The kids are out of school and they’re amped for adventure. Are you ready? Summer can be an exciting time for being together and making great memories, but it can also bring some extra challenges for moms.
By day 3, the kids are bored, whining, at each other’s throats, have eaten every snack in the house, and are begging you for more screen time every 10 minutes. There’s also extra packing, planning, cleaning, and chauffeuring that goes along with camps, vacations, and summer outings to the pool, beach, or water park. And all that together time can even be a little… much… after a while.
American parents on average are ready for summer break to end after just 13 days, according to a recent survey. More than half report stressing about how to keep their kids busy over the summer.
Some tweaks to your parenting habits for the summer can help preserve your mom sanity for the long haul and make your family’s summer everything you’d hoped for. Check out these sanity-saving summer tips to get prepared for a summer that will keep even the busiest mom smiling.
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1. Embrace free-range parenting
Think back to some of your favorite parts of summer as a kid. I’m willing to bet many were of unscheduled activities, just having your own variety of kid fun.
Ditch the activity schedule and charge the kids with making their own adventure. It teaches great life lessons and might be just as important to their future selves as summer reading. For school age kids, you should be able to provide some loose guidance and leave them on their own for a while.
For example, my kids have boundaries on our block where they know they can go with their bikes or to explore. I give direction like “go outside and don’t come back for an hour.” Playing in the yard or their rooms are other great options.
They should have plenty of time over summer to use their imagination and be creative. If they’re used to having their spare time filled with scheduled activities throughout the school year, it may take some adjusting, but I bet they can do it. It’s my #1 summer tip.
2. Use water to your advantage
When in doubt, add water. It’s hot, so let the kids go wild with water and wear themselves out!
Aside from trekking to the pool or splash park, there are easy at-home options to keep the kids occupied. Try these:
- Set up a sprinkler in the yard
- Use a water table, baby pool, or storage bin filled with water and toys
- Give out water guns or splash balls
- Add suds and sponges, then let them wash their bikes, car, or anything really
These require minimal prep and effort on your part. You’ll get to relive your childhood by watching them have a blast (you can join in if you want).
3. Make meals easy
Have kids who are old enough learn to make their own lunches and get their own snacks. Even a kindergartner can master a PBJ or turkey sandwich and learn their way around the fridge and pantry. They’ll feel so empowered.
Embrace outdoor dining. Cut up some watermelon and let the kids go wild. Let them have sandwiches on paper towels (no dishes!). When they eat outside, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up crumbs or stickiness.
Grilled meats with salad, fruit, or chips make for easy low-prep meals. Trade off cooking with a partner if you’re able or at least get some helpers to pitch in. For example, my teenager loves to make sloppy Joes for the family.
4. Incorporate downtime
Don’t neglect this summer tip. Build some quiet time into your days, for the sake of you and the kids. Especially when your days are chock full of activities, make sure you’re taking time to recharge. Even when you’re away on vacation, it’s important to have some downtime in your days so you and the kids don’t get overwhelmed.
If you’re able, give yourself some buffer days on the edges of any vacation travels so you can take your time getting ready and then ease back into life when you return.
5. Make time for you
When you’re spending so much time together and keeping the kids busy, ensure you schedule regular time for self-care. Trust me, your mental health requires it. Check out the self-care summer bucket list for moms for ideas.
If you’re spending your days home with the kids, make sure you take some time away. Interact with some other adults—you’ll need it!
6. Get helpers
You don’t have to do it all! Give kids summer responsibilities to help with household tasks.
At a minimum, teach them to hang up their wet towels and swimsuits. Give huge accolades to the ones who remember ?
So often moms take on the bulk of the mental load of parenting. Ask your partner to carry some of the load of prepping and planning during summer, especially for things like family summer vacations.
7. Just enjoy
This last sanity-saving summer tip isn’t about doing anything—it’s about your mindset.
Let go a little. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Try to feel some of the pressure of parenting lifted. Summer is supposed to be sweaty, dirty, and impromptu. The days don’t have to be expertly choreographed. It’s OK if the house isn’t always tidy. Not everything will go well. They’ll be bug bites, skinned knees, and arguments.
Consider all of this part of the summer experience. Try and be grateful for the memories you’re making with your kids, even if there are bumps along the way. Laugh and just enjoy the ride.
Don’t compare yourself to others who take fancier vacations. Great memories are about the time you spend and depend most on your attitude, not your destination.
I hope these summer tips help you last the season with your mom sanity intact. Wishing you and your family a wonderful summer!