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Six Tips for a Smoother Summer

Quick thanks for your sweet comments about my mom’s laundry room makeover!  So fun to hear from so many of you on various forms of social media.  I’m thrilled you all liked the before and afters!  That was such a fun project.  Ok.  Moving on.  :)  Summer is in full swing!  How are we all doing?  Thriving or surviving?  I usually start out thriving and by August I’m in total survival mode.  I am finding that as my kids get older I’m enjoying each summer more and more.  It’s such a treat to escape their busy school schedules and have more quality time together.  I also think I enjoy our summers more each year because I’ve developed a few summer routines that keep things running a little smoother while we all spend SO much time together.  Here are six things I do each year that help me keep my sanity during the summer.  :)  


It’s no surprise that I love nothing more than a good list!  Lists have become such a part of my daily life that I’d be completely lost with them.  Summer is no exception!  At the beginning of each summer the girls and I brainstorm all of the fun things we want to do with our time together.  Above is our list from 2011.

And here is our current summer to-do list.  A lot of the things are the same and things we will do regardless, but one thing I love about these lists is that they can act as a sort of “I’m bored” stopper.  My kids are usually pretty good to entertain themselves but if they do happen to be wandering around wondering what to do, they can always check our list to get a few fun ideas.

Other lists that are always popping up around our house are the kids’ chore lists.  The above list was one I made for the girls when they were younger and below is a current weekend list.  

My girls are able to help so much more now!  In the summer when we’re home I let my kids sleep in and relax for a bit in the morning and then it’s time for chores.  Chores have to be done before any fun activity can start (there’s always something they want to do that’s great motivation for finishing fast!).  I’ve been working on a daily chore list for this summer and will share it when it’s finished, but lately I’ve just been writing the kids’ daily to-do’s on a piece of paper each morning and my girls check them off when they’re done.  Nothing fancy!  But it’s effective.

Another list that I put up every summer is our “get out the door list.”  I created this list above years ago when my youngest was a baby.  We were going to the beach and pool almost every day and it was so much work getting three little ones out the door that I felt like I needed a checklist to keep my sanity!  It was so helpful that I create a new updated list each summer.  SO nice to be reminded to grab things I might normally forget like sunglasses, water, or goggles as I’m walking out the door.   Lists make it so my brain can be on auto pilot.  :)

We all know that when siblings start spending too much time together things can get a little crazy.  When my girls were younger I created these “Star Charts” to help encourage them to get along, keep their rooms clean, etc.

I cut the stars out of an old bulletin board border I had from my teaching days and just put Velcro on everything so we could change out the goals and rewards.  My girls LOVED these!  They were seriously so effective.  The act of putting a star on for each thing they accomplished at the end of each day was like gold to them.  

We used them on and off for years (especially in the summer time!).  The picture above was a couple of years later with a different set of goals.  (One tip *let the kids’ help you come up with the goals and rewards – they love to have ownership in stuff like this and come up with some pretty fun things you might not have thought of yourself.)  :)

Our rewards were always fun family/friend activities.  Instead of a toy or money, I wanted to teach them that spending time together doing something fun was the best reward.

Obviously you don’t have to create something like my star charts to have the same effect.  Simple stickers on a piece of paper would work.  Little kids especially thrive with this sort of thing.  I’m working on something similar for my 4 year old little buddy this summer.  :)


One of the hardest things for me about summer is the constant snacking!  Some days I feel like all I do is prepare snacks and meals.  And you all know how I feel about this sort of thing.  :)  When I shared how I’m organizing my new fridge I talked about having healthy snacks cut up and ready to each as much as possible.  I’ve found this helps tremendously with the summer snacking.  
Often I’ll prepare something like this in the mid morning and when the kids want a snack I’ll tell them to head to the fruit/veggie tray!  If they eat most of it they can get crackers or something else, but at least I know they are getting some nutrition AND I’m not preparing snacks 348 times a day. Or something close to that.  :)


We all know I’m all about organizing everything.  :)  But if there is one thing that has to be organized for summer it’s our arts and craft supplies.  Summer is a great time for your kids to be creative and find their inner Picasso!  But if supplies aren’t organized and become a constant daily mess it’s no fun for anyone.

These pics are of how I organized my mom’s art supplies in her recent laundry room makeover.  So simple.  When the kids are done creating, they can just put everything back in its bin in the cupboard.

In our previous house I used a kitchen cabinet to create an organized craft cupboard.  LOVED this so much.  So did my kids.  They knew where everything was and could pull it all out and make a mess on the table and then put everything back quickly and easily in its place.  (You can check the full post on this cupboard here.)

For this summer I created an organized art caddy to corral the kids’ go to craft supplies.  Crayons are in their own container.  I also have a craft cupboard in the works in my new office.  Coming soon to a blog near you.  :)


While we love to go where the wind takes us in the summer and have less of a schedule, I still like to have a few activities ready for those afternoons when kids aren’t getting along as well or they need some quite time or a break from friends.  There are so many places you can go on-line to find fun activities or art projects.  I’ve collected quite a few on some of my Pinterest Boards if you are looking for this sort of thing.  

