Fort Birthday

10 Tips to Make (and ENJOY) Your Summer Bucket List

You should look forward to your summer activities without feeling overwhelmed or like it is a race. Use these basics to set up your summer bucket list so you (and your kids) actually enjoy your time together.

And don’t let Sunburn end up on your list. Wear sunblock, stay out of the sun during peak hours, and cover up. We are loving these new hats for keeping sun off our 3 year old toddlers. They are the best we’ve ever had. They stay on, and really cover. Plus they are vented to keep heads cool.

Ten tips for how to make and enjoy your summer bucket list infographic
Set yourself up for summertime bliss by planning a summer bucket list.

One – Double and Triple Check Your Dates

Get out your calendar. Mark all obvious dates. When is school out? July 1st is a Monday, Happy Canada Day! July 4th is a Thursday this year; some people have a four day weekend; some people will take the entire week off; and some people are going to work on Friday.

When is your daycare take their summer break? When does school go back? Do your kids have camp scheduled? Sports? Get everything down on paper.

Mark down every event you know now – My husband works two weekends a month, once a month we have Pancake Breakfast at the Local Firehouse. Look at your FB events, Email, get it all down.

Keep your calendar handy as you make your plan so you can fill it in as you go.

June 2019 Summer Bucket List calendar.
The start of my June calendar and I haven’t even put any wish list items on it.

Two – Ask You Family what they want on your summer bucket list

Try making your bucket list a family activity. Even littles can tell you what they want to do. My twins are pretty clear about what they want to do: play in the pool and “Go on Adventures”. Thankfully, they still think going to the park or getting ice cream counts as an adventure.

When you ask your kids make it a brainstorming session. There are no wrong answers in brainstorming. So they might say “Do Nothing”. What does “Do Nothing” look like to them. I promise, a few days of that will not kill them.

You can also ask what their Deal-Breakers are – and more importantly, you can make YOUR deal-breakers clear. “Nope, we are not going to Disney, sorry guys.” Managing everyone’s expectations is the key here.

Click here for my free printable brainstorming sheet.

Three – Make your family WISH LIST

Do you have some no-miss events in the summer? Family reunion? Friday Night Movies in the Park? When you are brainstorming go big or go home and then put them ALL on your Wish List.

I put going to Yellowstone National Park on my list, and amazingly in the last couple weeks it’s all come together and WE ARE GOING!

your Summer Bucket List 2019 Brainstorming ideas for Fort Birthday
Some of these will happen and some will not. If I don’t write things down, they don’t exist. So if I don’t plan them or note them down I will forget about them until it is too late.

I’ve got a tractor show (cause toddlers) I want to remember. And I have a billion things in my Pinterest Board for Backyard Awesomeness I want to do, but will forget about if I don’t put them on my list.

There are a million summer activities. Making a Wish List helps you focus on what you really want to make a priority. And it leaves the option open for those fantasy moments to happen.

Four – Think Geographically

When you are brainstorming think about activities geographically. Start with your house, yard, neighborhood, town, region, state, etc.

In our house and yard we have lots of activities. Don’t forget, that even if your plan is to be a homebody for the summer, it doesn’t mean you can’t schedule and plan things. Especially playdates. People’s schedules fill up fast.

I dread a play-date (introvert mom, here) but I’m putting some on the calendar so we can keep up with school friends. I especially like planning meet-ups at the park. My play group’s group chat does a “tomorrow we are…” See what your neighborhood is up to and put it on your calendar.

Think Geographically about your bucket list Home Town State Region
Start thinking about activities at home and moving outward.

Now is the time to check out what activities your local library, community center, Y, etc are offering over the summer. There is a wealth of resources out there. Check your town groups on FB.

Summer is fair season, when is your County Fair? 4H Fair? Summer Picnics? Get those on your calendar.

What is your state (or province) known for? Are you taking a Vacation somewhere new? Where are you going this summer?

Five – Use Themes to Help Plan

Stuck on ideas? Or when to do what. There’s a theme for that. Click here for some of my Theme Ideas.

Daily Ideas –

Let siblings alternate using even/odd days. Give each kid one day a week, or one day a month to choose what to do. Kids love having control. Empower them to decide, even if their plan is video games and snack food. Negotiate as necessary.

One off Days –

Opposite Day – sounds silly, but my twins love “switch” days when they simply change seats at the table. Why not let your kids be in charge for a day. Make them the parent (within, reason, obvs) you be the kid. Hilarity will ensue.

My big sister used to plan a “Naughty Day” before school started. Throw the rules out the window for a day. You might be delighted to find out what your kids think is naughty (my guys think clothes on, WAIT FOR IT, in the bathtub is hilarious).

Beat-the-Heat-Days – your local library (again for the win) is a great place to stay out of the sun and learn about other cool and cool activities. Consider starting your day really early (blech, but some people are early birds) or stretching your days into the evenings.

Twin toddlers washing a play horse in a driveway. Dilli Dalli Glasses
A bucket of soapy water and sponges and POOF my boys opened their very own bike/horse wash in the driveway. This kept them happy for HOURS.

Earn It Days – summer is a great time to let household battles go. But it can also be a time to learn and earn privileges. Maybe your kid needs to clean their room (or X Y or Z). Maybe they need to go and help the elderly lady down the street pull weeds. Maybe they need to volunteer somewhere or help out at home. Tossing in some days (or even a whole month) to be of service to themselves or others is good for our kids.

Weekly Ideas for your Summer Bucket List –

There are a ton of variation on this. Pinterest is full of ideas – Check out my Summer Bucket List board. Here’s my quick break down.

Adventure Monday – I remember my mom packing up the neighborhood kids on Mondays and taking us into DC for adventures on Mondays. Starting your week off with a bang gives you some structure to your week, and something for your kids to work towards over the weekend.

Tourist Tuesday – more on this below. Explore your world the way a tourist would.

Water Wednesday – as simple as playing in the bathtub or as fancy as going to a water park. My kids go bananas for free rein with a hose and a $5 baby pool. Again, a great carrot for younger kids to earn. Yesterday a pair of buckets and a hose provided HOURS of entertainment.

Time Out Thursday – It seems silly to schedule downtime. But it’s so easy to burnout when your wish list is chocked full of great activities. Maybe you don’t need it every Thursday, but planning at least a few “Lazy Days” of summer is so important. Or so the experts tell us.

One of my favorite summers involved climbing the fence to my neighbors and spending the entire day playing until I got called home for dinner.

Friday Fun Day or Fridays For Friends – Some kids are very goal oriented or reward driven. But maybe the Fun Day is the one your kid has planned instead of you. Mix it up and sometimes make a surprise.

Friday is a great day to plan playdates to connect with neighborhood and school friends.

Summer Bucket List Theme ideas

Monthly Ideas – Break the months into weekly sections or take the month as a whole.

Weekly Themes – Go WILD, Citizen Science, Learn Something New, Lego Week, Star Wars, or your kid’s favorite show.

Month Long Themes – can include things you do all month long – July is usually ‘Fair’ season around here. Healthy Living challenges. Be of Service to Others.

June, July, and August breaks nicely into Relax, Recharge, and Renew. Relax through June. Plan to take it easy. Make July Your adventure month where you Recharge with fun and exciting activities that give a boost to your summer. And spend August Renewing relationships, skills, and familiar activities to gear up for going back to school.

Six – Think Like a Tourist

Toddler in Dill Dalli glasses standing inside a work boat.
We get the most out of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Imagine your first roommate is coming to visit with her kids. What are the things around your town you MUST show her? When was the last time you did any of those things? When is the last time you took your time doing them? Make a list of tourist attractions and decide which ones you are going on your summer bucket list.

People tend to take for granted their local attractions. I know I did growing up just out side of Washington, D.C.. I literally could not imagine why people took vacations to come visit. Little did I know.

Whether it is a local history society, water park, or a wildlife reserve. I promise there are some fun tourist attractions in your neck of the woods that would make a great activity.

Seven – Act Like a Local

Smith Island Cake a Maryland Tradition
Don’t forget to eat like a local. Around here that means, tomatoes, crabs, melon, Smith Island Cake.

Locals know all the secret and hidden gems, don’t forget those. Make a point to visit your favorites. Sometimes these are local and regional events that don’t get much publicity. Think, festivals, picnics, tournaments, and etc.

I ALWAYS make a point to go to the Old St. Joseph’s Church Joust. It’s been going on for 151 YEARS! It combines a ‘Sunday dinner’ lunch with the official state sport of Maryland. Because it is held on a Wednesday at a tiny rural church, it’s an event easy to miss. Even some locals don’t know about it.

Twin brothers sitting on a Volunteer Fire Department Fire engine.
It’s always fun at the fire department.

The library is a great place to start your hunt for local gems. Some libraries (and community centers) even have passes or coupons for places with higher admissions. Ask your friends and neighbors what their must do local activities are and put them on your summer bucket list.

Look for free Beat-the-Heat activities. The movie theater, one town down, has free kids movies once a week. When it’s hot by 11am, it doesn’t matter if it’s some rando kids movie, a couple hours in a cool dark movie theater can be the perfect remedy. Many parks departments do Friday night movies through the summer.

Eight – No-Spend Days and No-Electronics Days

Twins with Mom on July 11, 7 Eleven Day Free slurpee.
Free slurpees on 7 Eleven Day. There are tons of other free events during the summer. Google is your friend here.

It’s easy to let summertime excitement get away from us. My toddlers love going down to the creamery and getting ice cream. It’s not expensive, but remembering to set aside No-Spend days helps build a routine and an excuse for NOT taking a trip out to lunch, etc.

A great lesson to teach your kids – set aside at least one day a week and try and stick to it. Remember there are lots of free and fun things to do, you don’t always have to spend to have fun. Teach your kids a little financial intelligence with your summer bucket list.

Twin brothers at local zoo for our summer bucket list
Our local zoo is Free AND in a shady cool valley so it’s the perfect summer bucket list destination.

As the school year has wound down, my hard and fast “we only watch TV during breakfast on Saturday” rule disappeared. I traded it in for “Please just don’t yell at your brother for 20 minutes in the morning so Momma can eat her breakfast Time”.

