By Erin Kelly
Summertime can feel like pure bliss for kids. The weather is warm and inviting, and the days are long, providing a seemingly endless amount of time to explore new hobbies and play outdoors. That of course means there’s a seemingly endless amount of seasonal obstacles for parents to deal with, too. Poolside UV rays can quickly turn to sunburn; rainy-day boredom can escalate into bedlam. Luckily, photographer and mom of two, Gray Benko, has a variety of strategies and hacks she uses to keep her family summer safe.
We partnered with Australian Gold to create this survival guide, helping parents everywhere navigate their best summers possible. Below, Benko shares how she handles everything the season has to throw at her family so they can enjoy it to the fullest — without compromising fun or time outside.
Benko and her family live outside of Charleston, South Carolina, where the sun blazes and daytime summer temps average 90 degrees. Plus, “[my kids and I] all have auburn hair, pale skin, and freckles, so sunblock is really important to us,” she says. Any parent ever fought (and lost) the sunscreen-application battle? Yeah, her, too. “I hate putting sunscreen on the kids, so I let them put it on themselves or each other, which they have a lot of fun with. They usually go overboard!”
Benko’s sunscreen of choice is Australian Gold’s Classic line. She uses SPF 15 Continuous Spray Sunscreen on herself, which provides quick-dry, 360-degree protection, so she can apply it on the go. For her kids (Farris, 10, and Charlie, 7), SPF 30 Spray Gel Sunscreen makes it easy to spot any missed areas. With 80 minutes of sweat and water resistance, it also keeps them safe when they play in the pool.
Benko limits screen time to just 30 minutes per day and instead emphasizes fresh air and nature. “We’ll go on walks, run around the yard, or go to the beach if we can,” she says. “There’s a pond around the corner, so it’s easy to entice them to go for a short hike to see the turtles.” To enforce the half-hour rule, devices (the kids don’t have their own) are stored high up on shelves and only taken down for the allotted window — which Farris and Charlie are given the freedom to request at their preferred time.
Sure, ice cream counts as its own food group in the summer, but it’s also important to maintain a nutritious balance. To encourage healthy eating, Benko turns it into an entertaining project: “Making Popsicles with fresh fruit is just fun, because it’s an activity we can do together.” She lets her kids pick their fruit, which she chops up. Then together, they infuse it with water or another juice, like lemonade, and freeze it into individual pops.
While summer is generally a time to relax, Benko takes the opportunity to teach her kids a bit about responsibility. A chore chart divvies up tasks between her children, and any time they complete one, they get a check. “At the end of the week, if they’ve gotten 20 check marks, they get a small allowance of $5,” she says.
Benko also incentivizes her kids to keep their rooms clean by making it a competition: “We have a race to see who can clean their room the fastest, and whoever does gets to choose the activity for the day. I find that they’re very motivated by the competitive aspect of it!”
Bad weather can put a damper on summertime fun, so Benko treats rainy days like a special occasion. “We really use rainy days as our down time,” she says. “We play games, we do puzzles, and we’ll have movie days where we’ll make popcorn and let the kids each take a turn picking. I feel like we’re always on the go, so it’s nice to be home, stay in our pajamas, and just have some time to relax.”