12 ways to give your kids a throwback summer

Feeling nostalgic for those simple summer days of your youth? So are we. This month, we turned to the TODAY Parenting Team to find out how to have the Best Summer Ever. We loved how many contributors were ready for some stress-free, unscheduled fun. So here are our 12 favorite tips for having an unforgettable, old-fashioned summer!

You can join the conversation by becoming a member of our team. And stay connected to all TODAY Parents updates on our Facebook page. Have a great summer, everyone!


1. Let a few things slide in the name of summer. (Rebecca Dube)

“Let's give them a break— and give ourselves a break, as parents. We don't need to fill EVERY moment with educational, enriching, stimulating, authentic growth experiences for our children.”

Courtesy of Rebecca Dube
"What do I plan to do? Not a darn thing. I say, let 'em slide."

2. Don’t expect your family to be catalog-perfect. (Christine Organ)

“I want to get rid of the expectations and give myself permission to feel content. I want to let myself off the hook if none of the things on our Summer Fun List happen. I want to stop comparing our family to the one roasting s’mores every night and taking multiple trips to the beach and catching fireflies; the family who is, quite clearly, having the Best Summer Ever.”

3. Allow nutrition to go out the window sometimes. (Dawn Yanek)

“Do your best to get them to eat the fruits and vegetables of the season, but let them eat ice cream for dinner once in a while. One of my favorite summer memories is making root-beer floats with my dad. And guess what: I lived to tell the tale.”

Courtesy of Dawn Yanek
"Ditch your summer script, hold on tight to your sunscreen, cocktails and common sense, and dive in no matter what comes your way!"

4. If your child is smiling, you’re doing fine. (Erica DeSpain)

“I don’t know how to measure if I’m doing a good job at being a parent, but when I see my child happy and laughing my whole world just feels right.”

Courtesy of Erica DeSpain
"My idea of Heaven is sitting poolside on a hot summer day, sharing a lounge chair and quartered strawberries with my one year-old daughter."

5. Celebrate your family’s quirks. (Anna McCarthy)

“My oldest daughter said it best:

‘Do you know why Emaw and Papa are two of my favorite people? They are just themselves. Everyone else is always trying too hard.’

She sees at 12 what took me 30 years to get.”

Courtesy of Anna McCarthy
"Our family on vacation. And, yes, we set the camera and actually posed for this ourselves (for our own amusement)."

6. Make a “Boredom Buster Chart” to keep your kids entertained. (Dawn Falcone)

“We have enough activities to keep our Monkey Boy busy, and he'll have fun and grow his imagination in the process. The Boredom Buster Chart also works magic on Mommy guilt. I know that during those times when I have to work or get things done around the house, my boy is engaged in some meaningful play.”

Courtesy of Dawn Falcone
"I created a chart, together with my son, to help cure any summer boredom blues that may come our way."

7. Establish rules for sharing summer toys. (Shana Chartier)

“Parenting involves a lot of snap decisions and guess work, and there's so much gray area. So for now my daughter will no longer be sharing her pool. Will this keep her from sharing other things later in life? I hope not. But it’s a fine line between sharing and being bullied, and that day we got bullied by the neighborhood kids.”

Courtesy of Shana Chartier
Shana Chartier's daughter plays in her first pink pool in the backyard.

8. Don’t let a mommy belly or a dad bod keep you out of the pool. (Kara Lawler)

“I vowed to myself, there in that kitschy water park, that I won't ever sit on the sidelines again. I won't deny a pool date because I don't want to wear my bathing suit. I won't skip the ice cream with my son when he begs me to eat one with him. I won't enter calories on my phone. I will wear my bathing suit.”

9. Unplug your devices and make memories instead. (Julie Stubblefield)

“This summer, we are valuing downtime, creativity, and simplicity. Digital-free days, wide open spaces on the calendar, and the feeling of being carefree are ranking at the top of our to-do list.”

Courtesy of Julie Stubblefield
"The cheapest and simplest times were their fondest memories."

10. Spend time in nature. (Noelle Kirchner)

“Lying on the grass in the summer sun so that you can smell the earth - hot dirt and cut grass give off an aroma that's not to be missed.”

11. Get a little tipsy. (Eileen O'Connor)

“Earlier today I was trying to jam a twenty pound bag of ice into the freezer after I carried it all the way back from the car… As I was trying to stuff it in there, a bottle of vodka fell from the top of the fridge. The cap broke off and vodka spilled out. No biggie. I just licked it all up and went on with my day. Because I'm on vacation.”

12. Give yourself some “me-time” when you need it. (Susie Garlick)

“Sometimes we just want to close our eyes, read a magazine or talk on the phone. Sometimes we need to work, cook dinner or go through a thousand personal emails. Whatever the reason, take off your cape and fill yourself up. It teaches so many lessons and truly does make everyone happier.”

Courtesy of Susie Garlick
"As much as I loved being mom, I knew being supermom was not healthy for anyone... I needed to take my cape off and find a balance."