, which is perfect for us. We haven’t gotten to the all day, every day (or overnight) camps yet.
So, to plan ahead, I chat with friends about what summer camps and VBS (vacation Bible school) their kids might do, and make a master list of the dates, times, and cost of each summer camp for each child. Summer camp sign ups start early and I do NOT want to miss out on a fun camp because I wasn’t prepared! After I do my research I present all of my pre-approved options to my kids and they help me pick what they are most interested in. This is the first year that I’ll have two kids who are old enough to be in camps, so it takes a lot of planning to make sure camp weeks either do not overlap, or they overlap but have different drop-off and end times. I can’t be in two places at once! I have one child, Hudson who is 6, who wants to do ALL THE SUMMER CAMPS. So I have to reign him in a bit. I let them pick a few and we sign up.
Since this year was also our first year in school full time, we also received summer camp info from the school district, which I was not expecting! It made me re-adjust our calendar but in the best way! Our district high school puts on a ton of summer camps that are reasonably priced (and close driving distance to us!). So if your child is in school, be sure to contact them to see if that’s something they might offer too before you make your plans.
Summer camps are always more fun with a friend so I try and get a friend to sign up with us….but it doesn’t always work out that way. And sometimes we show up and end up knowing someone anyway…yay!
2. Write All Possible Activities Down
After I make our summer camp schedule, I look at other activities going on around us. The local library is a great resource for these things and so is the recreational department. For example, our library does story time, crafts, and songs for kids once a week year round….so I wrote those events down in my planner each week. They also have other fun activities sprinkled throughout the summer like touch a truck (Hudson pictured above!), animal farm day, a concert in the park, Pokemon club, etc. All things my kids would enjoy! Our city also has a great farmer’s market each week and typically there is something special offered for kids during that time too. So I write everything down! Otherwise I will completely forget about them! It doesn’t mean we are going to attend every event, it just means that I have a special activity planned in my back pocket if we all want to go, need to break out of the house, or just want to mix it up.
3. Have One Regularly Scheduled Activity
During the summer I like for my kids to have one scheduled activity that we attend once a week. Some sort of practice or lesson that we stick to all summer. This summer my kids are taking swimming lessons. I have my bookend kids (oldest and youngest) enrolled at the same time one afternoon per week, and my middle child taking lessons on a different morning during the week. So yes, I’m there two times a week but if the kids aren’t swimming, they just play….so no complaints from them!
4. Let them Play!
My kids just want to be kids….which means they just want to play. So I always allow lots of playtime built into our days. They need time to play and get bored and create their own messes (and clean them up) and get creative. My kids have reached the sweet spot where they can finally play independently (for the most part) together. Our rule is they can play whatever they want, take out any toys they want and make a big mess….but we will spend 15 minutes at the end of the day cleaning everything up.
5. Get out in the Morning
When it gets really hot during the summer, I like to plan all of our “out of the house” activities or errands I need to run for the morning. Some days we get up, grab some breakfast, and load up the stroller for a walk outside before it gets too hot and humid. Or pack up the car and snacks and head to the park right away….or, if I’m honest, head to Target. My kids are crazy cranky when they get over-heated (they get it from their mama) so we get outside in the morning and then stay in the air conditioned house in the afternoon.
6. Set Aside Time for Learning
Since Hudson LOVED everything about kindergarten I want to keep that momentum going. Each day for 20 minutes or so, we sit down to do something educational. I found several books for bridging the gap between kinder and first grade and so far he is LOVING them! Sadie, my 4 year old, loves to do “homework” too so I have her practice writing her name, tracing letters, and coloring. They both love doing this every day and it buys me a few minutes of peace! We also visit the library every week and I let my kids fill up a bag with books. We try and spend time every afternoon or evening going through them all.
7. Schedule Quiet Time
We have quiet time every afternoon. My littlest (2 years old) still takes a nap every day, so while she’s sleeping the big kids either play quietly (yeah right), read, play on the ipad, or watch a movie for about an hour. Since I work from home, I NEED that time to squeeze in a little work. And they need some quiet time too. At least that is what I tell them.
8. Keep it Simple
During the summer we really take the time to enjoy the little things. My kids think it’s amazing if they get to spend the afternoon in the kiddie pool on our deck. Or play with the water table. Or eat a popsicle in the bathtub. They make a giant mess but they have SO much fun! We love this water table because it has a cover on one side. It’s perfect to fill up with water beads! We’ve tried many brands but these by far hold up the best! And they love to use these tools to play with them. They are great for little ones learning hand coordination too. We also just got this outdoor play patio set that all three of my kids are obsessed with! We also love to play with blocks year round. We love this traditional set and this colorful stacking set. We will keep these forever! My kids could build towers and castles all day!
9. Go to the movies!
We are going to attempt to see some kid movies this summer, especially on hot days! Hudson does great at the movie theater, Sadie does okay if she’s interested in the movie and Belle is my wild card….so we shall see. Most movie theaters have kids events and days where it’s super cheap (or free), so be sure to check that out in your city! We also have some movie afternoons planned at home too. I find movies on sale (or on Netflix/Amazon) and hoard them until I’m at my wits end and need something quiet and peaceful for my kids to do! Movie afternoons at home with some popcorn are always a fun treat for my kids….and me.
10. Craft Time
Every time I’m at Hobby Lobby or Joann’s I like to take a look at the kid’s crafts/activities and buy anything that seems simple that they would enjoy. I love to have a few fun projects up my sleeve for my kids to work on when they get bored or I just need a moment of quiet. Hudson loves to make his own accordion books. You can find my tutorial here.
11. Make a List of Simple Activities
We have a list of simple little things we want to do this summer. Like visit our local donut shop and then walk to a new play structure in town. Or visit the local splash park. Or the indoor trampoline park on a hot day. Or a playdate at the park with friends. I love to have activities like this in my back pocket so that the kids have something fun (and simple) to look forward to.
I hope this helps you as you think about your summer schedule with your kids! Last year our summer flew by….so if you are feeling overwhelmed, just take it one day at a time!