(Inside: Help your kids come up with fun things to do in the summer at home. Kids will have the best summer ever with this awesome planning activity.)
Moms, we feel it coming.
We can hear it in the beat of the drums at the 6th grade May band concert. (And older sister’s 7th-grade concert…and younger brother’s spring choir concert…all attended this week.)
We feel it in the warmth of the sun setting at the Thursday afternoon high school track meet. (After you’ve dropped another kid off at her dance recital practice and given the third a pep talk about finishing their creative writing project. May is the best.)
We see it in the I’m-giving-your-kids-back-to-you excitement of the elementary school teachers at spring conferences.
Blessed, holy summer.
Summer starts out with whimsical beauty. At 6:00 am on that first day of summer everyone is still sleeping. At 8 am moms linger over coffee while the kids, in the novelty of summer, rediscover the joy of their toys. By 9:30 am, we’d biked with our family to the park and it was so fun because no big yellow bus! 10 am boasts happy kids climbing the monkey bars and tearing around the park like King Kong. By 12 pm chicken nuggets heated in the oven never tasted so good. (See ya bagged lunches!)
But then 1 pm hits…and everyone’s over it.
Why it’s not the parent’s responsibility to entertain our kids at home in the summer.
I just had a conversation with a mom friend who works as a night nurse in the summers. She confessed, “My problem with summer is that when I’m home with my kids, I’m just so tired. I don’t feel like organizing anything for them.”
Stop right there.
Moms, when did the pressure to entertain our kids fall on us? Was it the rise of Pinterest where everyone puts their ONE project they did with their kids online and all together, it looks like all other moms are continually entertaining their kids? Or other social media pressure? Or is it because we’re a mom-generation of over-achievers?
In contrast, when we reflect on our school summers, do we remember our own mothers creating premade crafts, structured play dates, or organized games?
Related Article: 85+ Kids Activities that Promote Creativity
Unleashed imaginations and free play make the best summers ever.
But I do remember building a stage with my neighbor Teri where I belted out Tiffany’s, I think I’m Alone Now with blissful (and ignorant) confidence. And I recall setting up thick mat-like fold-up beds in the trailer in the garage for places to sit when we hold our neighborhood “Unicorn Club” meetings. Then there were the cartwheels done in my turquoise and black polka dot swimsuit back and forth over the sprinkler. All of this happened because there was no pre-schedule fun and I could unleash my imagination.
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Of course, it’s fun to plan some activities, but we don’t need to piece together the perfect summer for our kids. I’d even argue that the opposite is better for our families. When moms plan every minute of our kids’ summer not only are we putting pointless pressure on ourselves, we’re robbing our kids of the joy of creative play.
What our kids are really saying when they tell us they’re bored.
When our kids say, “I’m bored,” that’s not what they really mean. Instead, they’re saying “Mom, I’ve been so busy over the school year, I’ve forgotten what to do with all this free time.” So they argue for screen time because it does all the “thinking” for them. But screen time makes them grumpy and unmotivated and is not the answer.
In contrast, we know our kids long to play. Recently – at the beginning of busy May – my kids were talking about all the things they wish they had time to do. “I’m tired of being busy,” one complained. They talked about fishing at the lake, riding bikes, Nerf wars, jumping on the trampoline, playing with stuffed animals, and driving their remote control cars. “Soon!” I said as I hurried two of them to soccer practice.
Then I realized I had a golden opportunity.
My light bulb moment
The fishing at the lake, riding bikes, Nerf wars, and all the things my kids just said they wanted to do – I needed to capture their list right now when they’re busy and long for specific summer fun. Then, I can remind them of those words weeks later when “I’m bored” shows up. I don’t need to come up with the ideas, I just need to set the stage: a pre-summer brain dump session and a limited screen time expectation.
Grab the free summer planning activity now! Simple, organized, free printables!
When to plan awesome summer activities for kids
This is where it gets fun. We get to encourage our kids to unleash all the ideas bouncing around in their head. Set aside time before the school year ends or make this a beginning of summer activity, but here’s when brainstorming can happen…
- Enjoy the pre-summer brain dump session during a hot meal around the dinner table.
- Make a party of it – declare a family night, grab delicious snacks and go.
- Or assign it as homework, let your kids work on it on their own, and discuss the results later. (My night-shift-nurse mom could tell her sweet kids to fill it out while she’s at work, and she can’t wait to hear what they came up with over breakfast.)
