Summer vacation is almost here – a time I greet with excitement and possibly a bit of fear.
Keeping three kids entertained all summer long sometimes scares me. We plan to put the kids into camp for some of the summer, but for the rest of the time, we need to keep busy - together.
Over the years, I’ve come up with a number of strategies to make summers flow as easily as possible, all while making great memories. Here's a summer time fun time action plan:
I’m not a big planner by nature, but I know that having something to do every day means the summer will run smoothly. It doesn’t have to be anything major, but knowing that we’re working towards that one activity means the rest of the day can flow around it.
Some of the planned activities can be as simple as playing with water in the backyard, going for a bike ride, playing board games, doing a special craft, or having friends over.
Some days the activity might be a bit more elaborate (see #2!), like heading out to a park across town or a public beach. Having a list of activities to choose from has been a lifesaver for me.
While daily smaller activities are great, having one big outing for the week is also a nice way to feel like you aren’t just lazing around home all summer long. Big attractions will vary from city to city (museums, indoor amusement parks, theatres) but where I live (Ottawa), a big one - and this year’s number one on the list for my kids - is Calypso Theme Waterpark, Canada’s leading water park.
As part of our summer plans, we recently spent the day at the park with a friend – there were three adults and five kids ranging from 2-8 and everyone had a blast. What makes Calypso a great "major" summer outing choice is that all levels of interest are accounted for. When choosing your big outing spots, be sure to do a little research beforehand to be sure kids of all ages will have a good time.
The Calypso toddler area (Zoo Lagoon) is the perfect spot for younger or timid kids to start getting into the water. While the 8 year-old and one of the 6 year-olds headed right for the Pirate’s Aquaplay kids’ area, the 2 year-old, 5 year-old and other 6 year-old needed to warm up to the water with mini slides and kiddie pool features.
It wasn’t too long before they were ready for their next adventure, so we went and checked out some free life jackets and headed to Calypso Palace wave pool. There is a smaller family wave pool, but we went to the larger one – this is where multiple adults came in handy (group parenting at its finest! See #4!). The kids had a tons of fun and the lifeguards kept things safe by pointing out where the currents were gentler for smaller kids. Everyone loved the wave pool, so much that we went back to the wave pool four times throughout the day!
The Jungle Challenge was one of my favourite attractions for the kids. It was challenging and really pushed my kids to figure out how to get across. The staff was really supportive and cheering the kids along, all while constantly monitoring to make sure that kids weren’t overcrowding.
The Kongo Expedition was the most fun attraction of the day. A not-so-lazy river, it had dark tunnels, fast currents and a chance to get wet under the waterfalls. The kids loved it, even though I thought they might get a bit scared in the dark sections or waterfalls.
If you check out Calypso Theme Waterpark for one of your big weekly outings this summer, my one piece of advice is to visit early in the day so you can enjoy more than one run on the rides you love!
One of the best ways to keep your kids happy during the summer is to get them involved in the decisions being made. It gives them a sense of ownership over what they’re doing and they're more likely to be happy about the activities (and well-behaved while doing them!)
Start the summer by making a list of things the kids want to do over the summer. Get them to list the ideas by types of activity:
Then, as the summer rolls out, have the kids choose something from the list when needed.
Parenting in groups can be extremely helpful at times, especially when you’re taking on a big outing. This means there will be more eyes on your kids and you can split the group up if necessary.
For example, if half the kids aren’t interested in a particular attraction, split them up so one adult can stay with the kids who want a break, and the other can handle the ones who want to go all in. Regardless of who is parenting, there is an adult who can help them at whatever level they’re comfortable.
We almost never do a big outing without more than one family and it’s always made the experience go far smoother – I highly recommend it.
The important thing to remember is that it’s okay to have time with nothing scheduled. Even the most active kids need a bit of peace so they can just relax and do nothing.
But let’s get real – most kids can’t actually do NOTHING. I like to have a lot of quiet activities to choose from for our downtime:
I’m looking forward to a great summer and I hope you are too! We’re well into our summer to-do List and our way towards making great memories while we’re at it. Moms, you've got this! Have a wonderful summer!