Heading back to school is a big deal for most kids, and let’s be honest, it’s not always easy on their parents either. This year it feels like we are celebrating two milestones. A is heading to Kingergarten, and even though he went to full day preschool last year this feels like a big step – no more nap time or legos for him, he’s in the big leagues now. J is going into the third grade and that feels like a milestone too. This is the year that they begin state testing and from what I’m told, the atmosphere is very different in the classroom. There is more pressure on the students and teachers alike to perform well, and I’m really hoping we’ve prepared him for it.
Summer vacation flew by in the blink of an eye. There are so many trips and outings I had planned that we never got around to. I feel quite bad because we didn’t do anything “big” as a family this year so next year I want to go all out. My partner and I have been talking about going to Hawaii for a while now so maybe next year we’ll get a trip booked! I’ll start looking into Kai Kanani cruises, the best hikes, kid-friendly beaches, etc. to make sure we finally have a family trip next year!
The same happened for some of my friends as well, one wanted to fly to the beach but couldn’t find any empty leg flights in time. A shame, but I try to focus on the great things we all did get to do, instead of all the things we didn’t have time for. We are really fortunate to be members of the CSA at Fishkill Farms, which meant spending time each week in their beautiful orchards and gardens. We ate a lot of picnic lunches and made some friends of the free range chickens. The boys learned to swim and went to camp, we visited zoos and hiked local trails… their summer was full of fun. Part of me is looking forward to getting back into a routine – working from home becomes insanely difficult when you have three children clamoring for your attention, but part of me is going to miss spending the afternoon swimming with the boys, watching them ride their bikes or spending a quiet afternoon playing board games.
The last few weeks of vacation are a flurry of shopping for school supplies, picking out backpacks, planning lunches and trying to make sure the boys have finished their summer reading. I want to make the most of our last few days of summer, so I’ve been planning a few end of summer activities that will celebrate the end of summer vacation and help prepare the boys for fall.
- Summer Art– Put down the camera and pick up a paintbrush. Supply your kids with some blank canvas, paint, brushes and a tablecloth and ask them to make a painting of their favorite summer memory. You’ll have a great time talking about the fun things you’ve done over the last couple of months, and you’ll get to see your child’s own interpretation of it. Bonus? You can hang it up to keep the memory close all year long!
- Summer Photos – Most of us are used to getting portrait packages home in the first few months of school. If you’re anything like me you’ll spend that evening wondering how a child can mess up his hair so badly in just 30 minutes. One year J posed as a pterodactyl. I decided to keep the pictures instead of sending them back for a retake, because some days a first grader just has to stretch his prehistoric wings. Make this school tradition a summer one. Grab some photo props – think beach balls and sand pails – and have your kids put on their nicest summer dress, polo or bathing suit. Then head outside for a fancy backdrop. Take school-type portraits to display next to this year’s fall school pictures!
- Go Apple Picking – Most orchards have early varieties of apples ready for picking by mid August, so welcome the fall with an early apple picking adventure. Spend the day picking apples, then go home and make some apple snacks or caramel apple jam to surprise your child’s new teacher with!
- Have a picnic – Pack a large blanket, sandwiches and lemonade, then head outside – to the park, the beach or even your own backyard – and have an impromptu picnic!
- Starry Night – Instead of sending the kids to bed send them outside! Lay out a big blanket and let them lay under the night sky searching for constellations and shooting stars! Here’s a tip – it takes our eyes a while to adjust to the dark, so keep looking up! After five or ten minutes you’ll be amazed at how many more stars you see than you did when you first came outside! For an extra special treat, serve up some hot chocolate or apple cider when you come inside. Can’t see the stars from home? Pack a thermos with hot cocoa (or hit the dunkin donuts drive thu) and head to a local park to for the best view of the sky!
- Ice Cream Dinner – Summer vacation wouldn’t be complete without the sound of the ice cream truck driving through the neighborhood in the afternoon heat. Send the summer off with a bang by putting aside the meat and veggies and having an all out ice cream dinner. I’m a huge ice cream fan, so I’m gonna urge you to go all the way with this one. Forget the kiddie cups, encourage the kids to get sundaes piled high with toppings. Whether you’re chasing down the ice cream truck or dropping by a local creamery, let the kids go bananas (splits, that is)! Bonus: you get to eat what they can’t finish!
- Go on a nature walk – Even as the August heat refuses to let up signs of fall are there for those who search! Take the kids out to the park or walk around your own neighborhood and look for signs of the changing seasons… maybe it’s leaves beginnging to change color or acorns littering the ground below the trees. You may spy animals collecting nuts for the cold weather ahead or an empty bird’s nest who’s occupants are already off in search of warmer skies. You can also make up a scavenger hunt or have the kids draw pictures in a notebook to use as their “explorer’s log”.
- Plan a movie day – Fire up netflix and let the kids choose a few movies they’d love to watch with you. Stock up on popcorn, pretzels and movie candy, dim the lights and turn your living room into a kid-friendly theater! My kids love when I watch their favorite movies with them and this works particularly well on rainy days when heading outdoors isn’t possible!
My plan this next week is to focus on saying goodbye to the summer with a bang. I can always catch up on housework and double down on deadlines once the kids are back in school, for now I want to savor the last few lazy summer days we have before heading back into the reality of homework, teacher conferences and PTA meetings!
Do you have an end of summer tradition? Share it with my in the comments, I’d love to know what everyone has planned for this last week of summer!
Once you’re ready, head on over to my Back to School Cheat Sheet for free printables, lunch ideas and more to get you prepared for the big day!