3 tips for connection in the summertime

DSC02151Summertime can bring a variety of opportunities to connect with our children and enjoy new experiences together. It especially can be a time to reconnect with a child who has been at school all day throughout the year and is now home each day.

Here are 3 suggestions for deepening the family connection during the summertime:

1) Start a family tradition or ritual

Creating traditions and rituals each summer, just as during other seasons and holiday times, can help children experience predictability and be a source of family bonding. In our family, summer traditions include minor league baseball games, going to a carnival, visiting all the libraries in the county, and eating dinner outside.

We didn’t consciously set out to create these traditions: They just happened as we found things that our family enjoyed together and things that to us say, “summer.”

You may also want to bring some traditions from your own childhood into your families now.

IMAG007922) Get outside

Research has shown a correlation between time outside and reduced stress levels. Being outside in nature also helps keep kids calmer.

There are so many opportunities to get outside throughout the day. It can be staying near home and playing in the yard, or venturing out further for a hike or nature walk. Try to visit different playgrounds and climb the playground equipment along with your children.

Or, when you’re in a need of an opportunity for self-care and craving some balance, sit and enjoy a book in the fresh air while they play.

Some of the fun activities my children like to do outside our house include getting a bucket full of shaving cream and some paintbrushes and “painting” the deck, filling a squirt bottle with water, searching for bugs and pretending to be bugs, doing messy art projects outdoors, and setting up an outdoor movie night.

3) Find fun activities, but don’t force them

A few years ago, I created a “summer wish list” of about 15 places to go or things to do during the summer. We didn’t end up doing all of them, but it was helpful to have some plans and suggestions. Some of those activities became our traditions, while others were one-time only outings.

While these can be great, it’s also important to remember that some may not work out as you planned. Sometimes, what seems like a great idea to us sounds boring to our children. I’ve been trying to take my oldest son strawberry-picking since he loves strawberries and since it was something I loved as a child, but he’s simply not interested. Rather than forcing it, I work on finding other activities he is interested in and focus on being present with him in whatever it is we end up doing. Sometimes that means just playing board games inside.

It’s important to remember that these activities are about strengthening our family connection. If the activity is stressful to you, not enjoyed by the kids, and not creating a good bonding experience, don’t feel bad about scrapping it for something else!

I hope you enjoy exploring, experiencing and connecting with your kids this summer!

Set Your Summer Intentions

As excited as I was for Cavanaugh to get out of school for summer, I was also a little worried that we could spend months inside hiding out from Texas, USA, heat and mosquitoes while playing LEGOs and Minecraft. We needed a to-do list of fun.

Luckily, one of my organizing clients was working on a summer intentions banner created by fellow Austinites Bernadette Noll and Kathie Sever. I was inspired by the banner but worried about the execution. Sewing and stamps, required by the original design, would have meant we completed ours sometime after school started this fall. Summer Fun List

What I loved was the idea of setting up our summer, so we could get the most of the time with each other without going stir crazy or bickering because our days were so unstructured (though exactly what we wished for all school year long).

So we set summer intentions and planned great adventures without locking ourselves into a schedule or spending a ton of money. Here’s what we did:

First, we brainstormed lists of people to see. We thought of friends from school and outside of school, plus family members and the characters from Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles series we were listening to on audiobook.

For places to go and things to do, we added some of our favorites from previous summers, like going to see the symphony in the park and baking, but we were picking from what’s already routine and that would not keep us going through August. So we read through two of my favorite books: 101 Things You Gotta Do Before You’re 12! and 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12! Cavanaugh put stickers by all the things he was interested in, then we went through the pages together to figure out which of those things we could do during this summer. They included items like seeing a meteor shower and eating a flower.

Then to see if some of the items he’d found were even available in Austin, Texas, we went to Free Fun in Austin.com and added to our list with going to a ghost town and a junk cathedral. On Facebook, a friend had posted the “50 Ideas for a Slow Summer” list from Awesomely Awake.com. They helped too! So did the email from Cavanaugh’s school librarian and the one from his kindergarten teacher with summer reading clubs at some local bookstores and the library and with different learning activities and websites.

Once we had all of our lists, we went to Hobby Lobby and used their handy iPhone app to get the ever-present 40% off a full-price item coupon to get a copper foam board. Copper is Cavanaugh’s favorite metal right now. It meant no sewing fabric, and the foam board will travel well so when we go visit family in New Mexico, USA, we can take our lists with us. We also used Cavanaugh’s favorite font, “Wonton,” which I downloaded for free from dafont.com for his ninja birthday party last year.

We wanted to keep our lists out where Cavanaugh and I could read them when we needed ideas. As we see people, go places and do things, we are putting checks or dots next to the items on our list. On the calendar, I listed only events that were date specific, like Mr. Popper’s Penguins being shown for $1 at the theater down the street.

We have a Summer Fun Board in our living room and enough ideas on it to have more adventures than we have time for. I’ll end this post with some items from our list:

Things to Do:

  • Make a Bast board game: The Path of Bast
  • Do experiments in DNA Kit
  • Explore backyard habitat #35
  • Build volcano
  • Host book club with school friends
  • Play marbles
  • Build a fairy home in the garden
  • Reading Clubs: Book People, B&N, Library
  • Replace front doorknob and lock
  • Eat a flower
  • Watch a meteor shower
  • Bake
  • Play cards
  • Build robots
  • Do puzzles
  • Make YouTube videos
  • Finish LEGO Ninjago Village
  • Play board games
  • Reading time in bedroom
  • Make up a spy name
  • Practice handwriting
  • Do 2nd grade Word Wall Words
  • Go through photos
  • Play learning games 

 Places to Go

  • High Tea
  • Taos
  • Splash Pad
  • Camping/Sleep under the stars
  • Movies
  • Picnic
  • A famous road: Route 66
  • Junk Cathedral
  • An Artist’s Studio
  • Swimming Hole
  • Rock Art Site
  • Radical Rock Formation
  • A canyon or gorge
  • Ice cream factory tour

What are you up to this summer?