Does the prospect of sharing your summer vacation with your messy, loud, young kids make you want to travel back to a time when they were in school and the freezing-rain warnings were plentiful? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, use these life hacks to make your summer easier and your children’s vacation their best one yet.
Why you should underschedule your kids' summer
1. Get out of your house
This rule lays the groundwork for all of the other tricks and shortcuts. If you aren’t in your house, your kids can’t mess it up: They can’t drop crumbs everywhere, let bugs in, start fires or accidentally glue themselves to the wall. I am as serious about this as the demonic spirits were in The Amityville Horror. Get. Out.
2. Park yourself at a park
Find a shady green space with a splash pad or wading pool and a nearby bathroom. Bring refillable water bottles and enough food to last the day, along with Band-Aids and antiseptic wash—maybe even gauze and that glue they use instead of stitches. Actually, you know what would be really great? One of those first aid kits they keep on airplanes.
3. Get the kids wet
You don’t want to have to bathe them later. Get them in the pool, splash pad or backyard sprinkler. Not an option? Don’t be afraid to rely on their sweat and the tears of their siblings as an alternative showering option.
4. Use sunscreen as a deep-conditioning treatment
Instead of dealing with the difficult task of keeping sunscreen out of your squirmy kids’ hair, embrace it. Wash their hair in early July and apply sunscreen as needed. If it looks white and clumpy after a few weeks, don’t be alarmed: It’s just the treatment working its magic. Washing it out right before school starts can become a fun family tradition. Everyone will want to know how they got such soft, shiny hair.
5. Let them wear bathing suits as clothing
Don’t do laundry this summer! Find a bathing suit they love—ideally, a sunsuit that’s a couple of sizes too big so that it reaches from wrist to ankle (less exposed skin means less sunscreen to apply). Have them wear it at all times—just make sure that they get it wet every once in a while for hygienic reasons. Bathing suit pyjamas? Yes, please!
6. Find some dirt
Even if your kids can’t get along for 10 minutes at home, sand (OK, dirt) is the universal unifier. They can dig holes in it, roll around in it, make pies with it and bury each other in it. If you get desperate, tell them that there is a treasure buried in it (they will eventually find something). Enjoy your 10 minutes of peace and quiet.
7. Skip naps
I know the idea of taking a little break while your toddler or preschooler naps sounds dreamy (no pun intended), but if you want to get your child to bed while it’s still light out, you need him to be exhausted when you get home. Don’t let your kid nap, and avoid giving him caffeine, no matter how tempting—it always backfires.
8. Wear wireless headphones
What is the only sound that’s sweeter than your beautiful children’s laughter? The voice of the narrator of the audiobook you just bought. Wireless, in-ear headphones will change your life. You can look engaged while not paying any attention whatsoever to that story about who had the shovel first. Give them the attention they crave while not paying any attention at all.
9. Repack the same picnic every day
Don’t throw out that picnic that no one touched. Why go through the charade of peeling more carrots and slicing more cucumbers tomorrow? Nobody is going to eat that stuff anyway. Repack it and buy them the ice cream they want as bribery to leave the park at the end of the day. Make sure it’s fruit-flavoured so that you hit at least two food groups.
10. Don’t let rain ruin your plans
Unless there’s lightning, rain makes things better. It can transform your backyard into your very own splash pad. Bathing suits get wetter and cleaner than they’ve been all week (or month, if it’s been a particularly dry month). Bring out some soap. If it’s August, you might even want to start the process of washing the sunscreen conditioner out of their hair (it might take more than one rainstorm, depending on hair length and texture). Put in your headphones and watch them through the window. You are an excellent parent, and summer is wonderful!