Have you ever heard the saying that we only have eighteen summers with our kids? In theory, there is something so magical about summer. Everyone is home together, the weather is warm, and the opportunities to make memories of a lifetime are endless. But summertime can also be overwhelming. You might feel pressure to pack each day with activities, or you might feel guilty if you let a day pass by where everyone is vegging in front of the TV. How do you balance the magic with the overwhelm? Enter the summer bucket list for kids. Building a summer bucket list with your kids is the ideal way to make sure everyone has a memorable summer without feeling overwhelmed or guilty.
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The Benefits of Building a Summer Bucket List for Kids
You can create a summer schedule that fits your lifestyle. Everyone has different amounts of free time over the summer. You might be a stay-at-home mom hoping to fill your long days with lots of little activities. On the other hand, maybe you work outside the home and need to create a list that maximizes the evenings and weekends you have. With the bucket list, you are in control of the number, type, and timing of activities. If you only have the time or bandwidth for eight bucket list items, then only write out eight. There is no need to feel pressured to complete 101 activities over the summer if it would just stress you out.
There are mental benefits to planning ahead. If you already know what you and your kids are planning to accomplish by the end of summer, you can let go of any worry that you are not doing enough for them or providing them a fun summer. You will have already decided together what “enough” and “fun” look like. You can also avoid dragged-out discussions that start with, “What should we do today?” because you will already have a list at your fingertips to choose from.
Choosing activities together will make them more meaningful. If you and your kids choose your summer bucket list items together, you can have confidence that your summer will be perfect for you. Why feel like you owe it to your kids to catch fireflies or fly a kite when your family’s ideal summer includes a movie marathon and perfecting your poker game? You are in control.
How to Build the Perfect Summer Bucket List for Kids
Ready to build your summer bucket list? This four-step system was designed to help families create an intentional summer, and then commemorate and reflect on the experience together.
Step 1: Set your goals
I am a firm believer in starting with the end in mind. The first step is for your family to look at the big picture and decide what this summer is going to be like for the family. Answer these three questions to help get a handle on what your family members are hoping to experience.
- How do we want to our home, family, or selves to be different at the end of the summer? If you were to compare your family at the beginning of the summer to the family you hope to see at the end, what change would you see in yourselves? Maybe you’ll have learned something new, decorated an area of your home, implemented some new family routines, gotten into shape, or had lots of fun new experiences your kids can share with their friends when they get back to school.
- When we look back on our summer, how do we want to be able to describe it to others? Think about the words you’d each use to describe the summer you hope to have. Do you want it to be “adventurous” or “epic,” or would you rather it be “peaceful” and “relaxing”?
- What is everyone most looking forward to? Each person probably has something different they are most looking forward to over the summer. Ask what everyone is most excited about to be sure you get all the big wish list items out in the open before you even start the brainstorming process in the next step.
Step 2: Brainstorm Your Summer Bucket List Ideas
The next step is to engage in a brainstorm of everything you and your family might want to do over the summer. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as you can, and you will eventually narrow the ideas down to populate your actual summer bucket list.
Remember to write down both big and small ideas. Having a bucket list full of extravagent vacation ideas may not be feasible for your family.
It might help to brainstorm within categories, both to prompt the creative juices to flow and to be sure you are thinking of diverse activities.
I’ve compiled some categories and corresponding ideas to get you started, which you can read below. Care.com also has a great list.
60+ Summer Bucket List Ideas for Kids
Food to Eat
- Make homemade popsicles (try this popsicle maker)
- Visit our favorite ice cream stand
- Roast marshmallows around a campfire
- Eat at our favorite restaurant
- Have a picnic outside
- Grill out
- Attend a potluck
- Try a new recipe
- Let the kids make dinner
- Order from a food truck
Places to Play
- Take a tour through all the area parks
- Enjoy a day at the pool
- Get wet at a splash park
- Find an indoor play area
- Use every outdoor toy we have in the backyard
- Explore a natural playground
Events to Attend
- Enjoy an outdoor concert
- Explore a local festival
- Watch a theatrical performance
- Take in a fireworks display
- Attend a birthday party
- See a parade
- Join a class sponsored by a local library, park, or community center
Trips to Take
- See our favorite animals at the zoo
- Splash at a waterpark
- Tour a museum
- Sleep in a hotel
- Visit an amusement park
- Build a sand castle on the beach
- Ride on a train
Things to Make
- Build a fort (this will help!)
- Paint and hide kindness rocks
- Complete a photo album or scrapbook
- Make our own slime or playdough
- Perfect our paper airplane designs
- Tie-dye a shirt
Games to Play
- Have a family board game night
- Learn mom and dad’s favorite childhood games
- Host a neighborhood game of kickball
- Learn a new sport
- Play road trip games while we are in the car
- Have our own backyard Olympic games
People to See
- Visit out-of-town relatives
- Have a playdate with friends from school
- Bring treats to our neighbors
- Make plans with friends we don’t see much during the school year
- Make a new friend
- See a notable public figure in person
Movies to Watch
- A new movie in the theaters
- A movie everyone in the family loves
- Something mom and dad watched when they were young
- A movie that’s considered a “classic” no one has seen
- Find a movie with a character that shares a name with a family member
- A movie recommended by a friend
Skills to Learn
- Play a new card game
- Cook something we’ve never cooked before
- Learn to use a yo-yo
- Perfect a new swimming stroke
- Introduce ourselves to a new type of art or craft
- Figure out how to tie our shoes
- Practice writing in cursive
- Master typing on a keyboard
- Work on speaking a new language
Step 3: Write Your Summer Bucket List… And Complete It!
Next, it’s time to transfer your ideas to your actual list. Look at your brainstorm and narrow it down to the things you most wish to do over the summer. Remember to think carefully about the number and type of items that fit in with your family’s lifestyle.
In an ideal world, everyone would agree on all the bucket list items you want to include, but it may not work out that way. To accomodate different opinions, you could:
- Allow each family member to contribute a certain number of items
- Ask each family member to rank the ideas in order, and include the ones that rise to the top of several family members’ lists
- Write everything down on slips of paper and randomly draw them out of a hat
Step 4: Reflect
You might think you’d be done after writing out the list and doing the activities, but I’m all about closing the loop! I suggesting taking the time to commemorate and reflect on each activity and putting together a keepsake notebook or binder. Write down the date and the activity you completed, record some favorite memories, reflect on what you’d change, and mark down whether you want to do the same activity next summer. You could even paste a photo or have the kids draw a picture for each activity!
At the end of the summer, you can also reflect on the overall goals you set at the beginning of the summer.
- How are your home, family, and selves different?
- What words would you use to describe the summer?
- What were your favorite memories?
As you close the chapter on your summer, it will be rewarding to look back as a family, thinking about how much fun you had and how you are different.
Printable Summer Bucket List for Kids
To make the whole process as easy as pie for you, download the Summer Bucket List printable packet! This set of printables walks you through each part of the summer bucket list process.
You’ll receive worksheets for:
- Family goal-setting and check-in
- Brainstorming bucket list items
- The bucket list itself
- Journal pages
Place them into a binder, and you’ll have a wonderful keepsake by the end of the summer. Receive your complete Summer Bucket List printable packet instantly by entering your name and email address below!
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