School is almost out for summer. Colour me terrified.
I am the stay at home father to two beautiful, intelligent, terrifying creatures aged three and five. My son is just about to wrap up his first year of school, and my daughter will be starting preschool in the fall. But that means that the next 2-3 months are going to be… intense.
This summer is a little more complicated than our normal summers for several reasons. My wife is attending a trip to Switzerland with her Girl Guides, her work schedule has become a little complicated this year making our family misadventures a little more delicate to schedule, and for a couple of weeks of the summer, I’ll be taking care of the son of a casual acquaintance.
So how do you plan a summer of fun for a couple of terrifying creatures and a tag-along?
First, I’m not a huge fan of sending your kids to 156 camps over the course of the summer if you don't have to. I fully understand if your work/life situation requires it, but I think that SOMETIMES we overschedule a little bit. This summer our son will do the following things;
Other than that, we’ll play. I feel like we’ve underestimated the importance of play in our world. Sure, we “play” Pokémon and we “play” Minecraft, but I’ve come to realize that until they’ve been taught otherwise, kids really like playing with – wait for it – THEIR IMAGINATION.
We spend a lot of our summer at the park, the beach, the playground. My kids love animals, so we try to get them into nature where they can see as many as possible. We plan several trips to zoos and wildlife parks. The museums in our city are very hands on and so there are lots of opportunities to interact with both nature and history.
Okay, but what about when you’re sick of them? I get it. I really do. Summer camps give us some much-needed time away from our kids and absence (especially in the case of children) makes the heart grow fonder. We’ve been trying to set up a lot more independent play wherever possible. Lately, we’ve tried to set up some things that our kids can do and then let them at it. It takes a little bit of planning and sometimes that feels like more work (and you know what, maybe it is) but in the end, it gives kids the opportunity to explore a little bit on their own.
Things I’ve discovered that kids love: dirt, grass, flowers, gardens, water, bubbles. So, use them. Two years ago, we tore up a tiny plot of our backyard (2x2) and told our son that it was his own personal garden. The yield has been terrible, but the amount of enjoyment that he got out of it for that time was exceptional.
What I’m really pushing for here, from the perspective of planning for a good summer, is that we plan a little less specifically. And this is coming from someone who THRIVES on to-do lists and itinerary and action plans. But you can have a good summer that doesn’t require that your toddlers own an iPhone and sync their calendars.
It’s little things that have made the difference with my kids. For example, last week out of the blue, I stopped at the grocery store for some crackers and hummus, cut up a cucumber and we went to a park for a picnic. My kids have been talking about it for five days now. Conversely, I once took my kids to see a real-life kangaroo and he was enthralled with the wooden kangaroo cutout that you could stick your head in and take a picture.
Now I might dramatically change my tune when the summer is over and my kids have been torturing me because I didn’t send them to enough summer camps, but I feel pretty good about it so far.