Did you hear that shout of joy? Children throughout the San Ramon Valley are celebrating the arrival of summer vacation this weekend.
Many of their parents however, have more mixed feelings.
As one of my friends said, “Happy summer everyone! Now what?”
Sure, it’s great to push the pause button on homework, tests and teacher conferences for a few months, but it is still an adjustment, meaning changes in schedules, and the dynamics and the rhythm in the house.
For some families there are vacations to look forward to, as well as camps and athletics to keep the kids occupied and entertained during their break from school, but the gaps can still be challenging, especially for kids and parents who may be used to being “on the go.”
When I have those “now what” moments, I turn to my go-to consultants for ideas that combine fun, learning, and sanity—homeschoolers.
Homeschoolers have a huge variety of kid-tested ideas, and they often generously share them. And if you are on a budget like mine, nobody can find “free” better than a homeschooler. (Bonus travel tip: if you want to find all the kid friendly haunts in a visit destination, find a homeschooler blogger who lives there.)
I’ve followed homeschooling and teacher blogs for years because they are so chock-full of ideas. From them, I have also found some great advice that comes in handy for me during the summer months:
- Routine equals sanity.
Establishing a routine is usually the first order of business when going through any transition in our home. I find that my kids and I thrive when we all know what to expect from “home days” and “outing/activity days.”
Please note that “routine” doesn’t equal boring or rigid; it describes more of the “flow” of the day. For example, my family expects that the hour following breakfast is usually going to be independent free time on home days, emphasis on independent. If we have an outing or activity planned, we’ll finish dressing and get going.
Like any new transition, give it a week or so to sink in; don’t overload yourselves right out of the gate.
This approach also goes for times when the kids are at home with a nanny or babysitter while you are working to make the days you are home smoother.
Sorry, all bets are off when they visit the grandparents.
- Plan to be spontaneous.
Yes, it may seem like a contradiction, but stick with me here. I highly recommend making a “bucket list” with your family, as well an idealist of the kinds of activities that your kids individually enjoy doing. There are literally a ton of examples and links to bucket list printables on Pinterest here. I think it’s nice to post up the list so that the family can mark them off as they are accomplished.
When you can’t stand one more minute in the same house together, that’s where the spontaneous part comes in, and you can activate items on those lists quickly. Additionally, I use the bucket list to plan out my outing days over the course of the summer.
I also keep the car packed with supplies, portable snacks and changes of clothes that make it possible for a quick diversion to a water feature park, play-date, or other activity on the fly.
- Boredom is not bad.
I think we really don’t do our kids or ourselves any favors when we build an expectation that they will always have an activity to go to, or that we ourselves have to provide them with entertainment.
When I am on vacation I don’t want to constantly go-go-go; I want time to just relax and “be lazy.” Kids need that time too, whether they believe it or not. I build lazy time into our summertime routine.
Along the same lines as planning to be spontaneous, it helps to make sure there are materials on hand, such as craft supplies if your kids like those kinds of activities, books, etc. that are easily accessible to support this.
To head off and discourage the whiny “I’m bored” syndrome, we use a “Bored Bucket” idea I found here, filled with activities, including both fun stuff and chores, ready to draw from if my child can’t find something to entertain themselves.
A word about screen-time: use judiciously. My kids relish an episode of Scooby-Doo, or a chance to take over our iPad for a game, but we do so sparingly. We prefer it remain a “treat” (and sometimes a motivator) when they get to do it.
For a ton of summertime fun ideas, check out these posts and resources (all are non-sponsored, and ones which I found personally helpful):
- 105 Summer Boredom Busters from Her List
- Got a 2 Year Old? Ideas from Quirky Momma, and also check out her “Summer Time Bucket List: 50 Activities for the Kids” post.
- 15 Awesome Backyard Games from iMom
- If you want to plan a San Francisco excursion, check out the “101 things all S.F. kids should do in the city before they grow up” list from SFGate.
- If you want to hold your own vacation Bible school, check out this free program from Ministry-to-Children.
- Do you want to make sure your family gets outdoors more this summer, check out the “Be Out There” campaign resources from The National Wildlife Federation.
- Make a summer time “Advent-ure Calendar,” an idea from FamilyFun’s Facebook Page.
Please add your favorite summertime survival tips in the comments!