As a mom I have a love/hate relationship with summer vacation. Ok, it is pretty great to get to sleep in and not have to worry about homework, packing lunches, and making sure the savages have actually brushed their teeth and put on matching clothes in a timely manner. I’m the first to admit that in the summer (street) clothes are optional. Summer is all about fun but there is that dreaded point when summer turns on you. The kids are bored. It’s too hot to play outside in the afternoons. You can’t possibly eat another snow cone. Ok, that last one is a lie… snow cones are always delicious! The fact is summer can turn on a Mama in a heartbeat.  I want the kids to have fun and stay busy. I want us to have lots of doing nothing but not send them back to school with Xbox sized holes in their brains. My husband’s profession makes it impossible to travel during the summer so we don’t have vacations to break up the time, teach us things, and offer new experiences. Over the years I have tried several summer techniques from doing nothing to having a daily lesson plan. I have finally figured out a good balance of forced activity, secret learning, and laid back fun. Here are a few of my favorite tips. I’d love to know what your family does over the summer to keep the kids busy and happy!
1. Start lazy. For the first 2 weeks of summer it is all about decompressing and recovering from the school year. We sleep in. We lounge around in our PJs. We eat snow cones at night. We are totally spontaneous pleasure seekers.

2. Make them pick one activity. I make all the kids pick one activity, sport camp, art class, etc. to do. It’s usually only a week long and I don’t overlap the kids’ schedules so we don’t fall into chaotic running from A to B. It’s a small amount of structure and routine and the kids have an opportunity to try something new or work on an already loved sport. Rockets, Soccer, Volleyball, Tennis, Painting, Pottery, Bugs, there really is something for everyone. Check your local parks and recreation department, school district, or YMCA for fun activities in your area.

3. Sneak in learning. My favorite way to sneak educational stuff is in the kitchen. The kids all love cooking their own snacks, desserts, or dinner. They love making their own playdoh or slime. For the little kids cooking is a million lessons; reading, math, following directions, science and art. Their excitement when they taste (or play with!) the finished product is awesome! For the older kids working in the kitchen is a great life lesson in learning the basics of how to take care of themselves so they don’t have to survive on Pizza Hut when they move out. Be sure to check out my personal blog this summer as I will be posting some of my best recipes accumulated from my days teaching preschool. My kids are always amazed I can “cook” playdoh, paint, bubble soap, and several kinds of slime!

4. Make the ordinary fun. Yes, Disneyland is a good memory for kids. As parents we can be all about the “once in a lifetime” but don’t discount the small, silly things. When we were little my mom would sometimes make backwards dinner. We would have Hershey bar “steak”, ice cream “mashed potatoes” w/ caramel “gravy” and candy corn! For dessert… pizza! Those memories stick with me and encourage me to be silly with my own kids. We do backwards dinner. We sometimes randomly pile in the car at 10 at night in our PJs to go for pie or Krispy Kreme. Sledding at midnight, camping in the living room, spontaneous Dance Off, Night Nerf gun wars at the park… find something silly and fun and unexpected. Trust me; your kids will remember those moments.

5. Be a hometown tourist.  Do the things in your town that the tourists would do. We don’t live in a real touristy type destination. No theme parks, aquariums, or Children’s Museums. We do have fun things that we just don’t go do that often. In the summer we go to the zoo and water park of course. The Art museum is fun, the exhibits change and they frequently have activities for children. Ditto the local Discovery Center. Local street fairs and Farmer’s Markets can be fun. The library does children’s activities and story times. Our local park does Movies under the Stars where they project movies onto the side of a building. Find the hidden gems
in your town, many are cheap or free!

 6.  Be realistic and set expectations. Don’t plan on doing a million activities or being all educational all the time. With older kids let them know how often having friends over or going out with friends is acceptable. I for one am not a fan of a sleepover every day of the week (my kids get so cranky without sleep… yes, the teenagers!!) I find if I set a number ahead of time it saves a lot of last minute arguing and everyone gets along so much better! As the parent you set the limits and with a big family everyone’s schedule and mood can have a big impact on the whole so I have to keep that in mind. I also always remember that it’s summer, and some
flexibility can go a long way towards having fun!!

I am looking forward to this summer as it is our last one before the baby starts preschool and the last one the oldest will spend living at home. It is also likely the last one I will have as a full time stay at home Mom. I plan on making the most of it!! We don’t have vacation plans but I know we will make lots of memories that will last a lifetime!! Happy Summer!!