It happened. Grades are in, report cards have been handed out, and backpacks put away. School’s out for summer! As a teacher, I am rejoicing in a break from lesson plans (though I’ll probably still do some) and the day-to-day craze of the school year. However, one hamster wheel is traded for another with the kiddos home with me all day, every day, for the next eight weeks.
I believe in summers that aren’t always scheduled and where kids can get bored. I’m also a fan of little adventures and getting out and about, even if it’s not planned in advance. I have found that a little preparation during the summer allows me to have more of a “go with the flow” attitude and say “yes” to my kids more often. In our house, that means keeping a few things ready to go:
- Swim bag: I keep a swim bag in the car at all times, complete with swimsuits and towels for all family members, as well as sunscreen. This allows us to be out somewhere and then change directions. I may get a text that says “headed to swim” and we want to tag along. The swim bag gives us that freedom. I also keep three empty plastic cups in this bag that I pull out at pools or splash pads (occasionally large puddles) to help keep the kids entertained longer. You’d be shocked how much extra water time an empty cup per kid will give you.
- Water bottles: Each of us has an insulated water bottle that we carry daily (mine is a little bigger than theirs). I fill them up with lots of ice and water each morning. They accompany us on our adventures. In addition to our personal bottles, I prepare a large jug of ice water to keep in the car with me. This lets us refill water bottles and stay hydrated even without water fountains.
- Food: For budget and health reasons, I try to avoid buying food out on a regular basis. So, even though I hate making lunches with a fiery passion, each morning I still pack a large lunch box with individual lunches and snacks for everyone. Stopping in the middle of something fun because you have to go home to eat is a bummer. This way our schedule is much more flexible. Sometimes we eat after a trip to the Y, others in the middle of the zoo. Occasionally we do end up at home during lunch time and we eat our lunches there. Any way you slice it, having lunch ready to go makes the day a bit simpler. Also, snacks can ward off whiny kid syndrome like nobody’s business.
- Research: Deciding what to do each day gets easier with some background knowledge of available choices. I have a list of all the storytimes in the area each day, know which pools or splash pads are closed on which days and noted the weeks of favorite movies on the kids’ summer movies schedule. This helps us keep some variety in our days by taking advantage of special opportunities when they are available, leaving the other days for backyards and parks that are always open. And, sometimes when you’re leaving the park and realize a movie is going to start in 10 minutes across the street, your kids think you’re pretty awesome when you say “Let’s do it!”
While I believe in kids being bored in the summer, it doesn’t have to be all the time and not necessarily always at my house. Getting out and about, even just to different parks helps spark creativity and keep my kids active all summer long. I like to be ready for when my kids ask if we can stop and run around on that hill or go play in the water fountains while out shopping. Summer is a time for simple adventures and smiling faces. That’s just how we do summer. How do you summer?