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Tips for a smooth-sailing summer
A little planning can give routine to the long stretch of summer days. - photo by Erin Stewart
Summer always starts out the same way for me each year: Fully stocked in frozen pops and grandiose plans to spend three months making idyllic memories with my children.

Cut to two weeks into the summer when the complaints of being bored are multiplying as quickly as the inexplicable number of water cups out on the counter.

The truth is, summer is long. Kids get bored. Moms get bored. And just like that, the TV goes on and pretty soon an entire summer has gone by and instead of magical memories, youre left with lazy kids with fewer brain cells.

So, here are my go-to, keep-me-sane tips to having a fun summer that will not end with fights, regrets or TV-zombies:

1. Make a plan. Sit down at the very beginning of the summer and have everyone in the family list the top three things they want to do this summer. For a few years, we made a crazy extensive list of all the things we wanted to accomplish, but this method was overwhelming and had the same effect as if we had no list at all. Instead, we now prioritize our top things that we definitely want to have done by the time we head back to school, and then I make sure we schedule those in before anything else.

2. Create a chore system. Its easy to let chores slip during the summer, but my kids crave the routine and are actually happier when they accomplish their usual chores each day.

3. Enforce school time. I have so many memories of filling out my handwriting notebook at the beach as a kid. And since I was a grade-A nerd, I loved it. So, Ive passed on the tradition to my children by setting academic goals for the summer. Each day, the kids must write, read and do a workbook for 20 minutes each. I use the Summer Bridge Activity workbooks, along with an app called ChoreMonster that allows us to assign points for each activity, which my kids use to earn a reward at the end of the summer.

4. Set screen time guidelines. Watching TV or playing video/phone games is an easy rescue for boredom in the summer. Id rather my kids not resort to these activities, but instead of simply banning them, we allow them to have screen time after they meet a series of daily checklist items. Ive seen a lot of these types of charts circulating on the internet, so make the one thats right for your family.

For us, screen time is only allowed after a child has:

Done reading, writing and workbook for 20 minutes each.

Finished daily chores.

Played outside for at least 15 minutes.

Cleaned an area of the house (can be a whole room or a desk drawer).

Done an act of service for someone else in the family.

Summer is my time to reconnect with my children without the chaos of school and a million activities. With a little planning and routine, we get to enjoy the "nothingness" of summer and make the most of our time.