It suddenly occurred to me today that, for us, there’s barely two weeks until the start of summer! That’s both two weeks to the start of the official summer – Memorial Day with splash pads turned on and outdoor pools open – and two weeks to the start of the ten week school vacation. I don’t know whether to be excited or terrified.
In the UK summer is only 6 weeks long. But oddly enough both as a pupil and a teacher 6 weeks seemed like forever. Parents worried about summer skills slide, teachers about finding enough time to get next year’s prep done and a holiday in and even as a pupil I looked forward to getting back to school and seeing friends. Imagine my horror when I discovered, as a stay home parent, that summer in my new home was 10 weeks long. And this year, for some reason, it’s closer to 12!
But, as with most things, planning and balance seem to be the key. I found lots of advice online about managing children’s daily routine during the summer but never how to handle long periods of time. But five years in and I think I’ve got the season under control!
It might sound like a military operation but it’s panning ahead that allows those summer days to be relaxed.
Believe it or not I actually started thinking about summer in February – not just because I was frozen under a few feet of snow – but because that’s when summer camp providers start taking bookings and as my children know what they are interested in doing I might as well save our space.
Print Yourself a Calendar…
For me planning time needs to be visual. So job number 1 is always to print off a calendar page for each of the summer months. Something simple, that I don’t mind erasing entries on or even reprinting to start over. This year I used the ‘Horizontal Calendar (Monday through Sunday)’ template on Word but in the past I’ve downloaded from websites such as Snapfish. Take your pick. Hit print. And then the fun begins. Think of it as Tetras with dates and events!
Ink on the Big Stuff…
I add the information in layers. First, in pen, I write on the non movable events: travel plans that are already booked, visitors arrival and departure dates and public holidays that have events linked to them that we’ll most likely attend (Independence Day parade, local balloon festival and Father’s Day etc).
Next, I add on camps and classes. I don’t mean the ‘send them away for the whole summer’ type camps we’ve seen in films and novels…although I’m sure that would be fun. With both my children still young ‘camps’ are week long programs, that can be full day, half day or even a couple of hours, that are most often run around a theme. In this area we are fortunate that there are seemingly endless choices from many different providers – Park Districts, School Districts, local attractions, sports centers, day care centers and churches – offering camps for every interest. In this household anything nature, dinosaur or just outdoor play is always a hit. Swim team and sports lessons are popular with many kids. It’s just a case of collecting the brochures, checking online and comparing times, dates and costs for what suits your family.
Initially I put a lot of notes on in pencil whilst I try to work out what fits, how I’m going to mange pick up and drop off with two children in different locations and allowing for the idea that some camps fill up quickly. But once I’ve made the bookings, I steal the kids markers and color code the different type of activities. It helps me see what we have scheduled at a glance and to space things out; everyone is different but I don’t want to be scheduled up every week, I want some free days for chilling at home or to venture new places together.
Finally, in the weeks leading up to the big vacation I add in dates and times for free events that we may or may not attend but that I want to forget and then feel we’ve missed out on. Facebook has become especially good for discovering new events in the local area.
Make a List or Three…
Ok, so you know that really I have dozens of lists! But my most important lists are ‘Places to go on Good weather days’ and ‘Places to go on Bad Weather Days’. I use note pages in my phone to list playground recommendations, nature reserves we’ve heard about, indoor play places that the kids will love even if I don’t, hiking trails and lakes – ones I can couple with good food are ideal, pools, splash pads, beaches, shops with play tables and anywhere that just sounds different! These things let me fill the camp free weeks where we need to get out of the house without having to rack my brain in the midst of looking after the children. They also help me organize fun meet ups with friends from different areas…socializing is essential for our summer sanity!
Children need free play but there are so many hours in a summer day we also need a bank of ideas to draw from!
And last but certainly not least there’s my Pinterest boards. I’m a true magpie of great ideas, feathering these visual lists with endless fun that we can create at home. Trying out new crafts, games and recipes is what makes the summer for me. Please do come and join the fun by following limeadinmyteacup on Pinterest.
And, once you’re all organized what’s the best part of any list or plan? Ticking off the days as you go and looking back on all the fun you’ve had.
Regardless of how long it is, have a great summer everyone. Enjoy.