Summer Notebook – Writing and Planning Fun With Kids
The fun thing about summer is popsicles. The other fun thing is that you get to choose what your summer flows like and feels like. Are you going to go for a rigidly-scheduled Von-Trapp-a-thon complete with custom whistle sounds for each of your children? How about a free-for-all where everyone does whatever they like until you’re all sick of fun?
We’ve found an awesome balance halfway between the two. It takes planning. It takes a little time and focus. And, like most good things in life, it takes a notebook and pen. This system has worked great for my kids ages 5-12 and we do it every summer.
Each summer I draw out a giant calendar on poster board and create a master plan for the summer, non-negotiables, vacations, swimming lessons, the local storytelling festival. Then I brainstorm a ton of possible activities on color-coded sticky notes and the kids help me choose which hikes, parks, museums and activities we want to attempt each day.
I buy each kid a notebook and pen and each evening we hold a planning meeting for the next day. We date the page and talk about what big activity we want to do and we make a plan that includes the following things:
- What we need to prepare for the activity and how long it will take to get ready.
- What each child is personally responsible to prepare. One makes picnic lunches. One fills water bottles. One packs sunscreen and hats for everyone. They each pack their own day pack.
- What time we need to leave for the activity.
- What time we need to wake, eat breakfast, and do our chores so we can leave as scheduled.
During the planning meeting, everyone writes the plan down in his or her notebook so they’re all accountable and engaged and they can refer to it the following day. Of course the level of detail in each notebook is different depending on the child’s age and desire to write. Younger kids can draw pictures or use their best kid spelling. Last summer even my five-year-old was able to write her pack list in a way that she could decipher it the following morning and cross things out as she went along.
At the end of each day, before your planning meeting for the following day, have each kid write down a sentence or two about what you did and how you enjoyed it. That way you have a journal record of what you’ve done to look back on once the summer is over.
Of course we don’t plan every minute of every day. We just make a plan to start the day off right and then most days we have one structured activity to plan for. Often that leaves us with a good chunk of the day for free time. But the free time can really feel free because we’ve already gotten up, dressed, and done our chores, and we know we have a plan and we’re not wasting our summer.
I have spent several summers with my kids brainstorming a big list of things we’d like to do and when the summer ends the list is still there and we don’t know what’s happened to all those days and weeks we had together.
So, notebook planning with your kids helps you make the best use of those sunny days. It also gives your kids a sense of control, helps them keep a routine, motivates them to keep on top of their chores so they can get to the fun sooner, teaches them to manage their time, and improves their writing skills. In fact, one of the main reasons we started doing this was to work on fine motor skills over the summer without Working On Fine Motor Skills.
I hope you enjoy filling up your summer days with hikes, parks, family projects, movies, memories, and a healthy dose of laziness. And don’t forget the popsicles!
Now that you are equipped to be super organized and enjoy some family activities this summer, check out a few of our favorite summer fun activities that you can add to your notebooks: