How can you cultivate rest + play this summer?
This summer is my eleventh summer as Momma. From that first summer, when I realized I was pregnant on June 30th and spent weeks wide eyed and full of wonder at what was to come … until now … eleven years and three children later, and I continue wide eyed and full of wonder about what has happened, and what is to come.
There is something about summer that feels so significant in childhood. I cherish the memories of summer days at the public pool, picnics at the library, concerts with my Grandma, being bored out of my mind with my sister, going on adventures with my friends, and taking long camping trips with my family.
A few summers into motherhood, I found myself asking – how do I cultivate a rhythm of summer for our family? At that point, my kids weren’t school-aged yet, so their day-to-day life was pretty much the same year round. My rhythm of part-time work and my husband’s work travel schedule didn’t really change for the summer. So I found myself asking, if schedules looked so similar, how did I get it to feel like summer? I craved more than a week of vacation away together. I was desiring more of a “feeling of summer” at home. I wondered how to cultivate rest and play amidst the constraints of our real life – with our real kids.
Since then, I have found myself every springtime, beginning to think about the summer, reflecting on what worked well last summer, what didn’t, and considering the summer ahead. If you find yourself with a similar longing, here are some ways to consider cultivating a feeling of summer within your family and home.
Decide what Matters Most:
What matters most this summer?
Honestly, consider your current situation – number and ages of kids, work commitments, childcare realities, etc … and decide at this stage and season – what feels the most important this summer? What does your family need most in this season? What do you need most in this season? Rest? Adventure? Connection? Come August, what will feel like the most important yes’es? What won’t?
As you enter the summer season, what do you and your children need in order to engage with life in a rested, regulated way?
How much structure do you or your children benefit from? Is sticking to a set schedule needed to honor one of your family member’s needs, or is everyone able to navigate flexibility in their routine? Are your kids able to manage late bedtimes or missed naps easily? Or does sleep need to be, for the most part, consistent? Do busy days need to be off set with slower days in order for your kiddos to decompress, or are you a crew that can thrive amidst a lot of action? Take some time to intentionally think about each family member and their regulation needs, so you can enter this season of shifting schedules with intention.
Rest + Play:
How does your family rest and play together?
Based on ages, temperaments, and life stages – what actually invites each of you into rest or play? What is realistic for your family this summer? Play dates at the park? Water Tables in the backyard? Picnics in the backyard? Does going to the local pool sound fun or stressful? Are your kids ready to take on an amusement park? Pick a few things that sound inviting. Once you find something that works, plan a regular rhythm of engaging with that activity. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel each day/week/summer. Find what works and keep doing it until it doesn’t.
How can you make your life a little simpler this summer to free yourself up for what matters most?
Would it be helpful to re-arrange a part of your house to be more kiddo friendly? Would it be helpful to make tweaks to your play space outside or set up an art basket inside? Last summer, I invested in a family pool/lake bag that we kept packed and ready to go – so at any point if my husband or I wanted to take the kids swimming, we were ready and not stuck searching for swimsuits or sunscreen. Would it be helpful to have a different meal planning or lunch packing plan as you navigate kiddo camps?
One summer, I realized that if I headed to the pool right after lunchtime while my husband got the kids settled for naps and quiet time, I could find us seats and have almost an hour and a half to read before he showed up with the kids. When you have three kids under 7, an hour and a half to read uninterrupted feels sort of like a mini-vacation. Now I know – this is an easy way for me to get to rest and recharge, so I’m ready to play with my kids at the pool. Do I get to do this every time? Nah … but it is a regular rhythm I remember/engage with. Similarly, nights out on patios chatting with girlfriends make me feel like myself.