The magic of a laid back summer


Summer vacation! For a sweet couple of months, enjoy a break from the pressures of standardized testing, rushing around, extracurricular activities, practices and events. You get to create the out-of-school learning adventures for your children that feel best for you. Make the most of it!

It’s okay to step away from doing, doing, doing all the time. Remember, we are human beings, not human doings. Slow down the pace. Allow your children to simply be.

I’m a fan of laid back summers. Laid back doesn’t mean boring, though! Learning continues in the summer with a different, refreshing vibe.

Whether you're home with the kids for a few days of staycation from work, or they are home all summer long, download this list of ideas to keep them meaningfully engaged.

Take time to stop and smell the flowers. Enjoy running barefoot in the grass. 

The magical moments become the treasured memories. 


There’s lots of fun and adventure to be had whether in your own backyard or away at camp. The key is to balance structure while creating space for kids to discover their own fun.

I’m a firm believer in giving kids time to explore their own interests. There’s not much time for creative downtime during the school year.

I cherished the summers spent with my children, providing interesting opportunities with their friends and by themselves to help them grow. Letting their imaginations run free was a gift that has helped them in their young adult life.

Provide simple structure

Vacation is a break from tight school schedules. Dance lessons and team sports take a short and welcome break, leaving time for you to create your own family fun and run on a different clock.

Everyone needs some structure. Without it, both you and your kids will drive each other crazy. Find the balance that works for you so everyone understands what’s expected from them.

  • Create a daily schedule. Wake up, eat and go to bed at about the same time.

  • Make expectations clear.

  • Use a family calendar - include summer school, daily reading, chores, free time, appointments, family vacation, camp, lessons, etc. Color code chores for each child.

  • Decide on family responsibilities (setting the table, emptying dishwasher, recycling, making beds, folding laundry, gardening, etc.). Be clear about when tasks need to be completed.

  • Put your kids ideas on the calendar, too. 

Life is more predictable and easier to plan when everyone knows the game plan.

If Friday is pizza night, you know you’re off the hook for cooking. Kids know when recycling is if it’s on the calendar. Give them responsibility for chores by checking the calendar. Remind them if necessary (so go ahead and plan to remind them!). When tasks are completed, there’s time for free time activities. Keep things simple and flexible.

Curiosity and learning takes on a new, fun dimension outside of the classroom. My son began playing trumpet in elementary school. Practicing alone got a bit dull. So, his buddies came over for weekly backyard concerts. They got in their practice time, had fun, and entertained the neighbors.


Use the summer to focus on creating healthy habits and new skills

  • Get outside. Aim for two hours a day. When it’s raining, put on on rain boots. Go puddle stomping, walk in the rain. Nobody’s gonna melt!

  • Mess around in the garden. Kids are so proud of the food they grow themselves.

  • Limit electronics to less than 2 hours a day, after chores are completed. If there are no limits, it will likely become unlimited.

  • Visit farm stands and farmer’s markets. Try new seasonal foods.

  • Encourage imagniation through games, chalk art, scavenger hunts, putting on plays…

  • Develop balance and coordination, strength and focus through bike riding, running, scooters, balance beam, jump rope, interval training and obstacle courses.

  • Practice reading, writing and math skills by using them in everyday activities like price shopping at the grocery store.

  • Just be. Yoga or fishing are great ways to learn to just relax and be comfortable in their own skin, letting their minds simply be. Learning to be comfortable in the quiet is a powerful skill.

  • Get kids involved in the kitchen. Plan meals and cook together, using math skills and learning time management.

  • Stimulate kids bodies and minds.

Both of my kids love reading. My daughter wanted to start a book club. I bought up the entire set of Nancy Drew and Babysitter Club books at a used book store. My daughter set up a borrowing library, invited friends for a weekly book club with projects. The backyard fort meetings were full of snacks and laughter.

Give space for kids to be creative and come up with their own ideas. If they have summer homework assignments, maybe they’d like to do them with a friend. Let them schedule it. Be amazed at how they can find a way to make it fun. They might find interesting places to do their work, like  at a park, at home, in the library, at the pool. Of course, you’ll need to have check-ins to monitor the progress. Let them buy into the process and own it!


Create a Rainy Day Plan

  • Set up a Rainy Day Jar. Everyone can add their rainy day activity ideas ideas on slips of paper and put them in a mason jar. Take turns pulling one out on a rainy've got the plan!

  • Bake cookies for a neighbor or relative.

  • Create a family cookbook, collecting favorite recipes from relatives.

  • Put together an arts and crafts stash..

  • Learn how to sew, knit, or crochet. If you don’t know how, check out YouTube.

  • Clean out closets and drawers. Sort and organize clothing or toys to donate for someone else who can use them.

Make time for family adventures

Outings don’t have to be fancy, far away or pricey. That’s entirely up to you.

Honestly, some of the best times we’ve had together were spent on the beach, hiking along a stream looking for frogs and rocks, and stopping for ice cream on the way home.

Summer is the perfect time to kick back and explore. Take the time to check local points of interest. See what’s right in your neighborhood. There are bound to be interesting surprises!

It’s the season to take a slower approach to the usual frenetic speed. Whether your kids are at home with you or a caregiver, or at camp or daycare during the week, you can choose to allow life to move at a mellower pace. Friendships, mastering new skills, playing  more, and nourishing a love of learning will carry them into the next school year and beyond.

What memories do you hope that you and your children will make this summer? I hope they are wonderful!



Denise Fountain is a Life Transformation Coach and Certified Professional Coach. She works with women going through transitions to rediscover themselves and create lives that are happy, healthy and whole again. Together with her clients, she explores the connection between stress, health and happiness, and guides her clients to move forward to make lasting and sustainable changes.

Denise is passionate about helping women live their best lives. Denise provides coaching for clients living anywhere by phone or Skype, and is available for speaking engagements and workshops. Sign up for updates. Contact her at to learn more about how Denise can partner with you to create the life you dream of.