It is with great anticipation that both kids and parents look forward to Summer. Kids anticipate ten weeks of freedom, fun and memory-making while us parents anticipate ten weeks of juggling schedules and keeping the kids busy and out of our hair, all while still trying to get them to bed on schedule while the sun tells them the party is still on much past their bedtime.
Here are seven ways to keep your sanity while making this summer one to remember:
Create a Kids Calendar
The key to any successful block of time is having a schedule for it. The difference between our work schedules, tidily maintained in Outlook or Gmail, and the schedule of our kids is that our kids schedule is usually kept in the mind of Mom or Dad -- change this.
Get three pieces of big poster board and create a homemade calendar for the next 10 weeks with a ruler and a felt pen on the first two pages. Allow the blocks to be big enough so that your 6-year-old can draw in activities if he/she can not write them in yet. Let them work with you as you put things onto each day. On the third page, make a list of activities which are optional and can be fit in if you hear, "I'm bored." Then you can refer them to the list!
Book Em' - Fully
As counterintuitive as it is to fully book a summer schedule, do it -- with one caveat: also book in down time. Call it chill time, or hangin' out, but book it in, too.
When the kids see every day of the calendar has something planned, they will begin to feel comfortable with the fact that things are happening this summer.
When Mom and Dad see long blocks of hanging out, you can re-visit the schedule and come up with some things to do.
Every Week a Theme
Decide on a theme for each week of the summer. Then, base at least one meal and one activity or craft around that theme. This helps to fill in time slots in the schedule and makes summer fun easier for kids who will get into the themes even outside of the subscribed calendar activity and meal.
Some examples: A certain nationality or cuisine, colors or soccer (the meal could be from the country of your favourite team or else you have orage popsicles for dessert to represent oranges at half time).
Don't be shy with this one. Call up the parents of your child's two best friends or an auntie/uncle/grandparent and book in at least two sleepover nights per month. Reciprocate for the friend. This will give your child something to look forward to and will give you at least two nights off.
Bonus points for negotiating a full day with the best friend so that you take the best friend from 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. and the other family will do the same for you. Now you have two full days and nights off.
Go Old School
Make the kids play outside. Send them out with minimal toys and see what they come up with. Kids of all ages like bubbles, running through sprinklers and body paints. Have an old-fashioned water balloon fight or watermelon eating contest.
Follow With New School
Give them some control -- ask what they would like to do. Plan a movie night or games night and let the kids pick the movie or video games you see or play. Let them laugh at your skills or at jokes in a kids movie.
Remember what summer was like for you when you were a kid. Sure, you wanted to hang with your parents, but above all else, I am willing to bet that the memories you have are from the time you tried something new, bent a rule, had big laughs, stayed up late, slept under the stars. Most of these things do not require a lot of planning, money or time... they require you as the parent to allow your child to explore what being a kid is all about in the freedom of summer.
Let your kids be kids.
Sometimes, this means standing back and letting them make a few memories.