Summer with Children
Well, it’s here again — SUMMER!
Some of us look forward to this season with high anticipation and joy. We plan vacation and weekend trips and work in the yard for months, and it’s the highlight of our year. Others not so much. Maybe it’s a season like any other, just warmer. Maybe your work schedule stays the same. Maybe it’s stressful, trying to come up with something fun and exciting to do. Maybe you’re feeling a bit out of sorts, since your big summer plan, which you are genuinely looking forward to, is smaller than plans your friends are sharing on social media.
Summer is joyful, no matter if your plans involve a long vacation or just a bit more sunshine. We’ve put together a few thoughts for how to enjoy this season together.
Have you been excited for summer since last summer (just me?) or did you blink and already May is halfway gone (also me)?
Some of us have big, once-in-a-lifetime plans coming up. Trips to see family, projects at home, time off or starting something new. Some of us have everyday plans coming up. Lining up care for children out of school. Camping at least once a month. Weekly trips to the library.
Regardless of your plans, they’re worthy of preparation. What is required in order for you to enjoy this special time with your Most Favorites? A bit of planning can exponentially increase the next two aspects: engage and enjoy.
Take an hour or two to take stock of last summer’s tools. If you were planning on using the same hammock, but you take it out to put it up and remember it had a hole in it and you were going to replace it this year, it’s nice to know that before you throw it up and go to take a nap. What clothing still fits, and what needs refreshing? All those ideas from last summer — finally participating in the library’s reading challenge, organizing at least one barbeque with friends, planting a tomato vine, whatever it is, what do you have and what do you need?
In the same way, if your summer plan is a big one, what’s required there? Is the car ready for the road trip? Do you have all the parts of the tent? Did the suitcase with the broken wheel get thrown out or just put away? This time of year can be stressful enough, without last minute panic. A bit of time in preparation is a gift to your future self.
How can we engage children in these summer plans?
If you’re taking a trip, look at books together about that area and ask your child what they’d like to see. Will you drive past the National Music Museum that your guitar-playing child would absolutely love? Even if you can’t stomach one more -asaurus, does the Natural History Museum have a new exhibit about dinosaurs that your future paleontologist would shriek at? Maybe you’ll discover a new passion together, for spelunking, for trains, for ice-cream tasting in every place you visit.
There are so many wonderful aspects to involving children in the planning process. We feel respected when we’re asked our opinion. As adults, we might plan something thinking, “They’re going to LOVE this!” but as children it might fall short if we feel dragged along to “just one more.” We also feel a greater desire and ability to be patient and gracious in situations that maybe aren’t our first choice when we know we’ll also have activities that are our most favorite — we’ll spend one more day at the beach because we know we’re the only one who liked the sailing exhibit, or find much more enjoyment in the air-conditioned historical society after we’ve gotten to run in the grass for an hour.
This doesn’t just hold true for big trips. If your big plan is a weekly trip to the library, is there a special bag your child could be responsible for? If you’re planning a barbeque with friends, can your child be in charge of chopping vegetables, or baking a pie? Is this the first year your child has the responsibility of mowing the lawn? There are so many ways to engage children, to respect where they are and how they’ve grown since last year.
Finally, enjoy one another’s company. It doesn’t do much good to be in “paradise,” whether for you that is a tropical beach, an amusement park, or your own balcony, if you find yourself stressing about relaxing, or demanding that everyone have fun already. Where are those moments of enjoyment? Your toddler finally figuring out how to blow bubbles? Dinner outside rather than at the table? Your teenager discovering your stash of Nancy Drew and trading her bed for your deck? Backflips off the diving board at the local public pool? Sure, the vacations and trips and adventures are lovely, but so are the popsicles, the garden, and the memories you make yourself.
Written by:Charlotte Snyder