4 summer fun tips for when parents run out of ideas

Parents! We are winding summer down here in Florida and I have to admit, I need a break from the structure required to keep kids busy but comfortable in 100 degree temperatures. Gone is the week of vacation, gone are the couple weeks of structured “camp” fun, of swimming lessons and visits from dear friends.  We have “Kids Bowl Free” often and I just can’t do any more arcades. There’s just a couple precious weeks left for my kids to be without schedules and homework and lessons. It’s time for some free play, for making messes, staying dirty, and going to bed with hair that smells like the beach/pool/sprinklers.

But believe it or not, free play takes some planning on the part of the adults. It’s really much easier to send the kids to camp all day where someone else does all the planning and cleanup. So, as much as I like the idea of it, I struggle with making it happen. Enter, The Mom Edit, with a wonderful post about how to create thee place where all the neighborhood kids want to play. Shana is a super cool Philadelphia mom who mostly writes about style but also about how to entertain and encourage fun, open play opportunities for her little ones. Here are my favorites from her post.

1. My number one is also Shana’s number 1: saying YES! She encourages and reminds us that kids really need to hear us say YES! YES! To making a mess (outside), YES! To digging in the mud, YES! To playing with the hose, YES! To getting really, really dirty: YES! Of course we need boundaries, but allowing a big YES! To come out of our mouths once in a while feels great.

2. Shana’s Don’t Make Them Share rule. We really cannot expect children to have a blast when they are sharing the one item that they all want. Follow her lead and buy a handful of each summer item (bubbles, noodles, water squirters) and make sure all the kids get to participate.

3. Keep It Accessible…Even When You Are Not There is another gem and very Montessori. The idea is to put items in a place where the child gets to decide when to play with them instead of up in a closet where they have to ask for help to retrieve what they need. The post has me inspired to pull out all of those fun summer tools: water squirters, sidewalk chalk, buckets, and even art supplies and make them accessible to my kids for the next few weeks. My house is going to be a mess but my children will be happy and that is what summer is all about.

4. Perhaps the best tip is number 6: None’ya. As these days of unstructured time wind down, remind yourself that some of the most important life lessons are taught child-to-child without the interference—however well-meaning—of an adult. If you set those kids up well, they will play and argue and then sort out their differences without adults chiming in or navigating a quarrel. It’s important work and one that needs to happen for growth to occur. Working out differences on the play yard serves the basis of some very good life skills. Stay out of it as much as you can.


What are some of your kid’s favorite summer fun activities to do? Share them in the comments.


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About Dr. Sara Connolly, Board Certified Pediatrician

Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician who practices in Palm Beach County, Florida. She completed her residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, where she served as Chief Resident. She has a passion for child advocacy and has worked on the local, state, and national level to increase access to care for children. Her interests include nutrition, breastfeeding, and parenting skills.


  1. I like the rule about not making kids share. Mine are constantly fighting over indoor toys but luckily most of the outdoor toys we have we carry in multiples because they are so inexpensive so they really don’t have to worry about sharing.


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