Whether your goal is to help your child bridge an achievement gap, have them acquire a new skill or simply get some extra help around the house, planning for a successful summer is entirely within your reach. Below are 10 tips to get you started.
Give Yourself Time – Planning out a fun and productive summer for your family won’t happen overnight. You need to give yourself time to make a plan. If you start before summer vacation kicks off, you will maximize the potential of your ideal activities actually happening. Frantic, last minute planning will cause you undue stress.
Set Goals – The potential to fritter away long, hot, lazy days is incredibly tempting and the time will fly by without anything to show for it if you don’t set goals. Whether you have one child or five, be sure to sit down with each one to discuss their ideas as well as your expectations for the summer. Set 3-5 concrete goals for each member of your family and be sure to check progress weekly.
Let Your Kids Decompress – Once summer has kicked off, give your kids a little bit of breathing room. They have been in a classroom for six plus hours each day and they have earned a break. Before you begin the weekly schedule of activities that you have planned, give your kids a weekend to just relax. It will help ease the transition into the new season and allow you to get started on a good foot.
Change Up House Rules – Whether your kids are in camp or at home, it’s time to reboot house rules. Account for things like bedtimes for younger kids, whether older children are allowed to have friends over while you are out and any chores the kids are expected to do. All responsible parties, your spouse and supplemental child care, should be aware of the expectations and rules.
Prepare for Projects Ahead of Time – When you plan to teach your five year old to swim or produce a scale model of the Eifel Tower out of popsicle sticks with your seventh grader, you have to have the materials and the know how to get it done. When setting your goals and planning activities, be sure you know what it will take to meet each goal. Don’t set yourself up for failure when success is just a few mouse clicks away.
Shop Once a Week – Sit down and make a schedule of all of the activities, projects, playdates, chores and obligations you have for a given week. Make up a meal plan that flows with your schedule and figure out exactly what you need from which stores. Once you have your list, choose the most convenient day for your errands and knock them out in one morning or afternoon. Once you’ve done the front end work, be sure to stick with your plan as best you can. This strategy will save you time, money and the frustration of being out of popsicle sticks when you go to construct that Eifel Tower.
Organize to Fit Your Needs – When school gets out, be sure that you have all of the materials and supplies you will need for the day to day. Do an inventory check and if you’re missing items, put them on your shopping list. Gather things that will be used together into a central location and be sure that the essentials are at hand and easy to retrieve. Set things up so that the kids can help themselves as much as possible. It may be summer, but you are not their servant. A little organization will go a long way.
Team Up With Childcare – If you are home with your kids in the summer, chances are that you are going to need a break, and if you don’t have them signed up for camp, you definitely will. Talk to other moms in your community, particularly the ones who have similarly aged children, and see if you can set up a kid swap. You watch their kids for an afternoon and they return the favor. No babysitter costs and you get the chance to do your errands in peace.
Take Personal Days – If you work full time outside of the home, be sure to take a few personal days to spend some quality time with your family. Whether you take the time to go on a vacation, do a day trip with the kids, or just hang around the house, enjoy the presence of your family. You also need some breathing room in the summer.
Reassess Weekly – Making a plan is only the first step in having a successful summer. The most important step is to reassess what you’re doing each week and make sure that you change the things that are causing you and your family problems. If there is a childcare swap that never seems to pan out, move on from it. If you failed to account for the rain that washed out three of your planned pool days last week, make a backup plan for this week.
Success takes some planning and a little bit of work on the front end, but your family will thank you as they experience the best summer yet.
Beth N. Davis writes from Rockville, MD where she and her husband are raising their four children.