By Theresa Nelson, co-author of the upcoming Real Mom Life series
It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting warm and students are counting down the days until the end of the school session. For us moms, the thought of summer vacation typically inspires two different responses. Some moms look forward to summer vacation with joyful anticipation. “I can’t wait! We are going to have so much fun.” Other moms think about summer vacation in a fearful panic: “How am I going to entertain these kids all summer long without school, sports and other scheduled activities?!” And there are many moms who vacillate between these two reactions, depending on the day!
When my girls were in their pre-school years, we looked forward to the fun-filled days of summer and talked about all the activities we would enjoy. But, all too often, the end of summer would approach and we would realize that we never made it out to do mini-golf, visit the boogie-boarding beach, or some other much-anticipated summer activity. So, I decided to be more intentional about my approach to summer activities. Here is the plan that our family developed. Whether you are looking forward to summer vacation or dreading it, maybe some of these ideas will work for you.
Get the Kids Involved in Planning
To build anticipation, I usually held a “summer fun” planning meeting at the kitchen table each year where I solicited input from my girls about the activities they wanted to do. They were very excited and animated in this annual meeting. I got their ideas flowing by gathering lists of local activities through a quick online search for “fun activities for kids.” You can also stop into a local hotel to peruse the racks of tourist leaflets in the lobby. With lists and leaflets in hand, you can brainstorm ideas with your children. You may be surprised by some of the suggestions they offer, but don’t reject ideas too quickly. My daughter once said she would like to take surfing lessons during the summer. I told her I did not think there would be any place that would teach a nine-year-old how to surf, but I was able to sign her up for an afternoon surfing lesson one day in a safe, shallow section of beach that had gentle waves. It was the highlight of her summer!
Don’t forget to brainstorm with kids about the everyday fun activities they enjoy right in your own home or backyard: make popsicles or other frozen treats to stay cool on hot summer days, run through sprinklers in the backyard, draw obstacle courses with sidewalk chalk and then have kids ride bikes or scooters through the path.
Create a Calendar—Or Not!
Once you and your children have developed a list of a few summer activities you are looking forward to, it might be helpful to take out your calendar and choose specific dates for those plans and write them in. Better yet, you can have your kids decorate and color a “summer fun” calendar and then you can post it in your kitchen to build excitement about all the fun plans you have for your family. Perhaps you are a more spontaneous kind of mom, and the thought of a calendar feels too rigid. You could jot down the activity ideas on slips of paper and place them in a jar. Then, when you have a free day, the kids can take turns drawing slips of paper to determine “What are we going to do today?!”
One-on-One Time with Kids
Somewhere along my mom journey, I also discovered that summer vacation provided opportunities for quality one-on-one time with each of my girls. We are lucky enough to have a local town recreation center that offers sports and arts activities for children, including lots of reasonably priced one-week summer camp options. At our family’s annual “summer fun” planning meeting we would read through the flyer about summer camp offerings and each girl would select one week-long recreation program to enjoy that summer. Then, while one sister was occupied with her camp program, the other sister had the opportunity to plan one-on-one “mommy dates” for each day of that week. Most of the outings they selected were embarrassingly simple to pull off—a visit to our town library, a playground picnic, or a trip to our favorite ice cream shop. Some of the “mommy dates” were more involved day trips, such as a trip to the beach or a visit to a nearby zoo. Regardless of how elaborate or simple the plans were, my girls just relished the prospect of my undivided attention during an activity of their choosing. I cherish those memories.
Mom-Time Is Important, Too!
Over the years, I also learned that it could be helpful to register both girls for a camp program during the same week. That would give me five weekdays in which to take care of “mom” tasks that I would usually address while they were in school. I could use those days to schedule a hair cut or doctor appointment. Maybe you don’t have a local town recreation center that offers these kinds of affordable summer activities. Perhaps you can arrange for a sleepover at Grandma’s (or Auntie’s) house for a few days so you can catch your breath. Grandma will probably enjoy the quality time with the grandkids and your children will have a great time making memories with extended family.
So, whether you are eagerly looking forward to the days of summer vacation or dreading them, try to be intentional about making some special memories with your children. Then you won’t experience that end-of-summer regret I used to feel when I realized I had squandered those precious weeks. As I approach summer vacation each year, I often reflect on a verse from Psalm 90 that counsels us to not take our time for granted:
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. —Psalm 90:12
Indeed, our summer vacation days with our children fly by before we know it. (Though, I do recall some cranky summer days that seemed to drag on forever!) Believe me, we didn’t always check off every box and fulfill every wish during summer vacation. And there were many days that were not all that exciting because, even during summer vacation, there are days when I had to go to the grocery store or get some laundry done! But, reflecting on the verse from Psalm 90 meant that I made the intentional choice to ignore the dust bunnies for a while so I could make the most of the fleeting days of summer with my girls. (Those of you who will be going through the new Mom to Mom Real Mom Life curriculum this year will hear more about my “clean freak” tendencies!) The point is, each day we have with our children is an opportunity for fun and adventure and relationship. Seize the day!