In Family

Summer vacation. The kids are out of school and we all begin that shift in routine. I try to embrace it with positivity yet there’s no denying that balancing working at home with kids at home is a challenge.

neighborhood Smoke Tree, photo taken with my iPhone

I am always touched by Blair’s great perspective on summer with her kids on Wisecraft. Last year I was inspired by her Summer Rules that gently outlined some routine for the season without being too rigid. We’ve adopted a few of them, such as daily reading, playing outside, screen time limits, and trying to do things for themselves first.

I so want them to have the kind of summers we had as kids! I loved those days of exploration, running around the neighborhood until the streetlights came on. Although this neighborhood is full of kids, most spend their summers in camp or at the members-only pool. It’s become a real challenge to provide the opportunity for a spontaneous “find your own adventure” scenario. (We have a great park behind our house but apparently there’s “nothing to do” out there.)

Last year I adapted an idea came across on craftzine blog for a Family Summer Center. The boys helped me make it by stamping letters with paint onto fabric and pinning it to an old bulletin board. It has pockets for Places (go/went), People (see/saw), and Books (read/read). Everyone in the family writes things they’d like to do over the summer on a piece of paper and puts it in the appropriate pocket. After we do it/see it/read it, the paper moves over to the other pocket. It’s great to use on days when we want to do something but need ideas. There’s also a spot for goals and accomplishments. Last year’s big goal was the boys learning to ride their bikes. I think my personal goal of “organize the craft closet” will be an annual event.

Summer has so much promise for great moments together as a family without all of the demands of the school year. And far too soon the days of having my kids under foot will be over. I need to remind myself of that. (Like when water balloons end up in the house or when the groceries disappear twice as fast or when I’ve applied sunscreen for the 100th time…right?)

What do you do with your kids over the summer to keep them happily occupied? How do you balance work time and family time without feeling guilty that you are short changing one or the other?

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Showing 22 comments
  • Claire

    I’m actually a child but I’ll post from experience what my mom does for us.

    Let’s us go to the beach
    We go to the library every Thursday, so we always have a book to read.
    We go to the local park.
    We do a lot of crafts from a lot of different blogs(yours included)

    She works usually in the afternoon but sometimes she works in the morning and then in the afternoon we play.


  • Betz White

    Thanks for commenting Claire! I loved hearing what you do over the summer.

  • Jennwith4

    I really don’t have any ideas but I sure am looking for some. I love the idea board and will make one up soon. Since I homeschool I have the kids around 24/7 and I’m looking forward to any ideas people put on here. Thanks for the post. =)

  • knitsteel

    I tell my kids that if they let me work in the morning, I will take them to the pool in the afternoon. It works sometimes.

  • knitsteel

    However, I have not found someone else to do the grocery shopping or housekeeping. I won’t give up the gardening. Those work mornings have to share time with all of the other stuff during summer vacation.

  • Scented Sweetpeas

    Love that idea, it must be great to keep you motivated. Well we usually do gardening, go to parks, go to the local marina, visit national trust houses and do art stuff ooh and bake cakes. hhhhmm it seems we have a lot of outdoor stuff in our list, it seems that when the kiddies are outdoors they don’t argue and that makes it so much easier :-)

  • Georgia

    I really struggle with this living in the town we do in the US. As you said- the kids all go to camp, or away or to clubs. Makes it hard to be spontaneous, or to have summer birthday parties! I really want my kids to just CHILL over summer. The school year is so frantic. I want them to play with their toys that they never have time to; to make things; to invent games and have fun. But I think to a certain extent you have to let them get REALLY REALLY BORED first- it’s like they have to feel that first before they can throw all caution to the wind and get creative. Having said that, my husband’s view is that they need to set goals, they need to sort out a routine. So it’s a bit of a balancing act. But we manage. I love it, because I can leave them to fend for themselves a bit (they’re 16,14,10,9) and loose myself in MY things in my studio without having to run off to drive someone here there and everywhere.

  • Bee Lady

    Hi Betz, I haven’t been on your blog in awhile since I started my own. Life gets too busy to do it all. But, I just clicked on and had to comment. I watch two boys ages 10 & 13. Oh my is it ever hard. They don’t play like I did when I was a kid. We’d be outside until our parents yelled out the door for us to come in! Now they sit on the couch and play DS games or watch movies. I cannot entertain them constantly, no woman can. And everything is b o r i n g. What is a person to do? They are in band and their Mom puts them in Science, Engineering, and soccer camps, but playing just isn’t the same.

