Summer is Here!
We are in full swing summer mode around this house, and the first few days have been wonderfully lazy for all of us! We’re having slow mornings with time for breakfast, fun in our PJs and no real agenda. This all sounds super fun but also not super sustainable until August rolls around in a bit.
I always had visions of being this super structured mom - you know the one. All meals are at the table, kiddos have chores, we have routines, we have designated snack times, etc… I studied Education in college, so I knew the benefits of routines and consistency for kiddos.
Well. Then I had my own real kids living under my roof. And you know what? I’m not at all structured, organized or routined. Insert crying laughing emoji face here, please. We eat a lot on the couch (while watching TV, gasp!). We don’t have chores…yet - or much of a routine. I don’t even enforce quiet time over here with non-napping children.
I whole-heartedly believe that you’re gonna mom the way you’re gonna mom. It’s happening right before my eyes. I also know that I can make change if needed and wanted to in my home. So, that’s what we’re gearing up for this summer. My oldest starts Kindergarten in the Fall, and I know we’ll be falling prey to school schedules and activities. I’m planning some summer boredom busters and some added routines to our day-to-day to help us not slump into a summer funk.
Summer Activities at Home
I’ll be back with a part 2 featuring activities to do out and about around town. For now, let’s get started with things we can do at home with our kiddos during those long, hot days of summer. To clarify, I know we will not accomplish all of these, and who knows, some may very well flop. I’m going to give you what’s been rolling around in my brain for the past few months and then sum it up into our own little summer maybe-do list.
I mentioned this in our Fall Family Memory Makers post about how I’m going to set myself up for loose expectation of what we’ll accomplish and enjoy versus set myself up for disappointment of unfulfilled expectations. These are suggestions, not set in stone. Let’s get to the activities! Links to some of the items mentioned are at the end.
Food Activities at Home
We love popsicles around here, and when I can sneak in extra nutrients (hint: protein powder!) into these things - it’s a win-win for everyone. We have two different popsicles molds we really enjoy: The Unicorn and The Ring Pop molds are so fun and easy to use. I picked mine up at Target, and the ring pop molds are linked at the end of the post.
We whip up a batch of our hot pink smoothies and use that to fill our molds. The unicorn pops we made recently were just ripe bananas and a few cubes of ice tossed into the blender. We poured the mix into the molds, and I let the girls top them with sprinkles.
We’ve also used apple juice and fresh orange juice to fill the molds for a break from the thicker smoothie popsicle.
I Can Eat This Cards
Kara created the most fun food game for you and your kiddos: I Can Eat This! She designed beautiful flash cards that open up a whole set of recipes for you to get the kids in the kitchen. We love to draw one or two at random before a grocery trip, chat about what we chose and go on the hunt at the store.
The photos are realistic, so the kids can reference the card while they’re walking through the store. The next fun part is taking it all home to your kitchen and making the recipe. Kara made the recipes super simple and highlights the steps that can easily involve kid help.
These make a great gift and a super fun summer activity! Your order of cards contains the following:
26 fruit and vegetable cards to explore and learn about with your child.
26 recipes - each with 5 or fewer ingredients and steps
Allergy-friendly alternatives: gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and refined sugar free.
Okay, this one’s been on our list since Daniel Tiger and his buds hosted a neighborhood lemonade stand last summer. My girls have been begging me, and this is the year! We’re going to make some of favorite lemonade, recruit some friends to bake some treats, advertise and sell away.
We’re also using this as a fundraising opportunity for friends’ adoption through Mwana Villages. More on our Brick Bank opportunity to come below.
We love to get in the kitchen and whip up a good smoothie. We use all frozen fruit (and a fresh banana), so it’s easy for the girls to help measure and pour ingredients into the blender. Our favorite recipe is listed over on this blog post as well as how to make fun smoothie bowls with the recipe.
Well, here’s another shout out to our buddy Daniel Tiger. Mom Tiger makes a special surprise of frozen bananas in one episode, and we love love love to make this.
All you need are some brown bananas, a butter knife and a freezer baggie. We always have some bananas that are just too ripe by the end of the week. We’ll take what’s left - usually 3 - and I’ll have the girls chop them into coins with a butter knife. Freeze those banana coins and pop in the blender the next morning!
Blending the frozen bananas can be a little tricky, so you need to set them out a few minutes before you’re ready to blend. We don’t use any extra liquid in ours, but you can if you want a less thick consistency.
We scoop it out into a fancy bowl and go to town on our banana “ice cream”. If it’s an afternoon treat, we’ll add toppings like chocolate chips or sprinkles.
Muffin Tin Meals
I’ve got one particular eater and one who will pretty much try anything. Sometimes, I get a in a lunch rut for my kiddos, and we need to mix it up. I’ll prep a fun lunch in a muffin tin, either for them to share or have one of their own. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can have them pick from a buffet of selections (pre-chosen by you, of course!) and fill the tins. We almost always have clean tins and at least one refill.
