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5 tips for keeping kids and parents happy at the same time

By Liz Gumbinner
Unless your kid is in camp full time, summer means more activity-planning and playdate-organizing and, well, daylight hours to fill. That can also translate to more cries of “I’m boooooored,” and thus, more cries of “Mommy is going crazyyyyyy!” Here are a few simple tips to keep summer fun.

1. Take advantage of the outdoors! (Duh, right?)
Some of my best childhood memories are of summer evenings spent outside until nearly dark. Unless it’s 400 degrees or you’re experiencing a major mosquito infestation, get the kids out of the house. The wonderful book Let’s Go Outside by Jennifer Ward is packed with outdoor activity ideas and projects. And by the way…you can participate too!

2. Commit to picnics
I’m vowing to spend this summer turning more dinners into picnics, which is a nice way to change up your routine and keep things fun. If you have a backyard, perfect. If, like us, you have an urban rooftop or a nearby park, go for it. It doesn’t take much more time to throw dinner and cutlery into some big baskets (or hey, a pizza works too) and carry it outside along with a big picnic blanket like this water-resistant one from Skip*Hop that can be worn messenger-style or as a backpack. Beats ruining your bed linens. And it always makes me feel more relaxed than even dinner in front of the TV.

3. Let kids entertain themselves
A little advanced preparation means that when kids say they’re bored there’s no need to race to the laptop for ideas. Make sure the outdoor toys, bikes and scooters are in good repair and ready for action. Also ensure that the craft drawers are stocked—maybe with a few surprises? I love the monthly craft-box subscriptions from Kiwi Crate, which offer three fun ready-to-go projects that younger kids can do without too much help and grade-schoolers can pretty much do on their own. Besides, superhero cape making and magic wand decorating tend to lead to great creative play; and in our house generally an after-dinner “show” or two.

4. Fear not the DVD player
Yes, it’s summer and it’s gorgeous out and time with your kids is precious and blah blah blah. Sometimes, parents still just need a few hours to themselves to keep from going nuts. Especially on rainy days. Thanks to the magic of technology (and Pixar and Universal and Warner Brothers) you can grab two hours easily. Especially if your kids, like mine, are still at the age where they can watch the same movies 400 times. Right now, The Secret World of Arrietty is getting a lot of play.

5. Put together a babysitting co-op
There’s something about gorgeous summer nights that just makes me yearn to sit at an outdoor cafe with another adult, a carafe of something Spanish, and not a crayon or sippy cup in sight. If you don’t have a steady sitter or a committed grandparent, think about setting up a babysitting co-op with friends and neighbors who are probably having the same date-night (or girls-night) jones that you are.

It’s amazing how just one single night out alone can help you get your mojo back so you’re refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the week with the kids.


Liz Gumbinner, along with partner Kristen Chase, is the Co-Publisher of Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech , which have been named top parenting resources by Real Simple, InStyle and Time. She can often be found doling out shopping tips and offering common-sense wisdom on parenting trends in publications like Martha Stewart Living and on Babycenter.com, the new KatieCouric.com and NBC’s TODAY Show.


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