Summer can be a time of chaos and overwhelm, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn how to simplify your life with these helpful tips for managing expectations, creating a daily routine, planning ahead for fun, and simplifying meal planning.
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Summer is a time of sun-kissed skin, beach days, and BBQs. It’s the season of vacations and lazy days by the pool. But as much as we look forward to the warm weather, summer can also be a bit overwhelming.
Having kids home all day means more time for family bonding and adventures together, but it can also mean more sibling fights, constant requests for snacks, and SO. MUCH. LAUNDRY.
You crave this special time with your kids to make magical memories…but you’re just not sure how to manage all the things without losing your mind!
I hear you!
That’s why I’ve put together a list of my best tips for planning your summer.
Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that going into summer with a PLAN and a ROUTINE to guide our days makes a HUGE difference.
From managing expectations to simplifying meal planning, I’ve got you covered. By implementing these strategies, you’ll be able to make the most of your summer and avoid the stress that often comes with it.
So, sit back, relax, and read on to learn how to make summer fun for your family without burning yourself out!
Tip #1: Manage your own expectations
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that summer should be a non-stop parade of fun and excitement, but the reality is that life doesn’t stop just because the weather gets warmer. You still have responsibilities inside and outside your home, and it’s important to be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to summer fun.
Ask yourself and your kids what matters most to each of you this summer, and use that as your guide. Remember, you don’t have to do everything this year.
Also be realistic about the magical memories you’re hoping to create. Expect that there will be fun times, and there will also be moments where everyone is at each other’s throats.
Kids will bicker.
There will be times where one child doesn’t want to go on the fun outing you have planned.
Honor their feelings, but don’t let one child’s bad mood sour the experience for everyone. Try to let your fun rub off on them…not the other way around (and yes, I know that’s easier said than done). When all else fails, take a break from each other. In fact, plan that into your routine below.
By setting reasonable expectations for yourself and your family, you’ll be able to enjoy the season without feeling like you’re constantly falling short.
Tip #2: Create a (flexible) daily routine
Kids thrive on structure (and, really, so do most adults). Establishing a predictable schedule for yourself and your family will help eliminate decision fatigue (ugh) and make the most of your time together!
Let’s be clear: I’m not saying that every minute of every day needs to be planned out. One of the best things about summer is having more freedom, BUT having a general idea of when things are going to happen can go a long way in reducing stress and creating a sense of order.
Think of it as a family “rhythm.” The goal is just to consider what you WANT your summer to include, and build a framework that support those activities. Here are some activities you might consider building into your routine:
- Structured family time/outings
- Outside time
- Friend time
- Screen time
- Reading time
- Mom’s off-duty time (quiet time)
Generally, our mornings are when we get stuff done and do activities together. Afternoons are for quiet time and time with friends.
One thing that has been really helpful for us is that each of my kids has a daily checklist to complete. It includes getting ready for the day, learning time, chores, and time outside. Their list needs to be done before they play with friends or have screen time. I laminated our lists and hung them on the wall in our kitchen along with a dry erase pen so they can check things off each day. It makes it so much easier to see
Tip #3: Make a bucket list!
Now that we have our daily routines established, we can focus on planning the fun!
But first, repeat after me: I do NOT have to be a cruise director who entertains my kids all day long!
I’m a big believer in allowing kids to be bored, to have lots of free time, and to create their own fun. You don’t have to have a full day of fun scheduled every day.
One thing we do each year is create a summer bucket list.
Why? It’s a great way to pick your priorities for the summer. I usually sit down with my kids at the beginning of the summer, and we write out all the activities and experiences we want to have during the coming months. That tells me what they value, and helps me know where to put my energy (and our budget) for the summer.
Need some ideas to get you started? Here are some bucket lists you can print out and use as is, or let them inspire your own!
- Printable summer bucket list
- Printable summer bucket list BINGO game
- How to make a summer bucket list poster
Even if you don’t do everything on your list, it’s satisfying to look back at the end of the summer and realize how much fun you really did have together as a family.
Tip #4: Schedule time for fun!
Once you have a list of things you want to do this summer, it’s time to plan a time to DO them. I love to post a giant calendar on our wall so everyone can see the fun things we have coming up.
Some years, we keep the planning simple and just pick a few bucket list things to do each week. Other years, we’ve created a weekly summer schedule of themed days like “Make it Monday” and “Tasty Tuesday.”
If you’re interested in the full details of creating a weekly summer schedule with themed days, check out our Summer Plan for Fun (with printables).
My friend Shani from Sunshine and Munchkins has another variation of this idea here.
Whatever system you use, I have found that it really helps my kids to have at least some of these activities planned in advance. One of my boys in particular really needs to have a plan, to know the plan, and to follow the plan as much as possible. Sometimes we throw the plan out the window when something fun comes up, and that’s fine! But having just one planned activity per day helps me connect with my kids, and makes them much more willing to play on their own later in the day.
Tip #5: Simplify meal planning & snacking
One of the best ways to simplify your life this summer is by streamlining your meal planning process. With all the outdoor activities and fun adventures with friends taking up your time, nobody wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking dinner.
A few years ago, I started a new system of meal planning that has made feeding my family SO much easier. Learn all about it here!
My secret weapon for snacks is this rectangular snack tray. I fill it with all our favorite fruits and veggies, and I keep in the fridge. When my kids get hungry between meals, they are welcome to grab anything they want from the tray. This cuts down on them raiding the pantry for junk food and frees me from being on-call to provide snacks all day long. I’ll also often pull it out as a supplement to our lunches. I make sandwiches or quesadillas, throw the snack tray on the table, and voila! We have a balanced meal.
Here’s to a great summer!
By following these simple tips, you can make summer fun and avoid the stress and overwhelm that often come with this season. It won’t be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be! But with a little bit of effort and intentionality, you can make this summer your best one yet!