Set the Table
Our family struggles with sitting around the table to finish a meal. Most of the time, my husband and I are standing up at the bar counter while the girls eat on the stools at the counter. It’s fine and works most nights, but there’s something so special about all sitting together at our table.
My goal this summer is to give the girls the job of setting the table for dinner each evening while I’m wrapping up the final touches on dinner. I’ll prepare in advance and have the needed items accessible to their level. I think this will set the tone for a dinner at home and hopefully become a new tradition and rhythm.
We are going to work on our hospitality this summer! Not sure the best way to make this happen other than practicing it with the kiddos. We plan to invite over friends from time to time and talk about what’s it like to offer a hospitable environment.
We also love to get in the kitchen and make treats for ourselves and to deliver to our neighbors and friends. We’ll find some time to bake some goodies, wrap them up and drop them off around the neighborhood.
Hopefully, both of these types of activities can help us branch outside of the, “I’m bored!” and turn the attention to serving others around them. Practice, practice, practice.
This has become a fun activity for us. I brew up some warm green tea, arrange a little variety of snacks and set up the girls with a fancy tablecloth. We sit around the table and chat while we sip tea and refill our snack napkins. Usually, it’s a mod podge of chipped mugs and random paper plates, but it’s oh so fun for an afternoon of snacks and chats. Take it up a notch and invite a friend or two over to join!
Kara is the QUEEN of snacktivities, y’all! She’s got some great ideas about getting kids in the kitchen to play with and eat food. Head on over to @simplywholemoms on Instagram and search for #simplywholesnacktivity to see what she’s cooked up in her kitchen.
Fun Activities at Home
This group of summer activities are in my “fun” category for the kiddos. Again, we’re not necessarily going to be doing all of these things all of the time, but we’ve got an arsenal from which to pull when we’re bored around the house.
I’ve been wanting to implement this for like two years! Here we are now. My oldest daughter is super great at saying, “I’m bored.” Cue eye roll from Mama over here. In the past, I don’t really have anything handy that she can start solo, so that’s where this “bored bucket” comes into play.
I’ve gathered several independent play activities that she can grab and go when the “bored” urge strikes. Our “bored bucket” includes the following: story telling cubes, bead kits, sticker books, puzzles, and letter matching. They tend to want to do it all at once, so we’ll need to set the stage for doing one thing at a time and putting it away before we try something else.
This is similar to the idea above but basically a bunch of independent art activities that don’t need mom hovering over. I filled a bin with the following that they can head off to the playroom to tackle.
KwikStix (link at bottom)
Do-A-Dot Markers (link at bottom)
Assorted Coloring Books
Mwana Brick Bank (Kids for Kids)
This is a great summer service project for the entire family! We have dear friends going through the adoption process from the Congo. Mwana Villages is hosting a Kids for Kids Brick Bank fundraiser to help support a new building on the main compound. We’re hosting a lemonade stand and going to come up with some other ways to earn funds for our brick bank this summer.
To hear more about Mwana Villages and ethical adoption, check out Episode #17 of the Simply Whole Moms Podcast.
Young, Wild & Friedman Playdough Kits
These Young, Wild & Friedman play dough sensory kits are so much fun! They come in mini and full sizes and a variety of different themes. Our favorite so far is the Candy Kit, but we’ve got our eye on the Unicorn and Mermaid kits, too. The girls had a great time creating their own candy shop together. They offer a monthly subscription that would make sensory play at home super easy.
Let Them Be Little Sensory Boxes
Let Them Be Little Boxes come to your doorstep ready to entertain your kiddos with sensory fun. Playing with sensory elements can help motor skills, speech skills, social skills and processing skills. Order online and even set up a monthly subscription, so they show up on your porch at the end of every month!
Color Your Own
This is one of our favorite activities! I picked up two different ones and have them stashed away in hiding for either a super hot, indoor afternoon or maybe even a rainy summer morning. If you’re not handy at putting things together, you may want to assemble it before the kids see it. Sometimes the anticipation is too much. These last us a good week or two of entertainment from the coloring and decorating to the actual playing. I usually give them stickers, markers and crayons to decorate. We may get real crafty with one outside this summer and use PAINT!
I’ve found these at SAM’S Club and Michael’s Craft Stores. I prefer to find them at Michael’s and use a 40% off coupon!
Yes, that’s right! Have a water fight! Grab some water toys, load them up and release them into the backyard! We have so much fun chasing each other around the yard and trying to cool off in the heat. I’ve seen lots of cheaper water gun options at Target lately, and we also like to fill up a bunch of water balloons to cool off, too.
This is a new one for us, but when it’s hitting temps of 100+ degrees outside, we’ve got to figure out a way to move and groove inside the house. I’ve found two great resources to get your kids (and yourself!) moving.
GoNoodle: This is a super fun platform full of videos to lead your kids in song, dance, refocusing, you name it, they’ve got it! It’s geared for ages K-5, so you’ll want to make sure the videos you choose work for your ages of children.
