September is here, and while you might already be ordering PSLs and shopping for fall fashion staples, there’s still plenty of summer left before the first day of autumn officially pops up on your family’s calendar.
This time of year, you might be the mom who’s thrilled her child is back to school—whether that means homeschooling, in-person classes, virtual learning or a combination of all three during this “new normal”—or you might be feeling like summer just began, wondering how it went by so fast.
Me? I’m in that last category. My kids just went back-to-school, and I feel not-at-all prepared to see less of them and have more to do on our daily schedule. I’m not quite ready to get back into the daily routine of lunch prep, school drop-off, and earlier bedtimes. I’ve enjoyed the looser summer vibe and to help keep it going just a little bit longer, I put together some easy-to-execute ideas to make the very end of summer seem extra special for the kids—and for me.
1. Have a “yes” day
Often as parents, we have to say “no” to set boundaries and to keep our children safe and healthy. But one day, see if you can say “yes” to your child’s requests throughout the day (within reason). Set some realistic expectations (i.e. we can’t fly to Disney World, but we could safely go to a nearby park/zoo/ice cream shop), and see where the day takes you.
2. Paint everything (with water)
My grandma used to give us real paintbrushes and buckets of water. She’d then let us paint whatever we wanted outside. It didn’t matter that it was water, not actual paint. We still had a blast using adult-size paintbrushes to “paint” the patio furniture, the driveway, her car—anything within reach.
3. Have a movie night sleepover
This has been a favorite summer activity for my daughters. We set up a movie on a laptop in their bedroom, and they snuggle in one of their beds and watch a movie together before they fall asleep. You could plan this just as easily with sleeping bags on the floor of the living room with popcorn or other treats. If you have an outdoor space, have a movie night with an outdoor projector and stargazing.
4. Have a water fight in your clothes
Get the hose, sprinkler, or water blasters going spontaneously while the weather is still warm. Jump in with your kids and show them it’s OK to get wet, even if they’re in their clothes. Pro-tip: easily refill water squirters by having a bucket of water handy and showing your kids how to dip them in and fill them up.
5. Share a picnic meal outside
Whether you are in your backyard or socially-distanced at a local park, eating outside together on a blanket has a special summertime appeal.
6. Plan one-on-one “dates” with each child
This could be watching their favorite TV show together or eating ice cream just up the block. Talk about your favorite summer memories. Ask them what they are they most looking forward to now that fall is coming. Are they nervous about the upcoming school year? What do they hope to learn or do? Write their answers down so you can talk about it again at the end of the year.
7. Stay up late to catch fireflies
Fireflies make summer nights seem so magical, so one night, let your kids stay up late and gently catch a few to make a firefly lantern. According to Firefly.org (yes, it’s a real website), fireflies can live in a jar, but they need damp air to survive. Put a few slices of apple in a jar, and if you have a spray bottle, mist some water on the inside. Only keep the fireflies overnight and release them the next evening because that’s when they’re most active and able to avoid predators. Plus, the release can be another special experience to share.
8. Do nothing—literally.
Let them get bored and unleash their creativity. Sometimes, that’s when the real magic happens.
This article was originally published on August 4, 2019 but has been updated for timeliness.