Did you know there was NO summer vacation until the early 1900s? Before that, breaks were dependent on the location of schools – they were planned quarterly (town schools) or to coincide with planting and harvest seasons (rural schools).
Fast forward 100 years and it seems like the entire year revolves around summer break! We plan for summer vacations, summer jobs, summer school, summer camp and let’s not forget the summer movie line up (Despicable Me 2 comes out 7/3, just sayin’!).
To help plan this summer, I had a chat with one of our favorite organized women, Lane Jordan. She’s a professional life coach, national speaker and the author of many books. Among them are “12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Woman” and “12 Steps to Becoming a More Organized Mom.” Recently, she’s helped us with such useful topics as 7 Simple Spring Cleaning Tips and 6.5 Ways to Simplify Cooking for Your Family. All that to say: she’s very qualified to help with this topic!
Lane advises, “Now is the time to look at your calendar with your children, and decide how you want to spend the care free days of summer. If you don’t plan now, you could easily miss some opportunities. As wonderful as summer can be, keeping ourselves sane and our children occupied, happy and safe can be quite a juggling act.”
Here are her 9 quick tips for planning a successful summer:
1. Make a plan
Literally, sit with your kids - paper and pen (or iPad) in hand - and plan it out. Lane explains, “Kids love to be a part of planning family activities and can be a real source of information because they already know what they would like to do!” This is also a time to explain the plans and goals you have for the summer as a family.
2. Group activities
Lane tells this story: “When my kids were young, I was invited to be part of a group of moms who pre-planned summer outings for their kids. Each May, we would come together armed with our calendars and ideas. Once we voted on the list of our favorite activities, we would plot one activity each week throughout the summer. The activities were as simple as a picnic lunch in a favorite park to a day at an amusement/water park or a museum. Since their favorite activities were all scheduled out, the kids didn’t complain about being bored every day. They could see when these activities were coming on the calendar! On a rainy day, we would just switch an outside activity for an inside one. These days included time with my good friends and my children’s friends – they absolutely saved me during the summer!”
3. Enlist help
Working parents have to be a little more creative with the calendar. Lane suggests, “You might consider pooling resources. Hire a mature teen or college student to take the children to activities during your work hours. If they don’t already offer it, ask your employer if they’ll allow ‘summer hours’ where you can work an extra hour each day to get a partial day off each week. Summer is a great time for kids to visit close friends and relatives: ask one to ‘reserve’ a day a week to be with your kids or let your children stay with grandparents or favorite aunts and uncles.”
4. Get campy
Did you know the number of day camps in the U.S. has grown by nearly 90% in the past 20 years? According to the American Camp Association, each year more than 11 million children and adults attend camp. Lane says, “If your child is into a particular sport, hobby or activity, camps can be a great learning place where they can focus on that one event.” Click here to search for available camps near where you live.
5. Summer staples
Don’t forget tried-and-true summer activities like:
**the library - most have a summer reading club
**sports lessons - swimming, tennis, golf, horseback riding, etc.
**visiting places of interest - museums, war memorials, farms
**community and volunteer service
For more ideas on activities, read our recent article 3 Ways to Keep Kids Sharp This Summer.
6. Kid focus
With summer schedules a little less hectic, you can give more focus to your children. And they love the attention! Lane suggests, “Ask what they would love to do for a whole day - just for them. They may want to go somewhere with Mom, or just stay at home to play videos, watch TV, movies or read. But I know from experience that they will never forget their ‘one-day-just-for-them’!”
7. Time to learn
There are multiple stats about how kids experience “learning loss” during the summer. Lane advises, “Encourage your children to read throughout the summer months. They may also want to start writing in a journal or diary, create movies or plays, or perform science experiments. Whatever you decide, keep their minds active.” For more ideas on learning through the summer, read our recent article 4 More Ways to Keep Kids Sharp This Summer.
8. Have balance
Children can learn at play, too – it’s not all about filling their schedules with structured activities. Lane tells this story: “One of my neighbors isn’t planning anything for the first week her children are out of school. She wants them to just recuperate from a long year, rest and enjoy free time. I think it’s an excellent idea. Running through the yard or a field, or putting a blanket down so they can gaze at the clouds is a perfect summer day.”
9. Don’t forget YOU
If you put yourself and your relationship with your spouse last, the whole family will suffer. “As wonderful as it is for parents to plan and do activities for our children,” Lane advises, “we must also remember that we need to enjoy the summer too! I am a strong proponent for couples to have a “date-night” weekly. I also believe that parents need friends and activities with their friends.”
Now it’s your turn to tell us your tips! What ideas do you have for planning your summer? What have you done in the past that’s been a win for your kids and family?