Summertime is supposed to be blissful. Right?
Ahem. Sometimes all that quality time with kids can make you feel like you bought a one-way ticket to Koo-Koo Town. But do not fear: The TODAY Parenting Team knows all sorts of tips, tricks and hacks to save parents’ sanity.
We asked contributors to share their secrets for enjoying the Best Summer Ever, and some of their best survival strategies are compiled here. You can always join in the conversation by becoming a member of our team, and stay connected to TODAY Parents updates on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!
For now, though, read on and breathe easy:
1 (through 15!) Remember time-tested, low-cost ways to have fun. (Mary Ann Ware)
(Here are just 14 of Ware’s 100 ideas ... see her full post for details!)
2. Visit the grandparents. Write questions in advance and interview them about their lives. What did they do for fun as children? What was their wedding like? What historical events are most memorable to them? Write it all down or record the interviews.
3. Play flashlight tag.
4. Splurge. Buy from the ice cream truck at least once.
5. Record a “radio show.” Include commercials, news, weather and music.
6. Exercise together. Train for a fun 5K ... and run together.
7. Everyone gets a $5 bill to go to yard sales. Who got the best deals?
8. Play a classic yard game, like croquet or badminton. (But no lawn darts! Yikes!)
9. Go to a drive-in movie.
10. Create a scavenger hunt at the park. Hide the clues and provide a surprise at the end.
11. Binge watch a series of movies, like “Back to the Future” or “Jurassic Park.”
12. Jump on a trampoline.
13. Visit a park. Create a plan to visit a different park every week all summer. Rate them.
14. Go for your longest family bike ride ever.
15. Jump in the car for a spontaneous road trip to visit a relative who lives a few hours away.
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16. Say yes to summer bedtimes. (Amy McCready)
“There are two major upsides to setting summer bedtimes: first, you have a routine that you follow consistently (we know kids thrive on routine — even in the summer!), and second, more sleep means less cranky kids. When kids fall into that summertime, up-too-late mode, they’re not a whole lot of fun to be around the next day. When they’re rested (and you are too) you’ll have a lot more ‘get-up-and-go’ to actually, well you know, get up and GO somewhere fun as a family.”
17. (through 19!) Hate the beach? Try some of these tricks. (Manic Pixie Dream Mama) "Put on sunscreen twenty minutes before you even approach the sand. Yes, manufacturers say you need to do this so the sunscreen will be effective and all that jazz. We’re not concerned about that. Twenty minutes gives that goo time to soak into your skin. Put it on any closer to beach time and you’ll find yourself with sand sticking to your SPF. Uncool."
18. "Freeze your beverage of choice the night before. Addicted to tea? Freeze bottles full of it twelve hours beforehand, so you’re assured of a cold beverage at all times. Coolers take up too much space and require too much hauling — don’t bring down ice you don’t need. As a bonus, if your drink isn’t fully thawed, you get to have a slushy. Do this with juice to keep your kids hydrated."
19. "Bring a solar charger for your phone. That way you’ll never, ever be without the sweet, sweet escape of the Internet."
"If you work close enough to where your kids spend their days, you might be able to swing a lunch hour or coffee break to hang with them. I might ask our nanny to bring them to a park that’s close to my office, and we’ll meet up for a quick picnic and playground time. They’ll think it’s neat to see Mom in the middle of a work day, and you’ll appreciate the kid time, too." (Working Moms Against Guilt)
21. Create your own summer camp. (Lynn Perkins)
“Camp not on the calendar? Oh, yes it is! If your kids are home for the summer, create your own camps to make the time just as fun as any day or sleep-away camp. Take a calendar and block off weeks where you’ll do specific activities, such as soccer or cooking. Place the calendar where kids can see it, so they can look forward to each week’s activities throughout the summer, and so you know when you need to work a little DIY magic, find a recipe or pick up supplies.”
22. Be a night owl in the summer months. (itsgr82bme)
“We plan for evenings of fun with the following: s'mores night, camp out, manhunt, lightning bug night, talent show night and movie night. These give (the kids) something to look forward to, give them something to work on, and bring the neighborhood kids together.”
23 (through 28!) Go camping with ease. (Amanda Mushro)
24. "Is not showering for a few days making you and your stinky campers nervous? This hack and a box of wine is for you! The inside bag of a box of wine (called a bladder) can be cleaned and refilled once all the wine is gone. When you hit the campsite, fill the bladder with water and leave it in the sun to warm the water. Attach the wine box bladder to a PVC pipe or tree branch with clothes pins or clips (high enough above your head but you can still reach the spout) and you have a shower with WARM water! Refill with water and have your shower ready for the next day."
25. "Before putting down your sleeping bags, lay foam tiles (the kind for playrooms and outdoors) down on the floor. The tiles keep little feet safe and make a more comfy sleeping space."
26. "Don’t forget the spices but save space by putting them into a plastic seven day pill organizer."
27. "Need to bring eggs but don’t want an egg mess? Clean out a plastic bottle (we used a coffee creamer container) and add your cracked eggs. Use a sharpie too mark measurements so you know how many eggs you are using."
28. "Time for s’mores! Get that fire started with these fire starters: cover cotton balls in petroleum jelly and store in an egg crate or fill empty toilet paper rolls with lint from the dryer. Light that fire!"
29. Reading is fun — (and even more fun with a little bribery!) (Lynn Perkins)
“Rather than nag kids to read, give them a Reading Challenge they can’t refuse. Together with your kids, set a goal to read a prescribed number of chapters, books or pages by the end of summer. Get them psyched and on board with less-than-subtle encouragement ... and really good bribery. Say, ‘I bet we can read 60 chapters by the end of the summer!’ And promise a reward — like a trip to the water park — when they get halfway to their goal, and an even bigger celebration when the goal is accomplished. Have them record their progress and cheer them on to keep them on track.”