Most of us have pretty crazy day-to-day lives just trying to manage our own schedules. You throw kids in the mix, and all of the sudden, getting up every morning at 5 a.m. (which at one time would have been totally unheard of) is the only way to get everyone where they need to be on time.
And then summer is here and you have visions of lemonade and popsicles on the porch, leisurely trips to the pool and a beach vacation. Somehow those summer vibes are abruptly interrupted and remember, you’re still a planner and in between sweet treats and dips in the pool, the chaos of #momlife continues. Here are some tips to prepare for a fun and less stressful summer for your family!
Plan ahead with childcare
During the busy school year, it’s easier to wing it, since everything is coming at you all at once anyway. (So many activities, meeting, projects!) But planning ahead can help you save in more ways than one. If you need childcare for your cherubs over the summer, start asking around in March or April for summer programs, summer camp or friends who may be keeping kids. You may have to get creative. One of the things that some gals in my neighborhood did one summer was a summer parenting co-op.
Between five working parent families, each of them took off work one day a week and kept the other families’ kids at their house. No one paid for childcare that summer, and the kids all were able to play with seven of their neighborhood buddies every day. Even if you are a stay-at-home parent, you can plan a playdate co-op with a few other parents. Each week on a designated day, one mom hosts the kiddos at their house while the other parents get a day off.
Establish age-appropriate chores
Nothing brings out the “I’m bored’s” like summertime. Before you get too far into summer, have a chat as a family about daily chores and expectations. In our family, my daughters’ daily chores consist of making their beds, clearing the table after each meal, putting away all of the outside toys before bedtime, feeding the pets and putting away any laundry in their clean clothes baskets.
We also utilized an Extra Chores jar with 10 to 15 extra chores that don’t have to be done daily, that I’ll whip out when they are “bored” or in need of a little humbling. Some extra chore ideas are things like taking the sheets off their bed, cleaning the bathroom sink, going through toy room to find donations, cleaning windows and vacuuming.
Establish guidelines for technology
While some extra downtime is absolutely okay over the summer, be wary of not setting limits on TV or tablet time. In our house, we are (for the most part) tech-free until the late afternoon. Of course, if I have a conference call or a friend is over (or if someone is sick), the TV may come on a little earlier, but what I have found is that they are more likely to think outside the box and actually have more fun and PLAY more if technology isn’t even an option. Check out this blog on creating a low-tech childhood for more ideas.
Be armed with a handful of activities that your children will enjoy, depending on their age and their interests. Plan ahead with some playdates, and look for free local activities. Last summer, I discovered a wonderful (and FREE) splash pad in a neighboring town so that’s what we did every Monday. We also went to story time at our local library every Friday. (Bonus, research has shown a positive relationship between reading skills and educational — and life — success.)
I also discovered that our local hobbies and crafts store had weekly craft classes that were only $2 per kid. It may just be my Type A personality, but my family tends to be happier if we have a plan. So you aren’t planning last minute, create an activity jar. Write down things to do on a folded piece of paper or popsicle stick — they don’t always have to be exotic field trips out of the house, maybe it’s “have a picnic in the backyard,” “write letters and cards to friends,” “make paper airplanes.” When you think you’re out of ideas, pull an idea from the jar and let the summer fun ensue!
If these tips sound great, but you don’t know where to begin, reach out to some local resources. Many towns have Facebook pages, but in the absence of that, post on your personal page and see if anyone has any ideas for summer fun. You can also look in your local newspaper or city event calendars online. Summertime can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Make the most of it, and plan the time so everyone enjoys it!
Tara Boyd, a North Texas pediatric speech therapist and mother of two, to Beulah (“Boo”) and Lucy (“Lu”), dishes practical advice on marriage, motherhood and munchies with humor and southern charm in her blog Boyd Meets Girl.