Cosmic Kids’ Yoga: I cannot wait to introduce this to the girls! I’ve been looking for a way to build in some relaxation and movement into our day, and this is it! There are so many videos from which to choose to get your family moving.
Messy Outdoor Play
This IKEA play table has been on a wishlist of mine for quite some time. It’s finally at our house, and I am so excited to start letting the girls go to town with messy, sensory play outside. The table is the perfect height for standing and playing with the two tubs.
Our first intro to the table is a succulent sensory experience. I happened to have quite a few plastic succulents and gravel (for a DIY never done) in the craft closet. I added shovels, containers and other elements I found around the house.
I’m planning to get some water beads, scoopers and other manual materials to add as the summer goes on. My goal is to have a new theme every 3 weeks or so - maybe more if they enjoy it enough!
Learning Activities at Home
Book Box Subscription
We did this last year as a combo package for the girls, and they had a blast. We signed up with a friend, “The Book Lady” - Mrs. Holly, who sells Usborne books and creates a custom box each month of the summer and sends it to us in the mail. She asks questions about their age and interests and builds from there. It’s so fun to watch the girls open a surprise made just for them. This year, I had her select materials for each girl, since they’re getting older. She knocked it out of the park for the first month with a handwritten envelope and special note for each girl along with super thoughtful books and activities!
The girls loved Busy Bag time at school this year. I don’t have anywhere near the stash their teachers did, but I grabbed a few things from the Target “Dollar Spot” to count as busy bags until I can get more put together. We’ve got matching colors, counting sprinkles, weaving a pie and a matching game to get us started. Ideally, they can do these on their own or work together. I’ll probably stash a couple of these in the “Bored Bucket”, too.
I’ve been wanting a bean bag chair in our playroom for quite some time, and a reading nook is the perfect opportunity. We’ve got lots of books and an emerging reader in the house who wants to tear into them all. I’m hoping to have “new” books rotate in and out of the reading nook each week to keep things fresh and new. I say “new” because we keep some of our books stashed away throughout the year, so I’ll be bringing those out and also going to the local library.
Here are some examples of themes I’m going to focus on each week: Summer, Friendship, Adventure, Beach, Family, Gardening, and Back to School.
Side note: I found this super cool “bean bag” case that you can fill with stuffed animals and extra blankets. I cleared off an entire shelf and a half of their closet into this cover, and now it’s a cozy spot for reading. (Link at the bottom.)
I’ve stashed up on flashcards over the last couple of years as I see them pop up for a dollar or so at Target. I’m punching holes and threading rings onto these, so the girls can easily access them and keep them tidy. I’ve got about 10 different stacks that I’ll rotate throughout the summer. Emma likes to help Eliza go through letters and numbers with all of the different cards.
We love some snail mail over here. My oldest daughter loves sending and receiving mail. I’ve created a little station where she can grab a card, envelope, pen and stickers and get to work creating her own messages to mail off to friends. I’ll keep the stamps away until she’s ready to send because they always think the stamps are just regular stickers.
Dry Erase Board Activities
Who doesn’t love to doodle on a dry erase board? We’re going to work on letters and numbers with my 3 year old and how to address an envelope with my 5 year old to get started! They love to write on the board and wipe it off over and over again.
The girls LOVED journaling throughout their school year last year, and their teachers encouraged us to continue doing so this summer. I’m setting up a little journal for each girl, writing utensils and a prompt to help them either draw or write down an answer. This is a great article to explain the benefits and how-tos of journaling with your little one. Their sweet teacher provided some great summer resources for us to use at home to prompt our journal entries.
Here’s a few of the prompts we’ll use to get started in the mornings.
What do you want to do this summer?
What is your favorite part of the day?
Draw your favorite place.
What things are you thankful for?
Tell me about your favorite animal.
Plan your birthday party.
How can we serve others?
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite flower?
Plan a playdate for you and your friends.
They may need some help getting started, and I know my 3 year old will mostly draw pictures instead of trying to put it all into words. I’m going to set a timer for 5 minutes to start and see how it goes from there!
We’ve been doing this for quite awhile, and a lot of times, they ask for this activity. Roll out a sheet of butcher paper for each kid and write their name from the top to the bottom of the paper. I use all capital letters for my 3 year old and a mix of first initial upper and the rest lower case for my 5 year old.
Hand them a pile of stickers and let them go to town outlining their names. This is great for fine motor skills, patterns and letter recognition. We’ve also taped them to the wall before, and they liked standing to place the stickers.
Our Top Choices
Whew! That’s quite a few choices for your summer days at home. As I said before, I’m not going to set myself up to try to complete every single thing successfully before August hits. These handful of activities are the ones I’m going to shoot for first, then see what happens! Give yourself some grace, mamas! Pick what speaks to you and your kids’ personalities. Let me know your go-to summer activities at home.
Color Your Own Houses
Mail Writing Station
Mwana Brick Bank/Lemonade Stand
I’ll be back soon with what you can do outside of the house to keeps the kids entertained throughout the summer. Let me know what your favorite summer activities are for your family!