As the school year comes to a close, parents and teachers alike find ourselves celebrating all the work and growth that has been accomplished. But we’re also looking forward to the summer fun ahead and holding onto precious time with family! I once heard a parent mention “You only get 18 very quick summers with your children and less than that if you count years of independence”. Summers can be a daunting time for families, lots of parents asking themselves “Now what?”, “What next?”, “What do we do now?”, and “Do we have to have an activity planned everyday?”. There is no right or wrong answer but also do not overcomplicate it! Your children want to spend quality time with you. It can be as easy as a special pancake breakfast every Monday morning, something that is a small change in routine that also feels unique and special! 

Because I know staying home with your children during the summer is not an option for everyone, I want to share ways to make it magical in any home and environment! Whether you are home all day with your children, spend half a day with your children after they attend summer school or camps in the morning or only get time in the evening or weekends!

Starting off with families who are planning on being home for the summer with their children, the time may seem long. The best way to take off the pressure of having everything booked and planned to the minute, is to just not. I know, I am a planner myself but to plan to the minute is stressful and you will find you are enjoying the time spent together less and less because stress will creep in. Think long term and big picture – get large calendars for the months of the summer June, July, August and put the big things on the calendar – weekend at the cabin, the county fair, state fair, visiting grandma and grandpa etc. Then go backwards, “library story time Wednesdays 9am”etc. Think of the calendar in a sense of possibilities but nothing set in stone. Although children thrive on structure and routine, summer is also a time to practice flexibility! Maybe not everyone is feeling ready to make it to story time at the library by 9am, but you can create your own story time at home instead! Set special blankets out of the carpet in the living room and everyone gets to pick out their favorite story to read!

Keeping routine will help keep your sanity. When thinking of things to do in a day, make sure there is time for all developmental areas including: gross motor activities such as the park, playing outside, going for a walk. Fine motor activities arts and crafts, chalk, coloring, cutting, and playdough. Sensory activities: Slime, dirt, mud, water tables, and sensory bins! Independent play: unstructured play, dramatic play, building, imaginative play, and experimental play. Quiet time AKA alone time: this could be a nap time, a short non over-stimulating show, resting in bed with books and/or quite play in their rooms. Making sure all areas of development are touched on in the day will almost guarantee there won’t be a sense of boredom! Many of these areas are easily hit through day to day activities and where the sense of flexibility comes in! Some days you will find yourselves perfectly content just to hang around at home. Some days you may want to attend the local splash pad in the morning, or go to the zoo! Day trips are another great way to give your children a wide variety of experiences! 

Maybe you are a family that is available in the afternoon with their children. Keeping a routine is still pretty important but there are many areas in the above section that you can do in a simple afternoon! Sometimes leaving the house and going places is not available to everyone. Some things that I found that made the days at home fun and memorable were as simple as making a picnic to eat it outside, making a movie theater in the living room by covering all the windows, finger painting with chalk paint outside, creating and making forts, creating and making a lemonade stand and baking. There are so many fun and easy options to make the time at home still so fun, unique, and enjoyable!

Who says summer fun with the family isn’t possible after a day at summer school and work? Although your energy level may not be where you would like it to be to try some of the above activities, you can minimize and tailor many to still create a fun and engaging summer for the whole family. Outside play would be the number one, whether you are taking a family walk to the park, going to the neighbors house for an evening swim, having a mid-week camp fire or even camping in the backyard in the middle of the week! The options are endless. For families who have the evenings and weekends together, I find it is sometimes best to create a “Summer Wish List”; a list of only a few things that each family member would like to do together over the summer. That way, your time is maximized and everyone’s ideas are on the table. They can be as simple or as extravagant as you wish! Maybe it’s going to a movie, maybe it’s going to a local theme park or maybe it’s making and eating ice cream together after dinner. 

Overall, whatever the summer will look like for your family, your children want to spend their time with you. It doesn’t take elaborate calendars, filled to the brim with activities, to make the summer months memorable! Just some “unplugged” quality family time with a few simple activities.