One activity I love to do each summer is record my kids’ school information from the previous school year.  These are a few pages from my girls’ albums they completed years ago.  I haven’t taken pictures of more recent pages yet.  

 These pages are from school kits I’ve had for years but you obviously don’t need them to do this same activity with your kids.  Just pull out blank paper and have them write all about the previous school year.  Who their friends were, what subjects they loved, what was a moment they’ll never forget, etc.  I LOVE these pages.  Such treasures.  I really enjoy seeing how their handwriting and interests change each year.  And so do the kids!

 While my kids write their own pages I can get caught up on adding a few other things from the year to their albums.

I got REALLY behind on our albums while we were building our house so I’m going to prioritize these school pages for sure this summer.  (For more info. about my kids’ albums you can check here.)

This is one last summer activity I’ve shared before that I have to mention again for anyone who missed it.  Give your kids buckets full of water and a few paint brushes.  Let them “paint” a wall or space in your yard.  Such a simple activity that has kept my kids entertained each summer for years!  I keep thinking they’ll grow out of it but they don’t.  Very happy about that.  :)


Summer is full of trips!  And I’ve traveled enough with little ones to know that the key to a successful family trip {and I call a trip with kids a trip – not a vacation :) } is all about preparation.  If you spend some time preparing a few activities to keep them busy on the road or in the plane you will make life MUCH easier for yourself.

 I shared a few tips on traveling with kids in this post here.  

So that’s it!  Six things that have become summer habits for me that help our family of five enjoy a much smoother summer.  These six things make me feel like I’m thriving instead of just surviving.

And who doesn’t want that?  

*Would love to hear any tips you have that help you to thrive during the summer!

xoxo, Erin
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12 thoughts on “Six Tips for a Smoother Summer

  1. My 3 are a little younger than your girls and closer to Kole’s age. I have a just-turned-5-year old boy who your descriptions of Kole remind me of, a just-turned 3 year old girl, and an 11 month old girl. I also do some of the things you mention, I have also found that I need to remember some down time at home – there are so many awesome things to do in the summer and yet my best memories of summers as a kid involve either down time at home playing for hours in our backyard, or the pool. So when mommy guilt strikes because it’s perfect (zoo, museum, park, whatever) weather and we are home, I remind myself this is good for them too. I also remind myself that at this age everything doesn’t have to be a half day affair. So if the weather is iffy or we just don’t have a lot of time, an hour with friends is fine vs our normal 3 hrs. Or a quick stop at the park or pool is better than none (normally). This is the first time I have an-early-to-bed sleeper, and it’s been an adjustment, but I’m using this to help focus on getting evening routines in place for school this fall. I’ll either have a P and K or a P and pre-K so we will have school 5 days a week and our evening routine will be really important for the first time. I’m babbling now. I wish we lived close Erin, I would love to know you as we share many interests and passions.

    On a side note, my high school friend was in with her family from CA. She has 3 kids all 4-6 months younger than each of mine. As they were leaving my son said,”I wish they could live here, mommy. Then we could be next door best buddies.”. Me too bud! I know several CA ladies I wish lived closer! :). Enjoy your holiday weekend.

  2. Erin – thank you so much for this great post! Lots of wonderful ideas in here! I always love stopping by your blog in the morning – it’s like catching up with a friend!!

  3. Good Thursday morning, Erin!

    Your lists are wonderful, and so are the star charts for the kids, healthy snacks, activities and travel things.

    Being organized like that makes everything so much easier.
    You are a great role model for creating order. I love it!

  4. Great ideas!! I l love lists! Snack tray is a great idea, my two are snackers that’s for sure! And getting sorted with school project life books too! Maybe we can do an end of July post and August post on how we did accomplishing the lists and project life books ;)

  5. Hi Erin!
    Love your summer tips! I clicked back to re-read post on trips with kids bc we r traveling a lot this summer& I was wandering two things:
    1. Do u have any specific tips for long plane rides with young children?
    2. I have a real “packing for dummies” question :-D
    I know this may seem silly, but what is your routine on morning of trip? Do u leave out a bag with make-up hair stuff? I know that’s silly but it always drives me crazy to be running down to car to get my curling iron etc. but If I don’t completely pack everything the night before I feel like I will forget something. I just feel like our leaving never goes smoothly.& & the linger we take to get on the road, the grouchier the Mr. becomes :) I really need some tips on the morning of the trip & getting out the door! Like what to pack what to leave out, etc. I REALLY want to get this down on our next trip!!!!
    Thank you for all the great organizing tips!!!! Your blog inspires me everyday to be neater and happier!
    Michele L.
    From LV

  6. Awww.. thanks Ashley and Kim! :)

    JC – sounds like we have so much in common! Maybe you DO need to consider a move to CA! ;) Thanks for the fun comment!

    Susan – you always make me smile! I’m so happy you feel that way. :)

    Michele – I’ll have to do a post on my packing/day of the trip get out the door routine. I do have one! Great idea. I’ll share that when I have time to pull it together. Thanks for your sweet words about my blog! Means so much to me. :)

    Asher – I bought that veggie tray at our local grocery store! A random item they had a few years ago. Sorry that’s not much help!

    Thanks for the sweet comments and support everyone! xx

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