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Summer!  It’s a word filled with a deep breath of hope, fun, and adventure.  As it looms around the corner you can feel the excitement and anticipation.  It’s charged with promise, sunshine, and spontaneity.  The possibilities it holds are endless.  The potential it holds for shaping this summer into one full of memories is endless.  Planning summer is going to be great!

You find yourself saying things like “We should do that this summer” “We have all summer to do this” or “Let’s save this for the summer”.  You are lulled into a false sense that there is plenty of time to do it all.

Then suddenly, you realize that it’s already July and you haven’t done any of the things.  Planning summer becomes a bit more urgent but regular life (oh, yeah, that pesky reality that doesn’t take a vacation) gets in the way.

Before you know it, your hopes of planning summer are dashed as you find yourself switching gears to planning for school to start and Fall activities to ramp up.  Sigh.  Another summer of missed opportunities.

Once again summer is peeking it’s head around the corner, but this year, planning summer can be a successful reality.

Planning Summer Family Summit

We’ve talked in more detail about the value of choices, but one benefit is buy-in.  When your family is part of the process they’ll tend to be more willing participants.  The purpose of the Planning Summer Family Summit is to create a bucket list of ideas from everyone.  The things I think might be fun might be things that the kids didn’t think of, and the things the kids want to do might be surprisingly simple or easy to do. For example, I might be thinking that we need to plan a full-on outing to a downtown museum and all they want is to have lunch as a picnic in the park one day.

Idea Bucket List

This is as simple as it sounds. Grab piece of paper, use a poster board, start an Excel sheet – however you want to curate your summer ideas list works well.  If you have younger kids, consider using a different color pen or crayon for each person so that they see that their ideas are on the board and you can see if everyone has pitched in.  If you have older kids, after your initial brainstorm session hang up the sheet so that as new ideas come to mind they can go ahead and add them.

Tip: This is something that we do before grandparents come for a long visit so that they kids make sure they do everything they wanted to do together.  It’s less outing based and more activity based.

First Things, First

As mom, you may need to make some executive decisions and veto some of the ideas, but once you’ve approved the rest of the list, the next step is to decide what’s most important.  One of the clearest ways to do this is to individually speak with each person and have them pick their top 5 or 10 activity choices.  You keep track of the answers and tally it up.  By doing this one-on-one, it reduces the chance that someone will be swayed or influenced by someone else so you get more honest answers.  As you tally things, you will also be able to make sure that everyone’s choices are represented.

Maximizing Impact

Take a look at the list of things and see if there is a way to combine them.  Maybe ‘go to the pool’, ‘play at the park’, and ‘have a picnic’ are all separate items on the list.  But it wouldn’t take much effort to combine these into one outing.  You can do them separately and multiple times, but combining them now makes it one item to check off the list which gives you opportunity to maximize the number of experiences you have with your kids.

Planning Summer Parameters

The next thing to look at is what the activity needs to happen.

Does it need to be scheduled or can it be spontaneous?
Do you need to purchase anything in advance (like tickets)?
Is it weather dependent?
Does it involve travel?

Deciding what needs to happen can help with actually making it happen.

Finding Time

Now the important piece comes into play – planning when to do these things.  This flips the statement of “We should do this this summer” to “We’re planning to do this this summer.”  Print out a simple calendar for the summer months and mark off any of the big knowns – trips, summer camp, visits from family, etc.  Then take the list of top 10 choices and begin to plan them. 

Don’t over plan, but focus more on getting one big thing in each week and then maybe one or two smaller things.  If you have season passes to a pool, zoo, or other outdoor venue, maybe that becomes your once a week destination.  You might need to plan a rain date each week to accommodate for weather. 

Visualize What You Did

Hang up that original bucket list.  Circle the Top Ten items in green and the easy to do spontaneous items in another color.  Nearby hang the summer calendar that shows the tentative plan.  Both of these will help your kids begin to see that while you can’t do everything, you can do a lot of things.  As you do something, cross it off the list.

When summer ends and the kids begin to whine that they didn’t get to do anything, you have proof otherwise.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Relive the Memories

I grew up in a family that took pictures.  I am so thankful for this.  I have a handful of memories that don’t have pictures to accompany them, but having the picture let’s me remember more often and more accurately.

With a phone in every pocket, it’s so easy to take pictures.  Take a family selfie at each outing and a handful of key photos.  Then at the end of the summer, make a photo book with pictures of the adventures.  All the effort of planning summer can be rewarded as the kids relive these memories when flipping through the book.  Plus, it reinforces the memory in their brain and solidifies the idea that they had a fun-filled summer.

Enjoy Your Kids

The bottom line is that you can’t do everything, but you can intentionally do many things.  These are the moments that build the memories of childhood.  Make this a summer of creating memories.

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