6 Ways to make summer plans during a global pandemic

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Last year, I shared 10 ways to make your summer break easier. And while I stand behind those ideas, some of them aren’t so feasible this year. Summer planning right now is a bit different.

Unlike with the 10 ways I shared last year, this year’s modified summer plan I’m sharing hasn’t been tried and proven by years of summer life. However, my husband and I have been intentional about what we want summer break to look like and how to make it best for our family.

So, I’m sharing what our plans are for this summer. They may change and shift as the summer goes on. I won’t pretend I know exactly how things will play out this summer, but I will share updates if we make a major change!

1. Come up with a schedule that works for your family.

Each year I see summer schedules floating around on social media with lists of chores and things kids must do to earn screen time and such. Have at it if that’s your thing! But, it’s not my family’s thing.

I’m a very scheduled person. We love routines at my house. In fact, I have posted how routines make my family happier. However, I am also big on being simple. I’ve found that simple routines and plans are easiest to maintain.

So my husband and I talked about what we most want to prioritize for our kids this summer. We want them to play with each other, do something physical, play with the puppy and read. Those are quite literally our highest priorities for everyday life this summer.

We are leaving it up to our kids a bit. We’ve asked them to spend 30 minutes playing together each day. We sat down as a family and made a list of activities they like to do together. (I’m big on lists!) The list includes things like Barbies, Legos, coloring, doing crafts and using their science kit.

We’ve also asked them to be active for at least 20 minutes each day and to incorporate the puppy into that activity if at all possible.

That’s it for daily requirements. They do have to ask permission for being on screens, so they don’t have free reign over television and tablets. They do have chores to do on a regular basis and chores that come up as we live life, but we really do our best to keep it simple.

2. Create your own reading program.

Since they were tiny, my kids have participated in the library’s summer reading program. That’s not an option this summer, but we didn’t want to let reading slide. My oldest is an avid reader and reads a lot no matter what. My youngest, though, is not so confident in his reading skills. He is a good reader, but he doesn’t think so.

So, we designed and personalized a reading program for our family that is so far been very well received. The kids have 11-1/2 weeks of summer break. We decided to go with an 8-week schedule. My daughter needs to read four chapters a week (she definitely reads more, so we may change that). My son needs to read two books.

Each week has a reward they get for completing the week’s reading assignment. Again, we worked with the kids to come up with ideas of what they actually would like to earn. For example, my son wants a day that he can play a video game without having to ask for permission. My daughter wants a day to style me and do my makeup. Other rewards include an ice-cream treat, getting to pick what we’re having for dinner and getting to pick what we do for family play time.

The program ends with the kids being allowed to pick up one toy for $15 or less as the final reward.

Figuring out reading material can be a bit tricky if you can’t get to a library, but we have utilized our Kindle Unlimited subscription and ordered a few new books, too. (If you’re looking for book ideas, check out this list of more than 100 children’s books worth reading for toddlers to tweens!)

I made a log sheet where they can mark off their reading each week by inserting a table into a Word document. I used a separate table in a Word document to input their weekly rewards.

3. Make a list of fun things you want to do as a family.

This is a list we make each summer. I learned pretty quickly that summers go by way too fast and we can get through the summer without having done even half of what we wanted to. So, we started making a list as a family at the beginning of each summer break of things we wanted to do and people we wanted to visit.

This year, we still made the list, but it looks different. Going places and visiting with friends have changed. We are continuing to be very cautious, so some activities aren’t possible.

Our list this year includes a few things that say “if possible,” such as going to visit relatives who live out of town or going swimming at a public pool. It includes other things that we haven’t had on the list before like some science experiments we want to do at home, taking the puppy to the park and river, going fishing and playing school.

I print the list and post it on the fridge. The summer activity list serves a few purposes. First, when my kids are bored, I can refer them to the list for activities they can do on their own. Second, when we get to the end of summer and someone invariably says we didn’t get to do fun things, I can point them to the things marked off the list. Third, it lets my husband and me know what activities are most important to our kids for the summer so we can prioritize those.

4. Make a list of summer goals.

This is again a list we make every summer, but this year it changed up a bit. We asked the kids to get more specific with their goals. For example, my daughter always wants to learn to cook more. So this year we changed that into a goal of her cooking dinner one night every other week. We also enrolled her in an online cooking class (see more about that in number 5).

We included a few goals we have for around the house as well like installing a ceiling fan in our loft and organizing the garage.

This list goes on the bottom of the activity list and is on the fridge. It’s a great list to refer bored kids to as well and help them stay on track with their personal goals. The older my kids get, the better they get at being able to identify, articulate and achieve goals. My 10-year-old is much more into this right now than my 7-year-old.

5. Find some online activities in place of summer camps.

(Note: I do not endorse any of the sites linked in this section or have any affiliation with them other than I have my children enrolled in courses through these sites.)

I’ve not sent my kiddos away to overnight summer camps ever, but we would do day camps or fun classes in the summer like swimming or acting. I love that online options are available in things that interest them.

My daughter wanted to find a fiction writing class, because she is very much into writing right now. She started writing a book at the beginning of quarantine and wants to finish it by the end of summer. She’s also interested in cooking (as mentioned above).

I found an online writing class for her through ActivityHero.com that I paid to enroll her in. Hopefully, it will be productive for her and she’ll enjoy it while also honing her writing skills.

I was pleased to find a free online cooking class for her through VarsityTutors.com. So we’re going to give that a try.

My son wanted to do something with art. I found an online dinosaur art program for him online through OutSchool.com. He did a one-time superhero karate class that was free on OutSchool and enjoyed it. He also did a one-time handwriting improvement class last week that I paid $10 for. It wasn’t good at all. In fact, we left the class early. The dinosaur art class looks right up his alley, though.

6. Leave free time.

My husband and I are careful to guard our family’s activities to keep us from being too busy. In a summer that we travel is limited and not as much is planned outside of our home, we are still being careful of not over-scheduling.

The best thing about summer break as a kid is having free time. My daughter spent one morning last week reading the whole morning. (She’s so my kid!) My son spent an afternoon last week playing a video game with his dad. One evening last week, we all went out on the porch to watch a downpour and do a bit of running through the rain.

Our best memories over any summer — this weird phase included — are made in the small moments when we are just having fun together. I want us to have time for games, movies, reading together and cooking together. We can’t do that if every moment is scheduled and rigid. This summer, even more than any other, we will go with the flow!

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About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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