summer break

Months before summer vacation rolls around, parents (moms) start talking about day camps and summer classes. Camp would be a great way to keep my kids busy, but I quickly realized that that’s not the vibe I’m going for this summer. I didn’t want to go from the last day of school to the first day of camp. I want to skip the morning scramble of breakfast, packing lunches, getting ready, applying sunscreen, and rushing the kids out the door to pick them up hours later. This revelation was met with one of two responses from friends. They either thought it was a good idea or the craziest idea ever. “But what are you going to do with them all summer?” There’s nothing wrong with summer camp. But I don’t want a packed summer schedule. I want my kids to have a slow, 1980s summer. I want to talk about why I’m planning a slow summer break and share some (simple) great ideas and activities. 


How I’m Giving My Kids a Slow Summer Break in 2024


Summer feels like a great time to plan some fun activities, and to sit on the patio with ice cream and sidewalk chalk. I want to create a summer reminiscent of the 1980s, filled with simple joys, outdoor play, and less structured schedules. Memorial Day Weekend was so fun and simple, and I want to make the most of summer holidays. My girls’ birthdays are in late June and early July, just before and after Independence day, so that’s always a fun time for us. I just want to enjoy summer with them. Now, keep in mind that we have an au pair (full-time help) and I work from home with  flexibility, and want to spend less time glued to a screen. I do still need to work but can slow down for a few months, and dive right back in come early fall, which is when things get really busy.

I took my oldest (5) to Paris earlier this month, and everything felt so much simpler in France compared to the United States. Being there with her made me realize how much I want to enjoy these summer months with my kids. Not because I only have 18 of them – I hate when people say that. I don’t know about you, but I plan on having good relationships with my kids when they’re older, too. Ultimately, I just want to keep things simple for this long summer break. We have until Labor Day to enjoy the sunshine without a packed schedule, and I want to make the most of it. 


What Inspired Keeping the Kids Home for Summer Break

As a mom of 3 who works from home and feels like I am constantly juggling, I needed a shift. My brain is tired of the constant scramble and general busyness during the school year. The pressure to be the magic-maker and keep kids “busy” and make sure they are learning, growing, and happy. I work for myself and have a very involved husband and an au pair who lives with us. So I will still be working, but giving myself more flexibility to enjoy this season. I am extremely fortunate that I can do that.

I recognize the ability to make a choice and resources to have help. Once my youngest daughter turns 5, the girls can go to camp together, so I’d like for them to experience camp, too. I made one of my best, lifelong friends at camp. It’s just that my kids are at this magical stage where they happen to be best friends, and think I’m the greatest. I want to enjoy that. We were also isolated for such a long time, and I was postpartum last year, so we didn’t do as much as I would have liked. This is our summer. And not in the way that we have limited summers. That’s the most toxic mentality, and it’s untrue. The pandemic and cancer robbed us of a lot, and I want to experience what we couldn’t. 


Keeping the Kids Together

This was the first year that my oldest has been in school all day, so my girls have gotten a lot less time together. It’s not often that they have an extended break to be together – just school holidays, and spring break and winter break. Splitting them up to go in different groups at camp didn’t feel right for them when they want to be together. And given their ages, we would have had 2 separate pickup times. They adore each other, love their au pair, and want to hang with mom and dad, too. The biggest struggle would be separating them when they really want to be together. 


Modern Parenting is Too Much 

I am not the mom that has my kids enrolled in a bunch of extracurricular activities. If that’s your thing and everyone’s happy, that’s, great. I get really stressed out when there’s too much on the calendar. We have so far done one after school activity and one weekend class. And maybe it’s just me, but the 2 classes felt like a lot with school drop-offs, pick-ups, family dinner, and bedtime. Recent years were pretty hectic, and the past year was nonstop with 3 kids, work, and life. The ideal weekend is open so we can relax, plan playdates, and enjoy time together since weekdays can feel so structured and full with school.

So I didn’t enroll my kids for the summer session of gymnastics for summer break. They’ll be swimming and playing tennis – two activities that will get them outside. I want to take them to the farmer’s market and the pool. I want them to play in our yard and take day trips to the zoo and downtown. To do all the things we couldn’t and then didn’t because of work, life, babies, etc. 


Embracing a Slow Summer Break

We’re going to have some sort of schedule because if we don’t, my kids will stay in pajamas all day. I’ve been thinking about getting a visual calendar for the family so we plug in local events and activities. I’d like a mix of a light schedule and lazy days. I enrolled them in a few short summer programs that I know they’ll enjoy, but it’s still pretty unstructured. Here are some ideas for those of you wanting to embrace a slow, lazy summer. While it’s good to have some structure, don’t over-schedule your days. Allow for flexibility and spontaneous activities. Let your kids sleep in, have lazy breakfasts, and spend afternoons lounging around. Embrace the slower pace and enjoy the lack of urgency.


Sleep In and Let Them Stay Up Late:

This doesn’t apply to my 1 year-old, but my girls will sleep until 8 or 8:30AM, and I plan on letting them do that. They also love movie nights under the stars, but it gets dark later, so I’m ok with them staying up a little later to make the most of these fun summer nights. We don’t have anywhere to be, lunches to make, and won’t be scrambling to get out the door. 


Play Outside:

This is the best way to embrace a slow, simple 1980s summer. Encourage your kids to spend time outside. Ride bikes and scooters, play on the swing set, color with sidewalk chalk, or play in the sprinklers. Growing up in the 80s, I played outside with my neighbors every single day. We rollerbladed, went swimming, and just played. We have a swing set and I have 2 large under bed boxes, one for water/sensory play and one with kinetic sand. Let the kids swing, play tag, and color with sidewalk chalk. 


Plan Simple Outings:

Plan simple, low-key outings that don’t require a lot of preparation. Visit parks, your local pool, farmer’s markets, playgrounds, and the arboretum. We plan on spending a lot of time at the pool this summer. The girls know how to swim now, and can splash around and make new friends. 


Screen-Free Time:

We’re doing a screen-free summer during the day unless it’s raining. I’m also ok with weekend morning cartoons. It’s just freezing here half the year, and I’d rather get them outside or let them play vs. sitting around watching TV all morning. We can watch 10 episodes of Bluey during winter when we don’t want to leave the house. 


Plan Field Trips:

I’d love to take a field trip downtown every week or two. It’s not often that we visit the nature museum, aquarium, beach, and parks downtown. We don’t explore too much when it’s cold and the school year doesn’t give us nearly enough free time for those adventures, so I want to make the most of it this summer. 


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Slow Summer Break Activities



Now that we’ve completed swim lessons, my girls love swimming. We’re going to spend as much time as we can at the pool. My oldest spends the entire year talking about “pool chicken” (chicken tenders at the pool) and it’s so fun (and easy) to splash around and then order a quick, easy meal at the pool before heading home for a bath and movie night under the stars. 


Outdoor Family Movie Nights

There are few things that feel more like summer than watching a movie under the stars. We set up a screen and this projector, and watch all our favorites as often as we can. 


Water Fun

Invest in simple water toys like sprinklers, water balloons, and squirt guns. On hot days, set up a sprinkler in the backyard and let the kids run through it. Have a water balloon fight or fill a kiddie pool for them to splash around in. I’m also planning on filling an under bed bin with water and this solar powered fountain, as a makeshift water table. 


Arts and Crafts

Set up an arts and crafts station in your home. Provide materials for making friendship bracelets, tie-dye shirts, and paper mâché projects. Let your kids’ creativity run wild and display their artwork around the house.

Bike Rides

Go on family bike rides around the neighborhood or local parks. Teach your older children how to ride a bike if they don’t know already. This is a great way to get some exercise and explore your community together.

Camp in your Backyard

Create a backyard camping experience. Set up a tent, roast marshmallows, and tell stories. Look at the stars. This is a fun way to experience the adventure of camping without leaving home. By slowing down and embracing simple joys, you can create a summer filled with memorable experiences, stronger family bonds, and happy, relaxed children. With a flexible work schedule, the help of an au pair, and a focus on unstructured play and outdoor activities, this summer can be a time of rejuvenation and connection for everyone.

So, let go of the need to constantly plan and schedule. Embrace the beauty of a slower pace, where your children can explore, imagine, and play freely. Create a summer that prioritizes joy, simplicity, and togetherness. In doing so, you’ll not only give your kids a summer to remember but also teach them the invaluable lesson that sometimes, the best moments in life are the simplest ones.


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