This summer I’m planning days with no electronics at all AND NO SCHEDULE. I’m kicking my kids into the yard and telling them to entertain themselves. I’m giving them some freedom (in our fenced side yard they can go 20 minutes with me inside checking on them periodically and listening for the distinctive cry of “my brother is hitting me with a stick”).

For older kids, turn off the wi-fi, or better yet confiscate the electronics.

Nine – Pace Yourself – your summer bucket list shouldn’t burn you out

Remember your calendar? Take an honest look at it. Are you fooling yourself to think you can do three activities in a day (some families can, btw, or NEED to be more scheduled to burn off energy)? The experts tell us that we over schedule our kids and it isn’t good for them. Use that as an excuse to do nothing some days.

Twin brothers with buckets going down stairs
Sending the kids outside with a couple of buckets to explore is the perfect remedy for an over scheduled life.

We will probably choose Time-Out Thursday every week. Picking a day to not worry about getting out the door or stress about getting an activity done. Scheduling downtime seems absurd, but it takes some pressure off Mom to be entertaining all week long.

It forces kids to entertain themselves. It doesn’t matter if you are in the city or the country, at a certain age (depends on your family) give your kids some autonomy. Part of your Summer Bucket List can be “CHILL OUT”.

Let your kids be bored. When they whine, “We’re bored!” offer them unpleasant alternatives (clean your room, clean the house, rake, weed, go do chores for a neighbor) until they give up and entertain themselves. And you need a break from them too.

Summer Bucket List includes lots of time at the pool
Momma recharging at the pool.

Pacing yourself also means knowing when YOU are maxed out. Your kids do not NEED an ACTION PACKED summer of Magical Adventure. They need some healthy food a lots of fresh air. They don’t need you to curate the perfect summer. They need a happy and healthy Mom. So if doing one planned activity a week is the max your schedule or energy allows don’t feel guilty about families who pack all of that in during a single morning.

Make some NOPE Cards for older kids so they can opt out of a couple activities here and there. Letting them have some control over ‘self care time’ and practicing it will help them be happier kids. Heck, make a couple NOPE cards for yourself.

Bottom Line: your summer bucket list is pointless if it makes you exhausted.

Ten – Make The Goal Enjoyment –

There are two parts to this:

1) Don’t make your goal checking things off your bucket list rather than doing them;

2) No one is telling you that you must spend every waking moment enjoying your children.

Not every family needs or wants a summer bucket list. For some it’s too much pressure or too much disappointment. Know yourself and your household. Don’t put things on the list you won’t enjoy. It’s a Summer Bucket List, not a chore list.

Twin toddlers in NAsa shirts and blue hats in a BOB strollder
It was too hot and too loud for one of these guys at the Fair.

Sometimes that Wish List destination disappoints; or your kids were such knuckleheads getting there that you want to chuck the whole thing. Sometimes you spend 3x the time getting ready, getting there, and once you arrive you can’t relax enough to have fun.

Try and enjoy the moments, even the disappointing ones. Sometimes your kids are heartbroken that their expectations don’t match reality. Sometimes you get heartbroken because you have to take away an activity you wanted to do. Try and spin the disappointments and enjoy the triumphs.

The gratefulness trap – Moms (especially working moms) get heaps of guilt piled on them demanding that they enjoy every moment of motherhood. This is a bunch of bullshit. Being a parent is work. Sometimes it’s miserable exhausting thankless work. Don’t shame a mom for not enjoying their children all of the time. Sometimes their kids are giant jerkfaces.

Bottom Line: A Summer Bucket List is for fun, use these tips to have fun making it and have fun checking some things off it.

What’s on your Summer bucket list? What are your must-do summer activities? What do you want to do for the first time? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Summer, y’all.


10 tips to make your summer bucket list so you actually enjoy your summer.
Make a Summer Bucket List you will actually enjoy!
Learning by doing 10 Tips for making your summer bucket list so you actually enjoy planning your summer. Because planning your time off shouldn't be a chore.
Are you coming on an adventure with us? Plan a fun Summer Bucket List and join in the fun.

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  • Sheilah Shields

    Must make my own summer bucket list. Starting with spending time with friends I don’t get to see too often. Still have at least nine more to go. Yay! Good tips for a great summer, thanks.

  • So many helpful and simple ideas I had never thought about. Starting to plan my summer bucket list today!

  • These are really great bucket list planning tips!! I love a bucket list! It’s one of my fave things to create with my kids. Really good idea to check with the local library! I’m so excited for summer...hopefully we’ll be checking off our items along with some rest and relaxation time too!

  • Wow thank you for all of those ideas! Will be saving this for later! Such great tips!

  • I like how you added "beat the heat" activities. Often, summer bucket lists include outdoor activities, but it's also important to remember there will be those days that are so hot that it would be better to stay inside. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks! I hear you we are in the mid-atlantic and pretty much all of the end of July and August are HHH Hot Humid and Hazy.

  • These are great tips for summer bucket lists! I love the idea of themed days and months.

    • Sometimes themes put you over the top when you are brainstorming. I don't need to theme everything. I don't but themes help focus.

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