When school lets out for summer in less than three weeks, I’ll be well into my third trimester and am due with this fourth baby the week before school starts back in August. So although I’m excited for summer break (especially not rushing out the door in the morning), I’m trying to be realistic when it comes to planning and scheduling a summer bucket list. I want to ensure we have a fun summer, but I don’t want to over commit and wind up exhausted right before my new little one arrives.
I’m sure many other families will have super fun summer bucket lists that include visiting large waterparks, the zoo, the aquarium, etc. but I can already feel myself winding down this pregnancy. Not only am I older, but my body knows where it needs to get to before delivery, and for some reason, has decided that it might as well prep very early. In a nutshell, this makes for a lot of achiness, heaviness, Braxton Hicks and, quite honestly, hip and lower back pain. The good news is I start seeing a chiropractor again next week. But regardless, I know I feel my best and have the most energy in the mornings. So the majority of our summer plans will include morning activities, leaving the afternoons for Scarlett’s naptime and rest time for me and the boys. I’m hoping that letting them watch a movie during the heat of the day will work!
Though most of the following activities will apply to kids of all ages, some are more specific to younger kids since my kids are ages 6, 4 and 3. I hope this summer bucket list helps jumpstart fun ideas for your own family.
- Local Farms: My kids love visiting local farms to see how food is grown and of course sample the goods. Many farms also have special activities for kids–from tractor rides to jumpy pillows to oversized slides. Some farms also offer tours for a nominal fee, which are especially great for school-aged kids.
- State Parks: Georgia has 63 state parks and 12 national parks, which means most residents have at least one park within an hour’s drive. State parks often require a parking fee (typically $5), but they are great for day trips, especially in nice weather. We love to hike, swim (if possible), picnic, ride bikes, play on the playground and explore any other activities at a park. State parks are great for a change of scenery and change of pace.
- Camps: Most towns offer a plethora of camp choices at varying price points. Last year, I sent my boys to camp three mornings a week so I could help my husband with his business. This summer, we’ll have a little more flexibility. My oldest will go to a Sports Camp at church for three days and then both boys will go to a week at a nature camp when I’m 37 weeks pregnant. I splurged on this camp, but figured I would need that week to get everything in order for the new baby.
- Beach: We are heading to the beach at the end of May with my family and then in June with my husband’s family. The good news is this means we have extra hands to help or run after kids since I’ll be as slow as a tortoise.
Weekly or Bi-Weekly:
- Splash Pads: Splash pads are basically God’s gift to moms of multiple children since it’s nearly impossible to drown. Last summer, I took my kids a few times a month because it’s a great way to stay cool and use up energy before nap time. The best splash pads (to me) are small and fenced, allowing me to safely and comfortably keep an eye on all my kids. If I go to a larger aquatic facility, pregnant or not, I bring along another adult so I’m not quite as outnumbered.
- Lake Time: Though my kids are well-versed in water safety at this point (aka they know not to go near a lake without a life jacket or else!), I don’t feel comfortable taking them to a lake dock by myself this summer simply because my reaction time is steadily decreasing as each month of pregnancy passes. So although we currently live on the lake, I won’t take them down to the dock to swim unless I have another adult with me. This may mean we go in the late afternoons once my husband is home or convince Poppy (my retired Dad) to come over to help.
Locally: Public Lake Beaches at Don Carter State Park, Clarks Bridge Park, Bolding Mill Park, Old Federal Park. Though we have visited all of these parks, Don Carter is my favorite because of the thick white sand beach.
- Local Library Events: Most libraries plan extensive summer programs to encourage kids to continue reading while school is out for break. These programs often include free specials events featuring puppet shows, magicians, storytellers, musicians and more.
- Parks: Parks are free and easy–and we have five within a mile of us. We love heading out to a park first thing the morning while it’s still cool and then enjoying an early picnic lunch. This summer when school is out, we’ll also visit some nearby elementary school playgrounds since we never get a chance to go to those during the school year.
- Local Festivals and Events: Most towns–large or small–have downtown activities during the summer. Summer events are also held at local venues of interest. For instance, our Lake Lanier Olympic Park–home of the 1996 Olympics rowing, canoe and kayak events–holds Food Truck Fridays during the summer. Regardless of location, most public summer events are free, though concessions, souvenirs and activity passes cost.
- Cold Treats: What kid (or pregnant lady) doesn’t love a cold treat during the summer? Sure, we do popsicles at home all the time. But it’s so exciting for my kids to get to pick out their own treat.
- Movie Matinees: We didn’t go to any movies last summer. In fact, my kids’ first movie theater experience was The Star this past Christmas. But now that they are a little older (collectively) and there may be days that I’m just not feeling up to chasing them around, I predict we will attend a couple movie matinees at our local theater this summer. The kicker is these movies are only $1!
Locally: Regal Hollywood Cinemas
- Local Gardens: Though many local gardens require an entrance fee or annual pass, in my opinion they are well worth it. We love visiting our local botanical garden throughout the year to see the change in plants and changing exhibits. Many open first thing in the morning so you can explore before the summer heat sets in for the day. Some, like ours, have special activities for kids such as storytimes, crafts and wooden train sets for hands-on play.
- Farmer’s Market: Over the years, I have purchased produce through co-ops and farmer’s market box delivery. But there’s something special about taking your kids to a farmer’s market so they can savor the experience of choosing their own healthy food.
Locally: Downtown Gainesville.
- Hikes: One of our favorite family activities is hiking. And though I will no longer be able to babywear Scarlett on hikes, that doesn’t mean we’ll stop hiking. Instead, we’ll choose shorter hikes that are closer to 1 mile. It’s a great way to get outside–and the plus is that most hikes are shaded, making them easier to complete in the summer.
- Reading aloud: I have had this dream of reading aloud to my kids for a couple summers now, but I think they may finally be at an age where it will work. And quite honestly, it will be a good break for me when I need to sit down and rest this summer. My oldest would love a series like The Chronicles of Narnia, but it may be too advanced for the other two. I also follow the Read Aloud Revival blog and am considering the recommendations of My Father’s Dragon and The Water Horse. Any other ideas for 3-6 year olds?
- Reading and sight words review: It took us a while to get our groove when it came to learning sight words, and now that we’re in it, I want to continue throughout the summer so that it makes starting first grade easier for my oldest son. We’ll also work on reading. At his teacher’s recommendation, I purchased a set of sight words books by National Geographic Kids (here and this one soon). He loves reading them so we will rotate through them this summer.
- Cooking: Though I cook every day, I’d love to choose one of my kids to be a helper with dinner each night. Not only would I appreciate the help, but I think it will be a great learning experience for them. I want them to head off to college being able to cook! Also, I’m devoting this summer to prepping a bunch of freezer meals (fingers crossed) to make it easier once the new baby comes. I had 20 meals frozen when Scarlett was born and it helped make the transition so much easier, especially because I tend to run out of steam at the end of the day (says every mom, I know!).
- Gardening: I won’t claim to have a green thumb, and quite honestly, I’ve never had the time (+ motivation) to devote to trying my hand at gardening. But my husband really enjoys it and my kids absolutely love helping him. And me? Well I love eating the fruits (and veggies) of his labor. Currently, we have three hydroponic systems set up as well as produce planted outside.
Am I missing any good ideas? What’s on your summer bucket list?