WORDS: Rachel Samson, Psychologist, M.Psych(Clin)
If you regularly scroll through your social media newsfeed, you’re bound to have seen perfectly edited and filtered versions of family life from colourfully choreographed gender reveals and professionally edited birth videos to extravagant first birthday parties and tranquil family vacations in tropical destinations. It’s no wonder that so many of us feel increasing pressure to curate an instagram-worthy summer for our kids, right?
Well, I’ve got good news. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or do a whole lot of planning in order for your kids to have a magical summer. Experiencing a memorable summer may be a whole lot simpler than you think. I’m about to walk you through some of my top tips for creating a memorable summer with you kids, but first let’s take a quick walk down memory lane.
Exercise: close your eyes and let your mind wander back to some of your fondest childhood memories of summer. What images come to mind? What were you doing? What do you remember feeling?
When I think back to some of my happiest childhood memories of summer, I remember the simple things: going to the beach after dinner, staying in the warm water until the sun set, and getting ice cream on the way home; hot summer nights outside at my grandparents, the family all together listening to music, and playing barefoot outside until it got dark; running under the sprinklers on the front lawn and then coming inside to cool down in front of the fan with the cricket on TV.
It turns out that I’m not the only one whose best summer memories centre around the simple things. I recently asked my Instagram community what their fondest memories of summer were, and the same few themes came up over and over and over again: being with family, being in water—beach trips, running under the sprinkler, using the slip and slide, and water fights—and being outside in nature.
When you think ahead to summer this year, hold this in mind: less-is-more. Avoid overscheduling your calendar and remember that our kids don’t need extraordinary; kids find joy in the simple and ordinary moments of life.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money or do a whole lot of planning in order for your kids to have a magical summer.
2. Reduce ‘technoference’: focus on connection
Attention-seeking tends to be framed in a negative light, but the truth is that our children need our attention, and not only do they need our attention, they need our full attention. Let’s face it, as parents we are often pulled in multiple directions at once. The demands of modern living can make it hard for us to give our full attention to any one thing for long.
Being connected to our smartphones 24/7 means we are more accessible than ever to more people than ever. It has become harder to separate our work from our home life. Research shows that technoference—the interference of parent–child interactions due to parents’ use of technology—can reduce the quality of our interactions with our children. It’s simple: when we are connected to our phones, we become disconnected from our kids. Make an effort to spend quality no-phone-time with your kids each and every day. Even fifteen minutes of quality no-phone-time a day will help you connect—and reconnect— more deeply with your kids in ways that fill their emotional cup. To avoid the temptation to check notifications or use your phone to take photos, consider putting your phone on silent and out of reach during phone-free time.
3. Be mindful of your child’s temperament and sensory needs
The busyness and change in routine that happens in the lead up to Christmas can contribute to our kids becoming dysregulated and having those extra-charged holiday-level meltdowns. We can’t prevent our little people from ever having tantrums and meltdowns—these moments actually provide us with important opportunities to support the development of our kids’ emotion regulation, but we can be mindful of what situations push our kids’ outside their window-of-tolerance and try to keep their stress within manageable limits.
Many traditional summer events and Christmas activities are highly stimulating—think Christmas pageants, end-of-year parties, even a trip to the shopping mall or supermarket in the lead up to Christmas. While some kids are sensation-seeking, drawn to colour, noise, and chaos, others, especially our more sensitive kids, have a much lower threshold for registering sensory information from the environment, and need quieter and slower environments to avoid overstimulation.
Factor in your kids’ (and your own) sensory needs when structuring your holidays. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to activities and events that don’t suit the needs and preferences of your family.
4. Just add water
Finally, if you do get stuck for ideas this summer, remember these three words: ‘just add water’. Research supports what we know intuitively: playing outdoors and being in nature makes our kids happier. You don’t need to venture far from home or spend money to enjoy the great outdoors.
For more information: