- The Fam
I started to write this post saying that I don’t do intricately planned kids activities well. But then I started thinking about all the weird over-the-top parties I’ve thrown and fun projects I’ve done with the girls and I had to stop myself and clarify. I’m totally that mom that will plan out intricately planned activities. So I’ll be honest, I don’t do boring, typical, sit down projects well. They seriously make me want to poke my eyes out from sheer boredom and impatience. I usually end up rushing the girls to finish so I can do something on my own and let them go do their own thing. Am I alone in this?
This big kid requires either outrageously engaging, creative, structured play or no structure at all. I blame the ADHD.
I would like to believe that the better version of me comes out when I put on my play therapy hat. I have much more patience during free play and the most patience during parallel play. I love watching kids play and interacting with them, joining in here and there when required. I have a deep seeded belief in the need for free play for children and adults. Free play or ‘special play,’ is something we all need desperately for personal growth and emotional health. It is a time to express ourselves in various forms without judgment, remembering our truest selves and nurturing unconditional self-acceptance– preferably in a safe place, physically and emotionally. Kids are in particular need of this freedom to get their personal work done.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is a time and place for structured play…I’m just not good at it! I think that parents that can plan out intricate craft projects and have the patience to sit with their kids for long periods of time are seriously, angels. I on the other hand, like to hand my kids a pile of paper with some paint and say “go get ‘er done”.
So here is where I’m going with all this– this summer is all about free play. We won’t be planning out any real activities until the day of.
If you are looking for a list of fun summer activities and instructions…this post is not for you. But hear me out, I think our alternative is better. We are organizing a bank of ideas and weekly themes to guide daily adventures. Sound good to you? Read on!
Our summer is going to be all about having natural impromptu fun that gets us moving. We want to be challenged and intrigued while keeping it pretty chill. Because really, when I think back to my childhood summers, it’s not the structured activities that I remember with fondness…it’s the random imaginative adventures all of us kids went on.
Here are some steps to get everyone organized…
Step #1. Categorize Your Brainstorming.
Hopefully you joined us for a good amount of imagining and plotting over the last couple weeks after our brainstorming and goal setting posts. Moving forward, It will be much easier if we organize our ideas into categories. Here are some that I used:
- Activity Ideas
- Topics and Interests
- Summer Commitments & Celebrations
Step #2. Multi-level Organization.
In order to have a meaningful yet carefree summer, there are several things that will be helpful to think about beforehand.
Daily routine. How do you want your days with the kids to go? I know that one of my goals is to make sure everyone gets adequate sleep and eats well this summer. And of course, I also want a routine that revolves around freetime and can be adapted no matter where we are. So here is what we are thinking so far…
- Early morning club meeting and hot breakfast. (This is where we will plan our daily adventure, form hypotheses and experiments, determine the equipment we will need, and pack meals.)
- Morning Romp (Our daily expedition. Figure this will be when we will have the most energy and can avoid the afternoon heat.)
- Daily nap (or read a book in bed)
- Afternoons reserved for a block of free time. (Either go to the pool or outside play and then dinner together.)
- Evening Fireside (If we all nap during the day, we can drag out our evening a bit longer, do some chores, read out loud , debrief and write in our documentation journals/logs.)
Weekly routine. We have so many things we want to investigate this summer that we needed a way to organize them. So we developed weekly themes that will give us inspiration for daily adventures and will help us meet our summer goals.
Because I’m a visual person, I need to see everything in one place so I made this worksheet when organizing our themes. Fill free to utilize it yourself HERE. This is where having all our brainstorming organized was helpful. I just stuck topics that made sense together in one week…some I had to get more creative for than others and then Raine came up with fun theme names for each week.
If you’re curious, here are our 10 weekly themes for the summer:
My Backyard’s A Zoo!
