Summer is here.
We are a week into summer vacation and already, I’ve heard the words “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to doooooooo” and, my personal favorite, “There’s nothing gooooood to eat in the pantry”.
Summer with kids is AWESOME. And HARD.
It’s hard to keep them busy, it’s hard to find time to do errands and it’s hard for parents to feel like the are getting a piece of the summer pie, too. Parents want to enjoy summer time and lazy days our kids demand from us.
So, what are we Summer starved parents to do? How are we to go about the business of enjoying summer time fun?
Lucky for you, I have some answers (this does NOT surprise you, does it??). I wrote a piece for the Today Show about FOUR THINGS you can do RIGHT NOW to make sure you can get the most out of summer’s bounty. Four things, people. And they are EASY. Easy ways to make summer less hard. Who doesn’t want that?
To give you a preview (read: if you are too lazy to click over to Today Parents), here’s my list:
The Keeper Of The Fruit Loops Guide To Surviving AND Enjoying A Summer With Kids:
1). Turn your devices off at a specific time. Yes, TURN THEM OFF. But, just for a little while.
Everywhere you look, there are articles expounding on the fact that we as a society are too plugged in, too focused on our iPhones and tablets. Just a glance around any Panera Bread location will show you that moms are scanning social media, checking texts and answering emails while trying to schmear cream cheese on a toddler’s bagel. Turn the phone off?? Skip the iPad time? Suuuuure.
BUT, what if you just decided to turn your phone off during a specified time? Maybe 12-3 pm during naptime? Or announced to your Facebook friends that, at 5 pm, your phone will be off so you can hang with your spouse and drink wine on your patio? Choose a time to unplug and stick to it like glue. It will be challenging at first but soon, you will find it routine to unplug.
Ain’t NO ONE gonna to turn their phones off for the entire summer (puuuleeze), but if you do it in small measurable doses, you will find that you are able to enjoy the dog days of summer a little bit more. And you might enjoy the screen time break more than you expect….
2). An Errand A Day Keeps The Stress Away
Having kids home for the summer means that parents become the like Pied Piper in grocery stores and the aisles Target. Grocery stores across America are filled with weary moms dragging irritated children up and down the aisles. And then there are the trips to the dry cleaners, the post office, the library to return over due books (Ha! Do people do that??), and all the other necessary activities of daily living.
The bottom line: kids hate errands as much as moms hate running them with kids.
My advice? Do one errand a day instead of trying to cram seven stops into an already jammed schedule. Yes, it requires some planning and obviously, there will be days that this is impossible, but if you only do one errand a day, both you and your kids will hate the process a little bit less. If the kids know that Mom is only expecting them to behave for a short while in the Post Office, it goes easier on everyone. And, you will feel like you’ve at least accomplished SOMETHING on a day that is filled with pool time chaos. Save the multiple errand days for when they return to school in the Fall (only 70 days away…we can make it, right??).
3). Summertime Fun Does NOT Have To Cost A Mint.
We all see those pictures on Facebooks: friends in Disney, friends in Europe, friends on ten day mega trips across the country to see All. The State. Parks. If you are pinching pennies, summer can be a stressful time when trying to entertain bored kids.
Libraries with summer reading programs are always a huge hit and movie theaters across the country offer free or nominally priced showings of recently released movies. And, don’t discount the benefit of handing the kids the hose and telling them to go wild in the backyard. When my children were small, they’d spend HOURS “painting” the deck with a paint brush and a bucket of water. Fun for them and peace and quiet for me. WIN-WIN, I say.
My latest obsession for keeping my kids busy and active on the cheap is trail hiking. Our area is chock full of great trails to explore and it doesn’t cost me a dime to strap on some hiking shoes, load the kids in the car and tire them out with climbing and exploring. And bonus: trails are often shaded and near streams, which is a great way to cool off on hot summer day.
Yes, kids love Mickey but they also love the opportunity to just be kids. And, if you are like me, your favorite summer memories most likely revolve around playing Freeze Tag at dusk or mastering the monkey bars. Our kids want the same so give them time to play FOR FREE and save your sanity.
4). Let Yourself Off The Hook
Don’t believe the hype: you don’t have to run yourself ragged trying to create the BEST SUMMER EVER. You’ll make yourself nuts and all your kids will remember is a stressed out mom with a wild look about her.
If your kids watch too much TV this summer, who cares? If you don’t make them read for an hour a day, so what? If they subsist on ice cream and bathe once a week in the toddler pool, they will survive. And so will you.
Keeping summer simple is the key to really enjoying yourself. And, letting yourself enjoy a tiny slice of the lazy pace of summer will do wonders for your psyche when Fall hits and you are slammed with homework, sports and spending hours on end as a child taxi service. Take care of YOU so you can take care of them.
And, when all else fails, you can always chase the kids with the hose. That never gets old.
Here’s my “Four Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW To Enjoy Summer More With Your Kids” list appearing on Today.com. Click it, vote for it and do all four things.
Because Summer shouldn’t be hard, people.
That’s just silly.