As summer break is upon us, it’s time for the pool, extra time outside, fun activities, vacations, adventures, and more. This is also the time of year that simply requires a whole lot more time keeping little ones occupied and a whole lot more togetherness. (This can be tough, right!?)

Every mom needs some strategies in place to make the summer a positive experience for everyone. Today, I offer you 10 Sanity Savers you can put into action to make this summer the best it can be!

Let’s jump in:

Sanity Saver #1: Take care of yourself.

What will you be doing to keep your emotional fuel tank refueled? What activities refresh you? Proactively plan those into your daily/weekly schedule. Don’t wait until your tank is empty…fill up regularly!

If you are at home, your kids are with you 24/7. Create a moms night out once a week with a friend, or trade “days off” with another mom whose kids are close in age to your kids.

If you are working full-time, it takes a lot more effort in the summer to make sure the kids are busy and where they need to be. Make sure you are taking care of yourself in order to really be able to take care of your family.

Sanity Saver #2: Create a routine.

It’s hard to go from the tight routine of school to very little routine in the summer. While it’s important to not schedule every minute, a loose routine can give structure to summer days. Maybe Monday is swimming day, Tuesday is library day, Wednesday is friend day, Thursday is house and laundry day, and Friday is free day.

A schedule can guide planning and give some sense of security to our kids. It also answers the most asked questions, “Can we go to the pool?” “Can I have a friend over?” “When can we go to the library?”  Those don’t have to be the ONLY days you do those activities, but those are the days the kids can count on.

Sanity Saver #3: Set boundaries.

Kids are more likely to stay within boundaries if they actually know what those boundaries are. How much television is ok? How long on video games? What types of snacks can they have?

We found the kitchen timer to be helpful with video games or TV with our 1 hour on/1 hour off boundary. The boys would set the timer before they would get on the game. (If I found them playing video games without a timer set, they lost video games for the rest of the day.)

A friend of mine recently put a snack basket into use for her kids. Each morning she fills each kid’s snack basket with their snacks for the day. They get to determine when they eat those snacks, but when they’re gone, they’re gone. She says that one of the unexpected benefits of this is that they are eating better at mealtime because they’re not snacking all day. They’ve also learned to “budget” out their snacks throughout the day.

Sanity Saver #4: Rest every day.

If you are a stay-at-home mom, this is really important…for you…and for your kids! Even if your kids are no longer taking naps, a rest time is really important to give them time to play apart from their siblings and kids in the neighborhood. This is when my kids who were no longer napping learned the joy of reading or building with Legos. We usually set the timer for 1 hour. When the timer went off, they knew rest time was over.

Sanity Saver #5: Make summer drinks easy.

When the kids are playing hard in the summer, they are always thirsty. I discovered one summer that a cooler full of ice water set out on the deck was such a time and mess-saver! Each morning, I filled a 5 gallon water cooler with ice and water. I put a tray next to the cooler with cups labeled with their names (including the kids in the neighborhood!). When they wanted a drink, they were able to get it themselves without a mess in the kitchen. I’d use the tray as a place to put fruit snacks, granola bars, or cookies for a morning and afternoon snacks. It allowed them some self-serve independence!

Sanity Saver #6: Give opportunities to learn something new.

Summer is a great time for kids to learn new skills like cooking, gardening, or laundry. Take the time to teach them how to do a new skill and then give them ample opportunity to practice. If you have junior high or high school age children, they can be in charge of one meal a week. Grade-schoolers can learn to do laundry and be in charge of a couple of loads a week. This gives kids ownership and a sense of pride about contributing to the family. It also teaches them lifelong skills.

Sanity Saver #7: Lower your expectations.

Our frustration with our kids usually happens when our unrealistic expectations intersect with reality.

  • Expect messes in the summer. They will happen.
  • Expect sibling rivalry. It’s a part of having more than one child.
  • Expect whining. Kids do this when they are tired.
  • Expect boredom. It’s actually healthy for them to be bored because it cultivates creativity.

When you lower your expectations, you’ll be far more content with reality. If you need a little more encouragement in that area, you might pick up No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are for some summer reading!

Sanity Saver #8: Learn to be a “Yes!” mom.

When my kids were younger, I started to learn the importance of being a “yes!” mom. When I started to pay attention to how much I said no and why I said no, I discovered it usually had something to do with my selfish reasons. I didn’t want to deal with a mess. I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. I didn’t want to have more work to do. That’s not fun to admit, but it was true. My selfishness was robbing my kids of some of the joy of just being kids! Learn to be a yes mom and you’ll find the summer more enjoyable for everyone!

Sanity Saver #9: Make an “I’m bored” jar.

At some point we all deal with “I’m bored.” When that happens, I usually tell my kids that they can find something to do or I’ll be happy to find something for them to do. It’s interesting how quickly they find something to do! However, if you have younger kids, an “I’m bored” jar can also be helpful. Simply fill out slips of paper with activities they can do like these:

  • Color a picture for Grandma
  • Write a letter to Grandma (and address the envelope!)
  • Make a fort
  • Build a castle with blocks
  • Put together a puzzle
  • Do “Winter in the summer” and cut out snowflakes
  • Have a tea party
  • Write a story

If you don’t want to do an “I’m bored” jar for the kids to pick a paper out, you can also keep an “I’m bored” list that puts suggestions at your fingertips.

Sanity Saver #10: Let go and enjoy.

We all want the “perfect summer” for our kids, but rather than activities and schedules making up the perfect summer, it’s actually the not-scheduled spontaneous activities that make memories: running in the sprinkler, having picnics on the porch, looking for shapes in the clouds, and catching fireflies after dark.  Sure, have some plans in place, but let spontaneity lead the way.

Prioritize relationships over tasks.

Be creative and make some messes.

Lecture less and laugh more.

These are the elements that make up a beautiful summer.

What about you? Would you add any more “tried and true” strategies to this list? 

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