I’ve been getting a lot of questions – and strange looks! – when people find out we don’t “do” anything over the summer. No long weeks away, no month-long summer road trip, no camps, no summer school or daycare or mother’s day out, no babysitter or nanny. Nope, just me (pregnant) with a 6-year-old, almost-5-year-old, and just-turned-3-year-old. All day. Oh, and remember, we don’t do screen time at all (for personal reasons and reasons like this). Yes, I am tired by the end of the day, but I’m in my third trimester and it’s literally 100 degrees everyday and I’m playing with three young kids – you’d be tired too! And admittedly a break would be nice some times – I am not some supermom, I’m not here to make you feel guilty because all I do is gush about how perfect my life is and how I enjoy every moment with my kids. Nope, sometimes they annoy me and I want to run away just like every other parent. 🙂 But overall, we are enjoying our summer and having fun and my mental state is just fine. So…to answer the big question…what exactly do we DO all day and all week!?!?
First of all, my favorite part of summer…as a kid, as a teenager, even as an adult (since I was a teacher) is the change of pace, the slowing down, the not having to rush and be scheduled. So we slow our pace a lot over the summer. I do maintain our general wake-eat-sleep schedule because, well, I believe kids do better with routine and schedule (and one of mine, in particular, needs to stick to our basic routine). We still wake up around the same time and of course we still brush our teeth and make our beds and all that, but we take our time and some days we stay in pajamas half the day…one less Momma vs Toddler battle! 🙂
Generally, the first hour or so of the morning (after breakfast, of course) is just free play on their own….legos or dress up or trains or the hit of the summer, playing “family”. They play with the things we always have available, they use their imagination, they play by themselves or with their siblings, but not with me…while I get ready for the day, do dishes, start a load of laundry, etc. We do this for two reasons: 1. for me – I need to have my bed made and be feeling productive. 2. for them – I also feel very strongly that kids need free play, they need to be turned lose to entertain themselves, figure out how to play with others, and just have unstructured fun. For some great articles on free play check out this and this.
One or two days a week we try to get out of the house – in the morning hours and mostly indoors because it is ungodly hot here. That may be someplace we have a membership or someplace that is free or very low cost (because even inexpensive adds up with three kids). Our list includes…the library (free) to check out new books, the art museum (free), the science museum (we have a membership), story time (free), a local or new park/playground (free), the butterfly garden (membership), a splash pad (city ones are free), children’s aquarium (low cost), open gym time at the rec center (super low cost), special events thru many of the museums or libraries (free, I just check all the calendars frequently), the mall (free to walk around, we usually check out the fountains and art and buy a small snack), and if I’m feeling really brave and energized, a city pool (free or low cost).
One day a week, usually Monday or Tuesday, we need to go to the grocery store and maybe run another errand or two. Yes, it’s easier without kids, but I don’t really have that option. And frankly, it’s an activity and a learning opportunity. My kids help me meal plan (at this point, mostly give their opinions BUT I make them help think of a veggie or side to go with the main meal), with making the grocery list, they retrieve things from the shelves and help pick the produce, they unload the cart onto the conveyor belt, they help carry in groceries and put them away – they are learning important life skills and realizing that this stuff doesn’t just magically get done on it’s own! I often incorporate in little math or letter recognition questions as we go and I love when they suddenly learn to “read” (or at least recognize) a word or when they want to try new foods!
On the days we “just” stay home, we do a lot more free play. We might ride bikes/scooters or play in the backyard in the morning, but it gets so hot here that we are inside a lot. This is when the really elaborate lego inventions get built or a magantile tower reaches the sky (or at least as tall as the tallest kid can reach!). We might make an indoor obstacle course or we bust out the sensory bin (we love colored rice or water beads or pom-poms) or do an experiment (like our “snow“!). There’s also always the old trick of coloring on a big box and then pretending its a fort or whatever. Our “art projects” are never very elaborate and never planned ahead of time, and they don’t need to be! Forget Pinterest…kids love a bank canvas and some paint! Or scissors, construction paper, and glue! Many times I get them started on something but then I can tackle some project – this summer, with a new baby on the way, my “nesting” has been insane so projects have been cleaning out and organizing…sometimes they even help with that! One thing I love – I often find one or all three of my babies quietly “reading” (no, my 3-year-old isn’t a genius, but he does like to look at books and make up stories or “recite” what he remembers). I love books almost as much as I love my family, so this makes my heart especially happy. We do A LOT of reading together when they are little and we still read several books every day before nap time (to all kids, even those who don’t nap) and before bedtime, plus sometimes randomly throughout the day. So they get it honestly and I’d say every day this summer has had at least an hour or more of books time! That’s a win for everyone!
So that’s our low-key, laid-back, not-stressing-to-entertain summer. I’ve got no pinterest pictures to share, we were too busy having fun or just relaxing. 🙂 And I’m very thankful for the time we’ve had, even if I do feel just a little nutty. Only five more days until school starts – but who’s counting?! 😉