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Tips & Advice

Lose the To-Do List – and 4 Other Ways to Get the Most Out of Summer

by Rebecca Eanes

Photo credit: Digital Vision, DigitalVision Collection/ Getty Images

What does summertime mean to you? Do you envision leisurely family picnics at the park, a traditional vacation at a beach resort, or lying on a blanket and lazily naming the cloud shapes as they float by? Do you imagine fun-filled days at the water park, water balloon fights in the backyard, and tasty cookouts on the deck?

Or does summertime bring anxiety at the thought of bored kids bickering with each other every day and a way-off-track schedule that leaves you in a tailspin?

I remember the lazy, wonderful days of summer as a kid, but it’s quite different now that I’m a mom. My adult responsibilities don’t vanish from June through August. My husband’s workplace doesn’t shut down for the summer. It’s business as usual for us and, if we let it, summer can easily pass us by in a whirlwind. We only get 18 summers before our children become adults, and I intend on making every single one of them count. Here are five things that help me make the most of summertime with my family.

Empty the Calendar
Spring was booked with baseball games, acting classes, and school field trips. My fall calendar is already filling up as well, but summer is sacred time. The calendar has a bunch of blank squares, and that alone is a sweet reprieve. Summer is a time for slow and easy, a time to catch our breath, reconnect, and just enjoy the ordinary beauty of full trees, puffy clouds, and popsicle-stained faces. Yes, work goes on and responsibilities still loom, but this summer I will be intentional in keeping my calendar empty and my evenings slow and enjoyable.

Take a Break from Devices
I know it’s just a part of life in these times, but don’t you get so very tired of ringing phones, dinging laptops, and pinging iPads? Kids are so used to constant stimulation that they become bored in about four seconds without endless entertainment and, let’s face it, if our phones get too far out of reach, we feel like we’ve lost an appendage. It’s probably unreasonable to unplug for the whole summer unless you’re moving to Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland, but I think it’s reasonable to shut them down and put them away for specified blocks of time during the evenings. Instead, gather around the table for board games or snuggle on the couch together and read a great book out loud. This is the stuff happy memories are made of.

Create a Summertime Tradition
When I was a kid, my parents took me to this rinky-dink amusement park every summer, and it was the highlight of my childhood. I didn’t know it was rinky-dink because I didn’t have anything to compare it to! I knew it was something I could count on, and I looked forward to it every single year. It was “our thing.” Now I love to take my kids to that same amusement park, and they don’t realize it’s rinky-dink yet either, which makes it really fun. We also set up an obstacle course in the yard and call it our annual family tournament, plus we have some epic shaving cream-filled water balloon fights. Make sure your family has “a thing,” something that says, “We are the Smiths, and this is what we do in the summer!”

Embrace the Routine-less Chaos
Sure, routines make the days flow smoother and our lives a bit simpler. Routines are a great thing to have nine months out of the year, and the lack of one in the summer can feel rather chaotic. I’m making a conscious choice to embrace the routine-less chaos. There will be no homework to complete and check, no lunches to pack, no uniforms to wash and iron. As it turns out, our routine has become a series of chores to check off, and I’m welcoming the break. If having no routine at all will throw you too far out of whack (like if you still have infants or toddlers) then create a special summer routine that works for your family.

Soak Up the Sunshine
Three out of four of us are deficient in vitamin D. It’s no wonder! American kids spend an average of 943 hours in the classroom per year, and that’s in elementary school! Nine hundred and forty-three hours of walls and chalkboards. Let them out! Take a hike. Climb trees. Catch fireflies. Make mud pies. Jump in puddles. It’s so much harder to be bored in the great outdoors, and they’ll cherish the time you spent rolling down grassy hills with them for a lifetime.

What summertime traditions do you have, or hope to start, with your family?