7 Rules of Summer: Kids Edition

Make it a summer they’ll remember — with messy projects, good books and plenty of downtime.

When you’re a kid, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as the first day of summer vacation: three whole months (give or take) of white space on the calendar sprawled out ahead, and no school, homework or teachers in sight. Vow to make the most of these fleeting months with your kids by adopting a few (or all eight) of these rules of summer. They’ve waited all year for this — let’s make it awesome.

1. I will keep schedules and spaces simple

Too much stuff, whether it’s physical clutter or schedule clutter, saps our energy. Set the stage for a simpler summer by keeping some open space in the family schedule and in the home. If you feel inspired to do so, spend a day early in the summer clearing away excess clutter and taking it to a local donation center — your kids may not thank you, but they will notice the difference nonetheless.

2. I will remember that boredom is often a prerequisite for creativity

Whines of “I’m bored!” are no parent’s favorite thing, but if you can endure the complaints without giving in to the demand (for screen time, naturally), chances are the kiddos will find something creative to make or do. Play forts, lemonade stands, DIY board games and homemade comic books — you might be surprised at what your “bored” kids come up with!

3. I will say yes to messy projects

It’s all too easy to say no to kids’ ideas for messy, slightly out-of-hand ideas for projects, whether they fall into the arts and crafts or science and tinkering category. They seem inconvenient, messy and time-consuming — right? But these kinds of things are exactly what makes creative, crafty, open-ended projects such a hit with kids (and such a great alternative to screen time).

To make it easier to say yes, keep an oilcloth or painter’s drop cloth handy to cover the table (and the floor, while you’re at it), and put together a few bins of age-appropriate materials, and then step back and see what your kids create. Bonus: Pick up a few idea-packed books and keep them on a shelf near your art table for inspiration.

4. I will take it outside

One of my favorite things about summer is that anything you can do inside is almost always better done outside. So whether your child is into reading, chalk drawing, craft projects, Lego building or tea parties, bring it all outdoors and enjoy your activity in the fresh air. Just be sure you have enough shade and that everyone stays hydrated.

5. I will let beach gear stand in as decor

If boogie boards and water skis are regular features in your house, don’t fight them — use them. Leaning against a wall, these props of summer make cheerfully beachy decor (and you’ll always know right where they are).

6. I will combat “summer slide” with the power of great books

What teachers call “summer slide” is the tendency for students to lose over the summer some of the strides they made during the past school year. Make summer reading tempting with a comfy reading corner stocked with cushy chairs or beanbags and a selection of child-chosen books (Captain Underpants is a big hit at my house) for independent readers, plus a few more challenging or thought-provoking parent-chosen books for reading aloud or together.

7. I will keep my sense of humor

The beginning of summer is full of good intentions: We will be more laid-back, more creative, more organized, more fun! But of course, as with any time of year, there will be sibling fights that last all day, lost library books and crayon marks on the walls. At times like these, the best practice is to take a deep breath (or 50) and then imagine yourself in the future, when you can transform what feels like utter disaster (permanent marker on new white bedspreads, anyone?) into just another classic story from your little ones’ growing-up years.