Create a Summer with Your Kids That Will Actually Spark JOY

With summer just around the corner, you’re likely making lists of all the fun things you want to do with the kids—from crafts and DIY projects to planning day trips in and around town. Many of us go into summer with high hopes for all the beautiful memories we’ll make with the kids, only to feel completely burned out and defeated by the end of the second week.

This summer, ditch the Pinterest-perfect crafts and Instagram-worthy photo-ops from cool day trips for something that’s actually worthy of the core memories you want to create: seemingly mundane everyday tasks.

I know what you’re thinking, I’ll go insane if I keep the kids home, we HAVE to get out of the house. I totally get that! But before you pass on the idea of making experiences out of the ordinary, hear me out. Social media has made us believe that our kids will only have memorable summers and find joy in experiences if we go above and beyond. I want you to take a moment to pause, close your eyes, and think about your happiest memories from childhood. What comes to mind?

For me, it was time spent going to the mall with my grandma, mornings immersed in the joy of making pancakes and breakfast muffins, time spent planting flowers in our front yard, the rare occasion of playing hooky from school with my mom, Star Wars movie marathons on rainy days, and the list of seemingly ordinary occurrences that will forever be imprinted in my mind goes on. When I asked my husband, it was his family’s yearly trip to the beach, occasional outings to museums and plays with his grandmother, and roaming the forest that was his backyard in Mississippi. What sparks joy for most children are the opportunities to connect and just be.

As you plan out this summer, I encourage you to opt out of the activities and outings that may bring your kids joy at the definite expense of your mental health, and instead opt in to being more mindful and present in creating experiences out of daily life that will bring you ease, while still bringing your kids joy. If you’re struggling to identify what this could look like, here are five of my personal favorites.

1. Cook a meal or bake together.

To be quite honest, cooking is not my most favorite thing. It was something that I was forced to do because of cultural expectations, BUT some of my core memories are of baking with my grandparents and mother. To me, I see this shared task as an act of immense love—a way to connect and engage in a shared experience together.

With that, I know that cooking with little ones, and even our older kiddos, can yield some anxiety and frustration. Should you choose to incorporate this more often, I would encourage you to consider the following:

  • Choose simple meals and identify how you can make various steps kid-friendly.
  • Ask older kids if they’d like to choose the meal or a recipe to try.
  • Let go of the unrealistic expectations to keep it clean AND make a plan for how you can at least minimize messes.
  • Be open to the experience and find joy in the bumps along the way.
2. Spend some time outside together.

One of my favorite things to do with the kids is to spend time outside and follow their lead. Our kids are inherently mindful and look at the world through a lens of wonder and awe. Follow their lead. Look at the clouds and describe what you see, listen to the sounds of birds and cars, pick up rocks and sticks and notice how they feel.

Looking for more ideas? Explore 18 Mindfulness Activities for Outdoors!

3. Make up your own art project.

As adults, we get so caught up in coloring inside the lines, following directions without deviating from the script, and creating for the sake of visual aesthetics. Opt out of some of those guided crafts and replace them with room for open creativity. Find random things around your house and invite your kids to join you in a “create what you want” art experience! This is a fantastic way to foster creativity and take off the pressure of art projects gone awry.

Want to bump up mindfulness by being more intentional about the materials you’re using? Here are some ideas that can be a springboard for creativity using recycled materials:

4. Limit outings to one or two times per week.

Going out may indeed be more for you than it is for the kids, and that’s okay! If you’re struggling to find a balance between staying home and going out, plan to limit the number and duration of outings so you don’t overwhelm yourself (or your kids). Be intentional in choosing places that allow them to be kids and allow you some peace of mind, interaction with other adults, or bring you joy!

Need some ideas? Check out ACM’s Summer Bucket List!

5. Have daily dance parties! (Or anything that gets the family moving!)

In my personal opinion, dancing is the absolute BEST way to get moving with your kids. It can be a time to let loose and move your body, an opportunity to learn a new skill, a way to incorporate moments of excitement and then moments of calm, and the list goes on! I love engaging in mindful movement as it takes away the pressure of having to perform and allows me, and my kids, to lean into the present moment and express emotion by moving our bodies.

Looking for something that isn’t dance-related? Check out some suggestions for Mindful Movement for Kids.

This summer, slowing down and doing things that will keep both you AND your kids sane is IN! Doing things that bring you boatloads of stress and leave you questioning why you did all of these things in the first place (because of the meltdowns or lack of noticeable gratitude) is OUT. Opt in for a summer that actually feels good for the whole family and leaves room to breathe and be.

Jeri-Ashley (she/her/ella) is a proud San Antonio native and mama to multiples (Charlie-2021, Ofilia-2019, Mia-2010). She holds her B.A. in Sociology from St. Mary's University and an M.S. in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Jeri-Ashley is a parent coach, small business owner, full-time educator, and community advocate. She has worked with school-aged children, parents, and educators for over 10 years, focusing on providing each with the tools to be more mindful in creating strong, healthy relationships, while also maximizing each individual's strengths. Her love and passion for serving others goes beyond creating change in education and into service in the San Antonio community where she has served on the board for New Leaders Council SA, works on community-driven initiatives through Latinx Noise, and provides workshops on mindful parenting through her small business The Mindfulness Co. You can catch her on the daily over on her IG @JeriTheMindfulMama sharing parenting tips, mindfulness practices, and raw motherhood experiences. Favorite Restaurant: Panchitos (Zarzamora location) Favorite Landmark: Woodlawn Lake Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Dia de los Muertos weekend