    Love the appliqued flowers on the apron. I think I’ll have to try that on a purse! Cindy

  • Betz White

    Bee Lady and Georgia,
    I couldn’t agree more. It’s so important for kids to be able to figure out how to find their own fun. I’ll keep you posted as the summer progresses!


    As my littles get older I’m gobbling up all the mothers-of-older-kids blogs. I so hope to be able to provide my kids with their own personal summer dream time. I already play with my kids way less than most of the other parents I know. And my 2 and 4 year old can play for literally hours in their own little worlds, together and independently. It is such a pitty though that all of those other kids we hope them to bump into during the summer are scheduled elsewhere. Sometimes having more money these days affords a different living style that we don’t necessarily want to go with. I know none of my friends families (or mine) had money for summer camps.
    Well, enough babble. I love the family center. I’m such an organizing freak, but I think we’ll have to make one of those next year. Cheers!

  • R. J.

    I don’t have little ones around the house anymore and I miss it. I have fond memories of afternoon pool trips, museums, crafts, movies and shopping malls. I enjoyed those afternoons in the backyard with a water hose and toys. Have fun.

  • duendes

    your blog is very nice.come visit me in my(

  • Bee Lady

    I’ve been re-reading these comments because this really is something that is on my mind. I posted about it back in April on my own blog. So, what kind of crafts would you do with boys ages 10 & 13? One is sports minded and one is intellectual? I love crafts and would love to do crafts with them, but what?

  • Jill

    Well, I’m putting them in camps all summer because I still have to work 40 hours a week, and planning to feel guilty about it. Sure, we could move to a different area or smaller house and live on one income, but I actually like my job – it just doesn’t give me the summers off to play with my kids. I guess I’ll plan to max out my play time with them after I pick them up from camp.

  • Betz White

    Hi Jill,
    Yes, having summers off when the kids are off would be ideal! We all do the best we can to squeeze in the family time when it fits, and kids are appreciative of that. Definitely easier in the summer when there’s no homework, yay!

  • Betz White

    Bee Lady,
    My 10 yr old started to make stop motion “films” with their legos and my little digital camera. That keeps him creative and busy. Also, check out the Wisecraft links in this post, she has great ideas…

  • Anonymous

    we go camping in the backyard, bikerides on the canal, water fights w. the hose and baby pool (even though they aren’t babies), homemade popsicles, lots of library books and movies from the library, trips to the neighborhood pool, raft night at the pool, hikes, picnics, local attractions like Calvert Cliffs for fossil hunting and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (anything that’s free)…this year since we can’t go to the beach we turned the house into a beach house – brought out the record player, seashells for decorations, painted the ceiling fan blue – little touches here and there.

  • random Cindy

    I like the visual organizer. I’ve done calendars for the school year but never tried one for the summer. I have staggered some camps for the kids so that I get some one on one time with each. Although a little me only time would be nice too. We are playing with the neighbors, joining in the summer reading program at the library (have to make up something for my pre-Ker), learning to ride bikes (me included!), working together on our garden and making lots of art projects and journals. The kids still love the turtle sandbox that I fill with water instead. Then we use the water for the plants. I still have to pencil in time at the grandparents and make sure we get to the beach more than we did last year. And somewhere in between all that I probably should clean the house and do the laundry. Any ideas on how I can hide a 10’x12′ building project from my DH?

  • Bernadette

    Hello Betz,
    Glad you are finding our summer center useful. Mind if I use your photo on our Future Craft Collective site?


  • Betz White

    Hi Bernadette!
    Absolutely, and thank you for stopping by!

  • Jo

    I love your Family Holiday Centre – especially the idea of setting goals and seeing them accomplished!
    We are in the opposite hemisphere so are about to have a two week break.
    I often have a calendar of some sort outlining what we will be doing which helps everyone to look forward to what is happening. We usually include what I will be reading to the children (7,10,12) and this time it is the first Deltora Quest series by an Australian author Emily Rodda. It a great read for a broad age range and both sexes.
    I also find that moving things around can help spark interest – we bring the lego into the family room just for the holidays and everyone (including adults) get stuck in.
    Thanks for your inspiring ideas

  • Anonymous

    Hey Betz, I am a kid so I will telly you some things I like to do for fun.

    I like to practice my dancing and I am learning French. I am not sure if you have a dog but if you do you could try getting them involved in it!

    Au Revoir (that’s goodbye in french!)

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