Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Vacation Survival Guide

Like most of the country, we are now on Summer vacation. It's a fun time to be a kid, but it can be a challenging time to be a parent.

Here are some tips to keep the schedule manageable and maximize your summer fun:

Make a Family Calendar: Try writing down weekly activities like dance rehearsal and wrestling practice, but also some of the fun activities you want to do regularly. Do you want to go to the pool a couple of times a week? Put it on the schedule. Write names next to the adults responsible for each activity. That way, Dad or Mom or Uncle Gerald become the go-to person to make the activity happen. Also include contact phone numbers for coaches, camps, or other contact people for each activity. Having all the info in a single place will make things easier when all doesn't go as planned.

Put Down-Time in the Schedule: While you're so busy writing down all the obligations, be sure to set aside time for family day or movie night. On Saturday afternoon, write "Mommy's Nap - Do Not Disturb." Claim your downtime. You deserve it.

Plan an Adventure: We like to have a conversation about adventure plans with our children at the beginning of the summer. We let them make one adventure wish that we work to make come true in the most creative way we can. One year, my 3 year old son's adventure wish was to ride a rocket to the Moon. So, we went to the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium while we were on vacation in New Hampshire. He got to ride a Space Shuttle simulator and touch moon rocks. The day ended with him sporting a planetarium T-shirt that said MOON and carrying a Curious George Rides a Rocket board book. Wish Granted.

Looking for an adventure activity? Try:
  • climbing walls
  • the zoo
  • the beach/tide pools
  • museums
  • botanical gardens (ours has a great butterfly house!)
  • the aquarium
  • petting zoos
  • farms/orchards
  • water parks
  • county/state fairs

Plan Outdoor Fun: I always laugh when I see my children ignoring 25 brightly colored plastic toys so they can play with rocks and sticks and mud. We try to spend outdoor time every day, just for them to have backyard adventures. But we also use hikes, canoe trips, and camping as a way to get away from the busy everyday and have peaceful time as a family. There is something wonderful about getting away from the phone and computer, the playstation and television, even electric light. We find it renews us.

Keep an Activity Bin: This is especially important for rainy days. Our art supplies, play doh, lacing/sewing games, and board games come out on days when going outside is not an option. I know many parents like to just give their children extra screen time on rainy days, but it's nice to have low-tech options that can help keep their minds active.

Encourage Pretend Play: Never throw away a big appliance box. Let your children make a sailing ship or a puppet theatre with it instead. It can be fun to give the kids space and supplies to create something of their own. If you support them through the planning stages and help with tools, you'll be surprised what they can come up with.

Keep Reading in the Game Plan: When I was growing up, our family used "Reading Hour" as our daily downtime. We went on a library trip every week or two and kept a ready supply of books available. After lunch, instead of naps, we had quiet reading time for 30-60 minutes. It kept our minds active and our imaginations engaged. Sometimes Mom would ask questions about what we were reading. It was always fun to talk to her about exciting stories.

Don't Leave School too far Behind: For my own children, I have added to the Reading Hour concept. I offer math workbooks and writing paper during down time. Surprisingly, they choose those activities about half the time. I also encourage my older children to keep a Summer Journal to write about their feelings and adventures. They even illustrate the stories in their journals. By the end of the summer, it really is stunning to see how many skills they have retained as a result.

Put your Kids to Work: If your children are too young for a summer job, they can still help around the house. We encourage ours to help with household chores like vacuuming, dusting, setting and clearing the table, cooking, and bathroom cleaning. They know that we are a family, and we are all responsible for keeping our home. So, just like we play as a team, we work as a team.

Maintain Friendships: Plan play dates with friends from school or trade babysitting with other moms. It can be fun to meet at the park or the pool and let your child's little herd of friends go wild while you stand on the sidelines to watch. Keeping in touch with friends can help your child not feel so isolated during the summer months, too. So, when summer ends and school begins again, their relationships are still strong.

Relax and Have Fun: It really is the key to a great summer. Do your best to let go and just enjoy being together. So, let go and laugh a lot. It feels great.

Good luck and have a wonderful summer! Today, we're off for a play day with my children's cousins. The weather will be HOT, so water play is a given. There's nothing quite like spending a hot day with cool fun.

p. s. -- When all else fails, bring out the Popsicles.

- Midwest Mom


  1. Hi Julia! From the sounds of it, you will have a lovely summer! Enjoy it! Those little ones grow up in a flash!

  2. Hi, I just found your blog, trying to find more summer ideas. I like the rainy day advice. We were not expecting rain the other day, and boy were the kids bummed. I think I'll tuck some surprises away for next time.
    Take Care

  3. Those are some wonderful ideas!!! Thank you for sharing...

  4. These are great tips. Thanks. I'm completely jealous of the idea that Grandma or Dad or Uncle whoever could help make activities happen. Around here there's one person that makes everything happen--Mom.

    That's OK, it's worth it.

  5. amen to all that--and the popcicles! when things start to melt down around here, a popcicle break really helps.
    today i convinced my tribe to do chores and summer school with the promise of a surprise if all was done by 9:40. Their surprise? Science Day with Mr. J at the public library;) totally worth it.

  6. LOL your kind comments about my blog this week went right to Bob's head..

    I'm printing this seeing we have ten .. yes ten.. days of rain ahead of us according to the forecast.. I figure that even if the forecase is wrong it will still come in handy.

    Hope it's sunnier in the midwest!


  7. Hope you can survive Summer. Even though it seems like it's going fine, things can turn bad fast. Goodluck ^^


  8. Excellent advice for parents.

    Lovely picture of the kids in the swimming pool.


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