Jun 20, 2017

3 simple ways to have a lot more FUN with your family this summer

School is out, the weather is warming, and summer is in full swing!

But while our kids are over the moon at the prospect of weeks upon weeks of no work and all play, for many already-too-busy parents, eight weeks of summer break can be slightly daunting at best.

You can feel the parental stress in the stratosphere. I mean how many social media posts have you scrolled past in the last week screaming “help!!!...when do these kids go BACK to school?” 

It’s made me think it’s time to change our expectations and attitudes a bit. 

I remember my son once asking me why so many parents seemed to hate being with their kids in the summer, after he noticed a barrage of such posts filling up Facebook. I don’t know about ya’ll, but that’s really not how I want my kids to perceive the way I felt about all our summer breaks over their childhoods.

Sooooooo, how do all of us over-stressed grown-ups chill-out, calm down, and actually enjoy summer break with our youngsters? How do we make it fun for everyone…including us?

We start with a slight shift in perspective, a little “pre-production”, and a loose but intentional plan.

This summer I’m thrilled to be teaming up with the folks at Juicy Juice, as the spokesperson for their “100 Percent Family Time” campaign. It was a very easy and happy “YES!” when they asked me to be a part of this wonderful project, as it’s all about real, practical, and fun ways to enjoy the family time we do have all together. I’m a very realistic working mom who knows how hard it can be to check all the boxes day to day. So I say forget perfection and “balance” and making everyone happy all of the time. Snuggle up to boredom, allow for the “nothingness”, seize the summery playful moments (big or small), you have as a family, and allow your kiddos to experience the magic of leading their own unplugged fun and games as well.

And at the end of summer break, you’ll be wishing you had a few more weeks to play together rather than counting down the days 'til the school bell finally rings. Really…it’s totally possible!

Are you ready?

To get you started, here are few tried and true tips that have helped make our summertime together way more manageable, playful, and easy-breezy. 

1. Create a Family Time Suggestion Bottle

At the start of every summer break, my kids and I usually create a “Sinclair Summer Camp” list on a massive piece of poster board.  We hang it in a central location…usually on the big sliding glass doors in the kitchen, so that it’s in our faces each day.  This year, we making a suggestion bottle to hold all of their ideas instead.  We used a cleaned out "up-cycled" Juicy Juice bottle, some "crafty doodles" with which to decorate the outside, and slips of paper listing all of our fun ideas for summer play. We cut a big notch on the side of the bottle and then popped our suggestions inside. 

 *See the video below for full DIY!

This collective batch of purely playful family time suggestions remains in place throughout the break as a reminder of all the ways we want to kick up our heels over the next 8 weeks.  We include big trips, small activities, simple pleasures, and everything in between.  Everyone’s ideas are included, and nothing is turned away.  This suggestion bottle of fun also acts as a catalyst for ideas when the “what-to-do’s” set in.

At the end of the summer we love reminiscing about all the family fun we managed to squeeze in, what we forgot to do, and sharing our favorite memories along the way.

2. Give em’ the time and materials for open-ended, self-directed play

Our kids spend hours upon hours each school year being directed by adults. Between long days at school and extracurricular activities, the majority of their days are orchestrated by grown ups.  Summertime is the most wide-open, wonderful time for kids to practice self-regulation, self-direction and creative invention. 

Make sure to provide some space, time, and simple supplies with which to explore. And let em’ go.

A box of recycled materials, a bin of open-ended craft supplies, a pile of sand and some kitchen tools, buckets of side-walk chalk and a wide-open concrete canvas, or a batch of cardboard boxes, tape, scissors, and a yard in which to build. 

If your children are in day camp all week, leave time on weekends for self-directed play. It’s good for them on so many levels!

If they invite you to join the fun, great! But let them plan and lead the way. 

3. Leave space for spontaneity

This one is simple, but often overlooked.

Summertime is meant to be less scheduled and more relaxed than school time. But if you’re an over-planner like I can be, your summer calendar can start to look just as jammed as the school year’s.

Once you’ve filled in all your activities for the week, take a moment look and make sure there is some space for spontaneous family fun as well! A spur-of-the-moment walk to the ice cream store, an impromptu game of tag, or a last minute water blaster battle on a hot summer night can turn into some of the best family experiences of summer break.

Join Juicy Juice and me this summer in celebrating the magic in 100 Percent Family Time over at JuicyJuice.com!


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