We’re in the middle of our fourth week of summer vacation and (miracle of miracles!) we’re not even the tiniest bit tired of each other yet. In fact, it rather feels like this summer is flying by.
Maybe we’re still in the honeymoon days of summer vacation, or maybe I’ve finally hit upon a good rhythm that works for us when we don’t have the routine of school to build our days around. Just in case it’s the latter, I thought I’d share what we’ve been doing the last four weeks to keep some semblance of a routine around here while still having a Six-Tastic Summer.
1. Giving Each Day a Purpose
Monday through Friday, each day has a specific theme, or purpose:
- Library Day
- Craft Day
- Outing Day
- Free Day
- Chore Day (Really, rescue the house from the ravages of summer vacation. Also known as 101 ways to turn dusting and vacuuming into some kind of game.)
2. Planning Ahead One Week at a Time
Every Sunday evening I sit down with a blank printout of a weekly overview (this free printable from Life . . . Your Way is my favorite) and fill it in. First I fill in the activities and commitments I know we have coming up, such as swim meets, guitar lessons or our weekly playdates. Then I assign each day its purpose. From there I take a look at the master list of summer activities, crafts, and special events (such as a certain free movie or special library program) I compiled at the beginning of the summer and add a thing or two to the week’s activities.
Planning a week at a time, before the week starts, has helped us to keep our days balanced. I can look ahead and see that we have a busy few days ahead, and make sure we have a day set aside with no plans or commitments within the chaos. On the flip side, I can see that we might have too many days of nothing ahead, and plan an outing before the entertainment of the day becomes Wrestlemania.
3. Conquering Boredom
Sitting prominently in the kitchen is our Boredom Jar. I didn’t gussy it up like others have done – ours is just a simple mason jar. I printed a list of activities that the kids could do with little to no assistance and cut them out into strips of paper. When the kids say their bored or act like they’re bored (incessant whining, inability to keep their hands off each other, etc.), they can pull one activity out of the jar. My rule is that whatever you chose, you have to do . . . and you have to do it for at least 30 minutes. This keeps them from searching the entire jar for something or from declaring that they’re bored again after 5 minutes.
Face painting, just one of the many ideas in our Boredom Jar. What, your kids don’t choose to be vampires?
Hint: Along with some fun new activities in the jar, I also used this as an opportunity to take inventory of our toys and add them as suggestions. My kids tend to forget about the various K’nex, LEGO and puzzles we have hanging around. If they balk at playing with them or seem disinterested, it will show me it’s time to let those toys go.
4. Knowing When to Ditch the Plans
I’ve found that as the summer goes on and the kids get more used to entertaining themselves without as much assistance from me (or depending on screens), they can get absorbed in an activity. I’ve pushed Craft Day back for two weeks now because the kids have been perfectly happy whacking tennis balls on the garage door or building forts with the couch cushions. Don’t mess with a good thing!
5. Letting Things Go
The kids can’t enjoy summer if I’m constantly stressed and preoccupied with keeping things on the same kind of routine we enjoyed through the school year. The house will be messier than I like it to be. Laundry will tend to pile up faster and with more fury. Grocery trips and various errands will be more harried and less organized. Phone calls might not get returned so quickly, e-mails will linger unanswered. It’s okay. It’s more than okay. How many summers do we really have with our kids when they want us to hang out with them all day long? The work will always be there. The freedom to jump into a rousing game of Four Square (the old-school kind, silly, not checking in to your favorite bar) will not.
How is your summer going so far? If you’re already counting the days until school starts, give some of these ideas a try and see if it doesn’t help make the days more manageable. If you’re still smiling and (somewhat) sane, I’d love to hear how you’re making summer fun for your family!