How to plan awesome summer activities for kids
Encourage your kids to list out the answers to the below questions. Though we want most of the ideas of things they can do at home, give them permission to dream and come up with places they want to go and things they want to see. (Who knows – maybe you will take them!)
- What’s some skill or talent they want to get better at?
- What are some activities you simply want to enjoy?
- Who do you want to get to know more or build a better relationship with?
Important: Make sure you keep this pressure-free. We don’t want to add to our you-are-important-only-because-of-your accomplishments culture. Keep it light and fun.
Download the detailed, free worksheets that will guide you and/or your kids through the activity.
Here are the questions highlighted in the free worksheets. You want your kids to write down their answers to these questions…
“What are some skills or talents that you want to get better at?”
There are so many crazy fun things to do in life! What’s something that you want to learn? Or something you want to get better at? Write down any activity that sparks interest on your Summer Fun List. Here are some ideas:
- Shooting free throws, soccer footwork or another sport
- Dancing, acting or another aspect of entertaining
- Playing guitar, singing or another part of music
- Writing music, writing books, drawing cartoons or creating in another way
- Sewing, making leather earrings or crafting
- Reading, basic math facts, coding, computers, or something else academic.
- Memorizing scripture, studying the Bible, or something else faith-based related.
- Whatever other activity that you want to get better at.
Now look at your list and narrow it down to 1-2 choices. What daily actions can you take to get better at your given activity? Be specific about what action you are going to do each day to achieve your goals. For example, if you want to get better at basketball, pick how many shots you are going to make per day. (50 free throws, 50 layups…etc.)
“What are some activities you simply want to enjoy?”
Summer holds many fabulous activities! Do you like to feel the dirt in your hands as you garden? Do you like to create forts? Do you like to bead necklaces, or learn about different kinds of rocks? What are things you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time for during the busy school year? List them out. This is a brain dump, so write as many as you can think of on your summer fun list. Here are some places to start:
- Water activities: swimming, slip ‘n slide, sprinklers, kiddie pool…etc.
- Science projects: google science experiments, be in nature and make observations, work with a chemistry set, and more.
- Nature: hiking, rafting down the river, collecting rocks, throwing sticks in the lake, gardening, fishing…etc.
- Working with wood/metal: Putting together a model airplane, making a birdhouse, working on a car, or some other “STEM-y” project.
- Art: painting, sewing, making jewelry, crafting…etc.
- Reading: comic books, fiction, nonfiction…there are so many great stories out there!
- Creating: write your own story, make your own comic book, come up with a podcast…enjoy creating.
- Grow your relationship with God: do a Bible study, read an inspirational faith-based book…etc.
- Service: volunteer petting dogs at the local shelter, make cookies for the neighbors, invited someone to play who needs a good friend…etc.
- Start a business: mow yards, babysit, walk dogs, create a lemonade stand…how can you provide a service and make money?
- Whatever other activity makes you happy.
“Who do you want to get to know more or build a better relationship with?”
People can be so fun! We learn and grow by hanging out with others. Who do you enjoy being around? Who is someone you want to get to know more? Write out all the friends you’d like to hang out with. Here’s a place to start:
- School friends
- Friends from activities
- Church friends
- Aunts & Uncles
- Bonus moms and dads
Hang your kids’ summer fun activities list in a visible spot.
Now that the list is finished, it gets hung up in your child’s room, on the refrigerator or in the bathroom mirror. So when the “I’m bored” happens – and it will – moms get to use this beautiful phrase, “Go look at your list!” (Cue confetti!)
Why having your kids make the list of summer activities works.
I keep a journal of all of my blogging ideas. When I get stuck for ideas, I look back through my scribblings. I can always find something I want to write about because the list is of ideas that interest me. Similarly, the summer activities list works because it’s our kids’ ideas of what interests them. By empowering our kids to create their own fun things to do in the summer list, we’re teaching them so much more than simply finding something to do when they’re bored. We’re teaching them to…
- Listen to what their heart is interested in.
- Plan out a summer. (Which leads to taking charge of their own lives.)
- Live intentionally
- Be creative
- Try new things
- Enjoy life
- And more…
Now, of course, there will be moments when your kids will look at your list and still sigh with boredom. But then again – there will be times when the list jump-starts a fun creative day for them. And I bet there are more of the second kind of days.
Have you grabbed your Summer Planning Activity for Kids, yet?
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.