Topics: Butterfly’s, Birds/Bugs, Animals, Humans (Body)
Ideas: Go to the zoo, get some bug catchers, check out local bird/animal guide from library
Topics: Impressionist Art, Sketching, Pottery, Coloring
Ideas: Put together art kits, water paint colored pencils, make pottery at home for garden
Plants of Mystery
Topics: Plants (Trees, flowers, leaves, vegetables), Gardening/ Plant growth
Ideas: Andrews Experimental Forest, Work in garden, Collect leaf specimens
Pickin’, Cookin’, Eat it up!
Topics: Baking, Food Preservation/Canning, Harvest
Ideas: Get a local harvest schedule, visit local farms, farmers market
The Science of Where You Live
Topics: Geography, Ecosystems
Ideas: Check out local guides from library, visit state parks, visit as many different ecosystems as possible
Mexico and Around the World
Topics: Mexico, Native Cultures, Global issues, History, Religions
Ideas: Eat food from around the world, Read global news and discussion, watch olympics
Everyone a Scientist
Topics: Scientific method, Naturalist, Research
Ideas: First week of summer, Read Calpurnia Tate, Come up with questions for each week
Survival (It’s the best!!!)
Topics: Camping, Disaster Preparation, Survival Skills
Ideas: How to make a fire, gathering/scavenging, camping trip
From the Surface
Topics: Geology, Dirt, Water, Topagraphy, Maps
Ideas: Visit different bodies of water, learn how to read maps, Geocaching, collect rocks (check out book from library)
Topics: Sports, Running
Ideas: Watch olympic events and hold our own version of events
If weekly themes seem like a little much to you there are so many other ways you can organize your summer. One cool idea is to have a summer bucket list. You could wake up each day and plan how to check something off your list!
Projects. On a more macro level there are projects. My life pretty much revolves around projects. I LOVE them.
Raine’s school is structured in project based learning, which has been an incredible experience for her and a great learning experience for me. Project based learning engages a child’s interest and uses the opportunity to build important skills within that project. So cool. The difference that I have noticed is that the kids are very engaged and start out their education with a love for learning.
Next week I’ll have a whole separate post on projects, but in the meantime, I would encourage you and the kids to think of a couple long term projects to work on this summer that will enhance your daily adventures.
We have a couple planned out. Our big ongoing project will be compiling a kind of summer encyclopedia at the end of the summer. It will be organized by subject and include any research we decide to do, daily logs, notes, pictures of things we find, etc. Our smaller ongoing projects will be individual collections. Lime wants to collect animals and Raine keeps changing her mind…so that is still to be determined!
Step #3. Your Summer Calendar.
This is pretty straight forward. Make sure you write out any obligations you have this summer on your calendar– trips that are planned, holidays, birthdays…everything.
Next, if you are doing weekly themes start assigning them to the week that make the most sense for your family. For example, we want to save the sports week and cultural week for the two weeks during the summer olympics. We want to do the science/research week the first week to use our skills for the rest of the summer; and we want to save ecosystems for when Opa comes to visit so that we can have fun traveling around with him.
Step #4. Package It All Up!
Let’s get everything in one place. Whether it’s a binder or top-secret manila envelopes with mission assignments tucked inside or simple folders…you can make it fun and exciting. It would be really fun to hand out top-secret mission envelopes with maps to destinations and all the gear you will need.
We are making folders for each week. That way we can shove stuff in them when we have ideas or print-outs and will be able to easily pull it out the week of. I’m also going to try and tuck in a few extra surprises for the girls like museum tickets, gift certificates to a local used book shop or cool maps. The plan is to take our folder at the beginning of the week to the library and do any research we need and check out books that we can use for reference.
Also, each folder will have a sheet with basic information like the theme name, topics, questions to be answered, possible corresponding read-aloud books and experiment ideas. You can print out our sheet HERE.
Whew!! That was a lot. But so exciting! Can’t wait to get started in a couple of weeks.
How are all of your plans going? The girls and I want to know, so please share in the comments!
Also, we will be talking about getting all the prep work done for your summer this coming week which includes equipment, supplies, travel, etc…so keep your brainstorming categories handy and stay tuned.
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