Josie Ortega could have titled this post Summer Survival Strategies . . . but she thought it would be nice to re-frame it positively. Find out here how to master this summer and make it a huge success for everyone!
As I foolishly order swimsuits from Instagram ads, my husband researches French presses, seeking the best budget-friendly mechanism to deliver large volumes of iced coffee and precious caffeine into his circulatory system. I think you know what this scene indicates: we’re not ready for summer. We’re obsessing over specific products in an effort soothe ourselves by exerting control over something, anything! Modify the Game of Thrones tagline—SUMMER IS COMING—and you can strike fear into the hearts of parents across the land. (Newsflash: summer’s already here. I’m sweating profusely and my makeup is running.)
It’s true that summer with kids brings challenges aplenty, from cobbling together day camps and childcare to handling oppressive heat and humidity to battling that most formidable enemy of all: boredom. As The Dude would say: This is a bummer man. But I don’t want the anticipation of those very real difficulties to sabotage the entire season before my summer really gets going. I know it will be hot. I shouldn’t act surprised by that! Let’s solve some problems before they start. Let’s make a plan.
Summer of Celebration
Start with attitude. I’ll neutralize the dread by instead anticipating and emphasizing the joys of summer, big and small:
- Catching lightning bugs
- Eating watermelon and spitting the seeds as far as we can
- Grilled cheese from the pool snack bar
- Independence Day fireworks and bike parades
- Sandcastles and being buried in the sand
- Summer reading (My oldest can’t wait to read the first Harry Potter book!)
What are your Summer Simple Pleasures? Let’s pay attention to the things that we and our families love.
Having some kind of an “Opening Ceremony” is a fun way to set aside time for kids and parents to share their ideas, goals, dreams, and expectations for the summer. It also brings a sense of occasion and intention to the season. A friend of mine commemorates the beginning of summer by greeting her kids’ school bus with water guns and water balloons! Your version of Opening Ceremonies may be elaborate, or a simple family ice cream outing where you say out loud: “This is our Summer Opening Ceremony!”
Make a big family list, if that’s your style.
And with kids, never underestimate the power of an enthusiastic, sweeping declaration. I learned this when my daughter asked “What’s for dinner?” on a weeknight when we were having tacos. Replying “Taco Tuesday!!” and dancing a little salsa around the kitchen—30 seconds of enthusiastic celebration—cemented that tradition in our family for time immemorial.
Try it. Declare this year The Summer of _________! And watch it come true.
Summer of Structure
While kids will benefit from having plenty of free, open-ended play time during their break from school, it helps everyone, especially parents, to establish a little bit of structure that gives shape to your summer. A manageable idea is to choose one thing to focus on and make sure to incorporate it into the schedule.
One mother responded to her daughter’s request to continue the fun science experiments from her school year with a compromise: they’ll do one science experiment a week, and her daughter is in charge of research and planning. Supplement that with a few on-theme museum visits, and there you go: it’s officially the Summer of Science.
Drawing on the kids’ interests and ideas, a family might:
- Plan a museum visit each week.
- Participate in the library’s summer reading challenge.
- Scout all the outdoor movie options in the area.
- Declare it the Summer of Service, and get involved volunteering at a local charity together.
- Or schedule a regular bowling outing—check out kidsbowlfree.com—possibly culminating in a family tournament to serve as Closing Ceremonies at the end of summer!
We can also create some structure around things we’d be doing anyway: taste test all the ice cream/slurpee/shaved ice places in your city. Or all the splash parks. I imagine an enthusiastic child designing index cards with a complete rating system.
Our family recently watched A League of Their Own, and everyone loved it. We could spin that into a theme easily—the Summer of Baseball!—by taking kids to games, visiting a local Little League game, playing in the yard, and scheduling more family movie nights to watch Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield, The Sandlot. (By the way, you’re killing me smalls. Also, there’s no crying in baseball.)
You might do the same with Bend it Like Beckham and declare it the Summer of Soccer! And score bonus points for alliteration. My kids also watched the show Shark Tank for the first time the other day. We could go for an entrepreneurial summer where they present inventions and business ideas to us each week. The Summer of Shark Tank! (In which they’ll get used to rejection. “For that reason, I’m out.”)
Summer of Siesta
My most cherished parenting sanity strategy involves some kind of naptime/room time/quiet time in the afternoons. I believe it serves everyone well throughout the year, no matter the age, but in summer it’s crucial. And a new season offers an opportunity to declare: This is the Summer of the Siesta.
Rest time comes in handy especially when kids are swimming and biking and running around, or going to a camp in the morning. You can avoid being outside in the hottest hours of the day and give everyone the opportunity to sleep or to read or generally not bother each other.
Respect the siesta, or lose your popsicle. [I understand that it’s not ideal to use food as an incentive or a consequence. I also understand desperation.]
Summer of Swim
In our part of the world, it’s hot in the good ol’ summertime. Embrace it; don’t whine or let your kids whine. It’s the Summer of Sweat! (Which is always paired closely with its twin declaration, the Summer of Hydration.) To beat the heat, water is our friend: whether that’s signing up for swim lessons, turning on sprinklers, inflating the kiddie pool, or playtime in the bathtub. Someone’s cranky? Just add water.
Summer of Salads
Here’s a potential problem area. Even a master of meal planning (to be clear: I am not one) can let things devolve quickly in summer. We know, because we’re embracing the Summer of Sweat, that we won’t be thrilled to turn on the stove to get dinner on the table in the evening. So let’s embrace a different kind of meal planning.
Tell the family ahead of time, this is the summer of:
- Salads. I’ll consider the season a success if I can make my own delicious caprese salad using our tomato and basil plants. With pasta-loving kids, maybe they’ll go for a cold pasta salad, prepared in the morning and waiting beautifully in the refrigerator. (Pro-tip: use the tea kettle to boil water faster and heat up the kitchen less.)
- Sandwiches. Who said they’re confined to lunchtime? The panini press you received as a wedding gift is waiting for its time to shine.
- The Crockpot. Won’t heat up the kitchen. Pork carnitas, here we come!
- Picnic Dinners.
- Cheese Boards and Relish Trays. Charcuterie boards and the like are essentially fancier picnic dinners. I like the Memphis classic, the sausage and cheese plate, with grapes or whatever other cold fruit and veg you like. (Pro-tip: the broiler heats up the house less than the oven since it’s faster.)
- The Grill. Need I say more?
Summer of Sanity
We’re defining success by managing expectations and focusing on the goals that matter most to our families. While we set up structure and strategies for the health and happiness of our kids, do not neglect planning for parental sanity! [See above re: Summer of Siesta.]
We know the “simple”—but not necessarily easy—things that we should prioritize for our own health and happiness: exercise, sleep, play, connection with spouse and friends. Get those on the summer schedule, too.
I feel better. WE HAVE A PLAN, PEOPLE. And FamilyApp’s calendar feature provides an easy, secure way to coordinate your summer fun and share with loved ones.
What’s your theme or mantra for the summer? Please share your Secrets for Summer Success! (And don’t forget to alliterate as much as you possibly can.)