Summertime brings with it long days filled with relaxing by the pool, trips to the beach, and patio dining with friends. But when you're a parent, these typical summer activities are more like the occasional stop sign dotting a road map filled with long stretches of nothing but kids bouncing off the walls at home while begging for snack after snack. When you're facing an entire three months without school, knowing how to survive the summer holiday when your kids are driving you crazy is imperative, because it will happen.
Nobody ever wants to admit that their kids are aggravating the ever living crap out of them, but after about day three of summer vacation it is bound to happen. Kids will start getting bored of their toys, pestering you to take a trip to the pool, and if you have multiples, the fighting and bickering will likely flare up. While toughing it out until late August may seem like an insurmountable task, it is possible to survive this summer — moms have been doing it for centuries and they're still doing it today.
I asked real moms and experts to give their top tips for getting through the dog days of summer with kids, and their advice is sure to help you make it through until its time for back-to-school shopping.
Check Out Local Events
Christian Patterson, mom to 2-year-old Elliot, tells Romper that she tries to get out and do something each day with her daughter to stave off the summertime crazies. "Summers are tough because I love structure and a schedule. So on Sundays I'll typically check Facebook events and see what's going on in the community to make a schedule for us for the week," she says. "Most times the events are free! Our library is wonderful about having story times and hosting special guest performers every week. If I had to be home all day with my child, I would go crazy! It's nice to know we're going to do something each day."
Run Fake Errands
While it may be hard to get actual errands completed with kids in tow, if your kids are driving you crazy cooped up inside all day, try this trick from this mom to two energy-filled boys ages 1 and 2. "Go to Target. Not to buy anything, just to go. They sit in the basket and we walk around in the air conditioning," Amanda Wakefield tells Romper. "Or go to Home Depot and open and close all the refrigerators."
Turn On The TV
Hear me out on this one. Limiting screen time is definitely something that makes perfect sense — except on summer days when literally nothing else is working. One of my pregnant mom friends is battling 24/7 nausea this summer and says she lets her daughter watch every TV show imaginable just to make it through, even though she normally prides herself on not relying on electronics. But a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do to get through those long summer days!
If turning to screens seems like something you'd rather limit, Dr. Eleanor Mackey, clinical psychologist at Children’s National Health System recommends making kids participate in an activity first. "There are lots of ways to try and get kids to be entertained without a screen all day with some structure," she says. "For example, put up a fun sign each day with things they must do before getting on a screen. Some examples might be to draw a picture, read a book, play a card game, do a chore, help a sibling, feed the dog, set up a scavenger hunt for a sibling."
Make A Summer Bucket List
"We make a bucket list before every summer of activities we will do and we try to plan a few each week," says Shannon Ladner, mom to three boys ages 4, 6, and 8. "We try to keep some sort of structure like keeping up with some of our homeschool activities. And I make sure they have lots of time to burn off energy like playing outside, swimming, going out, and exploring."
Dr. Mackey suggests utilizing a bucket list as well to stave off boredom. "At the beginning of the summer, it can be helpful to sit down and plan a 'bucket list' with your kids," she says. "Include reasonable, daily items on there as well as bigger ones. It can’t all be trips and treats, but can include things like mailing a letter to a friend or relative, practicing a new skill, reading a particular book. When kids get bored, point them to their bucket list and ask them to choose something off of it."
Take A Break
If you're able, it's a good idea to get some space from your kids when they're bugging you during the summer, according to Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child and parenting coach at Growinghappykids.com. "Parents need a practice (remember, it's a practice — no one is perfect!) to stay calm and centered even when children are constantly asking for things or 'in their face' during the summer," she says. "The healthiest parents I know are honest with their children in age-appropriate ways to help them understand that mom (or dad) needs five minutes to breathe or meditate or center themselves when they're feeling off-balance."
Teaching kids how to play independently can also provide a much needed break. "If your kids are old enough to be even a little independent, teaching independent play is a very valuable skill. Set aside 30 minutes or an hour every day (this depends on their age and how easily independent play is for them) for solo time when everyone goes to their own space and finds something to entertain themselves quietly. This teaches skills while giving parents much needed space," Dr. Mackey says.
Work On A Project
"Children need a project during the summer, which helps them release their energy constructively," says Healy. "For example, I might work with my niece to build and cultivate a vegetable garden or perhaps something more exciting like building a tree house. The goal is to spark her interest and help build her skills in a joyful way."
Don't underestimate spending time in your own backyard when your kids are driving you nuts this summer. Mom to two boys, Shelby Stone, tells Romper, "We bought an inflatable water slide and it’s been the best thing ever!"
Although her daughter is now a teen, Crystal Coulter says that when she was younger, heading outside saved her sanity on long summer days. "When my daughter was a toddler, we found lots of outdoor things to keep busy like the park, taking walks, picnics, visiting lakes or beaches, playing in blow-up pools or sprinklers, and going to the zoo," she says.
Pull Out The Random Closet Toys
Remember how you got those tiny bottles of bubbles and a three-pack of Play-Doh in the goody bag from little Joey's birthday party last month? Yeah, go ahead and pull those bad boys out when your kids get bored with their regular toys this summer. Sarah Ward, mom to 4-year-old Easton, says that her go-tos for summer entertainment are "sidewalk chalk, Play-Doh, and building forts around the house," because "my thought is keep them super busy, then they will nap for longer and I get a break."