Summer: Plan with Intentionality

The days stretch longer, but much to the chagrin of kids (and, sometimes, the delight of parents), the summer flies by in a snap. Your family probably falls into one of two camps. You either have every moment planned, down to even the diaper change on the tarmac in between trips, or you look up from the pages of your book to scan the pool for your kids and realize you’re not even sure what day it is anymore.

One of the beautiful things about summer is that there’s not really a right or wrong way to do it. You shouldn’t beat yourself up about enrolling your child into back-to-back-to-back camps. You also shouldn’t feel guilty about being that mom who hasn’t left the house in so long that your son has been wearing the same pajamas 24-7 for at least three days. What you should do, however, is be intentional about whichever path you choose. Summer is a precious couple of weeks free from homework and other school commitments. And no feeling is worse than looking back on it that first morning back in the carpool line wondering whether or not your family made the most of it.

Whether your family is one that likes to hunker down or head out to explore, here are a few ideas on how to inject some intentionality into the coming weeks:

  • Invest in your church. In the summer months, your church may be struggling to staff children’s Sunday school classes as schedules change. Offer to spend a morning coming alongside the littlest members of the congregation. Your children’s ministry director will thank you for it! If children’s ministry isn’t where your gifts lie, check into worship, greeter, and community outreach ministries to find a good fit for your family.
  • Keep learning. Just because school is on a break doesn’t mean your child’s brain should be! Many local libraries including the Fairfax County Public Library system offer summer reading opportunities. Register online or in person, fill out the log as your child reads 8-15 books of his or her choosing, and submit the log to your local branch to redeem the coupon book! The book includes free or highly discounted food as well as tickets to local games and parks, so you have plenty of choices to celebrate your child’s accomplishments in summer reading!
  • Get off the grid. Even if it’s just for an hour a week. Make a commitment to set your phones, tablets, laptops, and iPods in a stack on the kitchen counter and do something else. ANYTHING else. Together. You would be surprised how much you miss while playing Candy Crush. (One suggestion is a screen time checklist for the kids. Have you been outside? Have you done something for someone else? Have you read for 20 minutes? Is your room tidy? Good! Now you can have screen time!)
  • Enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you’ve got a family of intrepid hikers or prefer to relax, the DMV area has many great opportunities. Go for a walk at Great Falls. Set sale on a pirate ship in National Harbor. Check out an outdoor movie at one of these many locations in the DC/metro area. Hit up Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot in Clifton for a sweet treat in a quaint setting. Then, balance all the ice cream with something healthy by planting a veggie garden or picking your own berries. Take in a ball game and a fireworks show at a Potomac Nationals game.
  • Tackle projects. You can start small – maybe finish that puzzle that’s been sitting on the dining room table since Christmas break, or you could cross something big off your list that’s been haranguing you for a while. Whatever it is (except maybe any task that requires the combination of a sharp object and a ladder), involve your kids so that they too can feel the stress joy of family responsibility. So weed the garden, wash the car, donate old toys and clothes that your family has grown out of. If you’ve already taken care of all of the above, high five! Summer is a great time to start some projects, too. Commit to reading one book of the Bible as a family. Find a charity, humane society, or church project that needs funding and help the kids come up with creative ways to raise a little money. Create some fun, cheap summer crafts. Plan a weekly museum excursion. Whether it’s your child’s heart, body, or mind: give ample opportunities for growth this summer.

The suggestions above are not a checklist to see how much you can cross off in the precious time you have with your family this summer. You are not a bad parent for not planning out every moment of your child’s life. In fact, allowing kids productively fill their own time is a life skill they will benefit from mastering early! Take this list as a resource to use should you be wondering how to meaningfully connect in creating memories as a family.

What are some of your ideas? Enjoy your summer – See you in August!