May 21, 2018
The Simple Summer – How to Create the Right Mix of Structure + Simplicity
My kids have less than two weeks left of the school year and that means that summer is upon us. May has been a doozy with sports, concerts, parties, and all the things. Anyone else ready to be done packing lunches and craving a simple summer? I am guessing if you’re reading this you can relate? I thought I’d chat a little bit about what I do in the summer to balance the relaxed vibe and lack of a schedule with my need for a little order. From my professional experience as an art teacher of kids k-12, I’m going to tell you that most kids like structure and tend to thrive on the right balance of it. I make it my goal to strike that balance and make the most of their 18 summers at home. Curious how I’m going to integrate chores, planned activities, and summer fun for my three kiddos? I love creating that balance between simplicity and structure – I find it really helpful all year long but in the summer it’s especially helpful. Keep reading for my ideas and tell me yours in the comments…..
My kids range from the ages of 6-12 with one girl and two boys, so there’s definitely a mix of attention spans and interests to work around but I am up for the challenge. Every summer I share posts on what I do with the kids so you’ll see some links back to those posts, these will be helpful especially if you have littler ones than mine 🙂
Full disclosure: I can’t approach the summer without a plan for a couple of reasons, a.) a loose plan works best for all of us, and b.) I work full-time and even though it’s from home and for myself (Clean Mama and Clean Mama Home), this ensures that I spend oodles of time soaking up my kids but the business gets done too.
The key to a simple summer? Having a plan.
I start with a summer calendar – I give one away every summer – you can find the 2018 summer calendar here on the free printables page. I print two – one for planning to sketch out activities and see where everything lands and then one for the things I actually sign the kids up for.
Then I sign the kids up for classes – 1-2 things each works well for us. The two bigger kids have more activities closer to when school starts but if we need to add something as the summer is rolling we do but I really keeping the activities to a minimum because that’s just more running around than I’m up for. I love my daily planner for keeping myself on task during the day too!
File the school papers and mementos
You know all the papers that come home the last week of school? Have a plan for it so it doesn’t sit in a pile all summer long. We have a bin and file folder for the kids’ special papers and a large file folder for the oversized pieces. This post details both ideas.
Summer is a great time to deal with toys and toy storage with your kids. Get them involved in the sorting, tossing, and donating process and take the time to teach them how to pick up as they go and to put things away once they play with something. This post details how we deal with the toys and toy storage in our home.
Everyone has daily tasks and chores
Before school is out I update our daily checklists to make sure they still pertain to ability levels – our kids do chores and work around the house. We want them to know how to do laundry, cook meals, run a vacuum cleaner, and clean a toilet. Not only does this help them but it also helps us!
We use these daily task charts in the kids’ rooms. They can quickly glance at them during the day and check in on their progress. They have drastically cut down on nagging and reminding – I’ll take that as a win.
I also make sure that the kids have safe cleaning supplies so they can help too. Here are some of the supplies I typically keep on hand for them. I find that we get more tasks done if we get them out of the way first thing in the morning. If you aren’t home during the day with your kids you can still build a little structure into your morning before you head out for the day. A checklist helps to give a little guidance for those daily tasks.
After chores come fun and activities
Once we have them completed our tasks we see what we have going on for the day. Some days we just hang out in the morning and go to the pool in the afternoon. I typically work for a couple hours in the morning – in the past I’ve utilized a babysitter a few mornings a week but as the kids are older they will do their jobs, I’ll do my daily tasks and work for a bit before we do fun activities.
We do the library’s summer reading challenge every summer – this means we go to the library every week or so, choose new books, and try to read every afternoon. This quiet time is helpful for me to do a little work for 30 minutes to an hour or just to read with the kids too. Put a basket out and keep it filled up with library books. I have the basket in our living room and the kids will independently grab books and sit on the couch and read. I find that just keeping the books available is effective in quietly encouraging them to read.
QUICK TIP: put on music that’s calming and quiet and have it in the background and it will settle the atmosphere most days 🙂
Stock up on supplies and activities that entertain the kids without cords. We have activity books and art supplies accessible all summer long. Yes, it’s definitely a little more messy but keeping these options open and available eliminates the electronics fight. We do have electronics but there are limits to when they can come out and for how long (it’s minimal and supervised). Come up with a plan that works for your family for the summer and stick with it 🙂
Have an “I’m bored” checklist – have the kids help you make a checklist of things that they can do if they’re bored and then you can refer them to the list if they need something to do. Add some chores and fun activities so the list has 15-20 options and idea sparkers.
Stock up your art supplies – I buy extra supplies when they’re on sale for back to school time and save them for the summer.
Keep supplies in a bin for special projects. My boys love science activities so this bin is pulled outside frequently.
Keep meals simple and let the kids take a turn at helping with planning, prepping, and cooking. Summer is a great time to give them a lessons in the kitchen. My oldest loves baking and keeps our sweet tooth satisfied all summer long.
When we have classes we keep things pretty simple at home and typically don’t do other activities. Fridays when we don’t have a class we choose a ‘Fun Friday’ activity to do. This is something that we put on a summer bucket list and can be as simple as making ice cream, having a cookie making contest or an activity like going to the zoo or a fun park. Don’t think that you need to plan big activities to have a great summer – with just a little planning you’ll find that your summer can be fun and simple!
Tell me what you’re doing this summer – do you take the simple approach or keep the kids busy or are your trying to strike a balance too?