Summer break. Such an exciting time. No schedules, sleeping in, being lazy, relaxing, spending lots and lots of time with your kids enjoying the sunshine. Sure, that’s maybe what the first day or two will look like, but very early on you are bound to hear the dreaded “I’m bored” or the constant bickering of siblings, and my all time fav: the constant asking for snacks!
With 4 kids, ranging in ages from almost 9 down to 2, I feel like I have mastered the summer break now. I’m still dreading the above mentioned moments, because they will happen, but I’ve got ways to keep the kids reasonably happy, without spending a ton of money, and without going crazy in the process!
I’ve been the mom that goes Pinterest crazy, and preps a million activities and games, and crafts and projects, and the kids mostly don’t care. So the first thing you need to do is think about what you and your kids like to do: reading, crafts, outings, science experiments, water fun etc. We thankfully love a mix of it all, and my kids seem to enjoy more low key things that require less setup (their attention span for the activity is lost if I have to spend 20 minutes preparing something for them.) Back in March I shared my plans for that week long school break, and the kids loved the themed days! So this summer I’m going to expand it a little and do themed weeks when we don’t have any other activities planned.
Picking a Theme for some weeks is a great way to focus your activities. Make a themed snack (including taking the kids shopping for the ingredients), visit the library to pick out books and movies that go with the theme. Play board games, or go on a day trip that relates to the theme too. It’s a great way to keep the kids focused on something for more than a minute, and it’s a sneaky way to be educational!
Reading is another great time filler for older kids, and something that is important to keep up with during the summer. Set rules so that your child needs to read a certain amount or for a certain length of time before they are allowed tv time or a device. We are going to have quiet reading time during the day, when my youngest is napping, so that the house is quiet. My husband made a reading chart with rewards like going to the movies or playing mini golf once they have read a certain number of pages. Thankfully my kids love to read, so it isn’t a battle getting them to do it. If your kids’ don’t love to read, make sure you are picking out books on topics that interest them, make a reward system that is easily attainable, and for something that they’d really enjoy.
Simple outings are the best thing for us, since we are a large family. Simple day trips to the local beach, trying out new parks and play grounds, or even going bowling are all fun activities that don’t cost very much. Search online for coupons for your area, I know my kids have coupons and passes for some really great attractions in Ontario, that they get from their school each year. And our local bowling alley offers free bowling all summer long (just have to pay for your shoes!). Keeping our kids expectations low has helped over the years, so that when we do something big (like the local amusement park, or a big family vacation) it’s really memorable and they really appreciate it. And the day before the outing, hit up the grocery store with the kids and let them help pick out some snacks to take with you, another great way to fill an afternoon!
Lego is another great activity that is so great for kids. Sometimes kids need a little direction in making different things. I know I’ve been there where I’ve suggested they plays with Lego and they look at me and whine “I don’t know what to build”. Write down a bunch of ideas and stick it on the fridge! Things like build a boat, or car, or plane, your name or a house. Search around online for lots of great ideas, I’ve even found instructions to build licensed characters from whatever legos you have lying around.
Art is such a fun an creative way to fill a big chunk of time. Hit up your local art supply shop or even the dollar store to buy some canvases. Give the kids a little direction, like painting a flower, or a rainbow or an ocean view. Or better yet, talk a little about art history and let them do their own version of a famous painting! Such a great activity for all ages, and produces a piece of art they can proudly hang in their bedroom!
Unstructured time is also important for kids. So much of their life during the school year is so scheduled, where they are shuffled from one activity to another. Don’t forget to have days where you are just home, hanging out, doing nothing in your pjs all day. Sometimes its ok to let them get bored!
Of course, we do have other activities planned for the summer like a week at our Church’s kids camp, swimming lessons, power skating lessons, and ballet. And we are planning a mini road trip to Ottawa too (watch for a post on that!). And there will of course be birthday parties and other things that come up, but that still leaves a lot of days with nothing on the calendar.
It’s a fine balance between over planning and under planning, and only you know what balance works best for you and your kids. In the past I have stuck to a tight schedule when we have had 2 little ones that needed naps, and other years it’s been a fly by the seat of the pants see what the day brings kind of attitude. Different phases of life call for different amounts of activities. My point is that you don’t need to stress or plan out a million activities for each day just because someone else is, do what works for you, and hopefully some of my ideas help you have a happy summer break! And remember to be kind to yourself, being a mom with little ones at home on summer break isn’t easy! And try to lower your expectations or how perfectly it will all go ;).