Keep your summer organized

Summer flies by crazy fast—which can be good or bad, depending on the day, the weather, and the kids. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m actually looking forward to the summer (give me spring in Austin any day, but I’m happy to not be there from June through September).

My kids are continually thinking of things they want to do to relish the next few months, and it gets me excited, too. I’ll be working less, painting lots of walls in our new fixer-upper, and hopefully getting some cast-aside sewing done—and I’m eager for their camping, pool, and library suggestions, too.

I’m in the school of thought that the best sorts of summers are those that rest in-between planned and spontaneous—I want to go to the library every week, but why not quickly toss dinner in to a picnic basket when the weather begs it?

I think it helps to organize just a bit on the front end of the summer, so that the rest of the season can be more spontaneously enjoyed. Here’s how we’re doing it this year.

1. We’re creating a summer bucket list.

There’s more than enough summer fun lists on Pinterest, so we’re not short on ideas. I’ve collected a lot of our ideas on my summer Pinterest board, and we’re jotting down ideas on a big piece of butcher paper and keeping it on the fridge. The whole family can pipe in when an idea strikes.

A sampling of our ideas:

• Weekly library visits
• Swim at the local pool
• Go rafting down the river after church
• Have picnic dinners
• Have friends over to watch July 4th fireworks from our deck
• Go camping at Crater Lake
• Go camping in the backyard
• Make homemade popsicles
• Have a water gun fight

This way, I’ll refer to the list when the “I’m booooored!” choruses begin.

2. We’re sorting the supplies.

We have it happen all the time, and I bet you do, too—a fun, spontaneous “let’s go to the pool!” suggestion morphs into an hour-long prep session because you’ve got to gather the towels, the floaties, the sunscreen, and the hats. By the time you’re in the car, you can’t wait for the pool to cool off from all that sweating.

I’ve created a few grab-and-go bags for our most recurrent summer outings, and they’re stored right by the garage door. When it’s pool time, I just toss the right back in the car or the bike basket, and we’re off.

Here are a few things in our bags:

For the pool

• sunscreen
• hats
• beach towels
• floaties (deflated, of course)
• goggles
• a few swim diapers
• swimsuits—we usually change into them before leaving, but this way, we always know where they are
• plastic bags, for wet suits

For picnics

• bug spray (I like California Baby)
• sunscreen (I’d rather have a small bottle in each bag than to hunt down one larger bottle)
• a picnic blanket
• napkins
• plastic utensils
• plastic, reusable cups
• a frisbee, and a few other small outdoor toys
• plastic bags, for trash or other incidentals

You can also use a picnic basket or backpack—we like this backpack also.

For road trips

We’ve got another longer road trip planned this summer, but we’re also all about the day trips when we have the itch to get out of Dodge. This bag works for both shorter and longer car rides.

• two small zippered pouches of markers, crayons, and pencils (one for each of our older kids)
• clipboards with blank paper
• spiral notebooks with lined paper
• a license plate dry-erase game—a friend made us this sweet and simple game: arrange license plate images alphabetically by state, print, and laminate.
• books
• headphones
• bug spray
• sunscreen
• plastic bags
• wipes
• a few diapers
• water bottles

3. We’re sticking to a somewhat normal routine.

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean I get to goof off at the pool at day. We grownups need to get work done, too, and I’ll honestly go nuts by August if I tried to be our Summer Cruise Director.

Our sitter is still coming over twice a week so I can get work done. I’ll still keep to a simple, rotating menu plan for dinner (right now I’m enjoying Natural Health at Home’s Whole Foods Meal Plan). and the bedtime routine is still there, although bedtime is a wee bit later.

I’m completely okay if the kids get bored, because that’s when real magic and creativity happen. We’ll keep art supplies within reach in the craft cabinet, a few outdoor toys in the backyard, and cold water in the fridge. That’s enough for a childhood summer.


This giveaway is now closed. Check back soon for the winner!

Target and Container Store want to help one of you get organized this summer, so they’re giving away a $250 gift certificate each. I’m sure you can find a way to use $500 at these fabulous stores, right?

How to enter

Simply answer this question in the comments below: What’s something on your family’s summer bucket list? (If you’re reading this via email, you must click over to the blog post to leave a comment.)

This giveaway will end on June 24, and I’ll announce the winner soon after. I hope you win!

This post is sponsored by the makers of Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes, the quick and easy way to clean and disinfect your home!

Contest Rules

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Drive seven hours to IL so the kids can snuggle with grandma, great-grandma, and great-GREAT-grandma. 🙂

    • Blackberry picking and training for our 2nd half marathon!

    • Allison Danielson says:

      Our family sat down over dinner and made 3 goals for summer. Here they are…
      1. Visit 3 nearby farmer’s markets. We live in Shawnee Kansas so for us, these are Overland Park, Kansas City MO and Lawrence, KS.
      2. Hike 3 Trails we’ve yet to explore. Two we aim to hit are at Weston Bend State Park and Johnson’s Shut Inns.
      3. Visit 3 new to us Kansas City Attractions. We have picked the Fairies and Forts Exhibit at Powell Gardens, The Toy and Miniature Museum in KC, MO and the nearby Shatto Dairy Farm.
      If you live in the KC area, I hope you get something from this list. Did I mention I love summer?
      Thanks for the Giveaway opportunity.

    • A mountain getaway for our sixth anniversary and lots of canning!

  2. Janelle says:

    Camping! We are so excited to do more camping this year! We just have to get through June and all the family weddings first… 🙂

  3. We are taking our girls on their first road trip!!

  4. Emily B says:

    Our summer bucket list includes making sure I get to go out with the neighborhood moms for a night at the Shakespeare Festival…planning is already underway so I know this one will get checked off!

  5. Lots of pool time!

  6. can tomatoes and canoeing!

  7. My family’s bucket list includes:
    bug hunt
    water balloon fight
    building sand art at the beach
    visit near by museums on free days
    create our own comic book (my kids love to draw and color)

  8. Laurel Eccles says:

    We live in a large city in the Middle East, so our summers are a bit different than the usual American’s. Some of the things my kids and I have planned are:
    reading aloud together
    read a play with friends
    growing flowers from seeds
    picnics by the seaside
    art lessons (mom and dad are both artists)
    collecting things to look at under the microscope
    learning how to make a scrapbook online

  9. Our bucket list includes visiting a zoo, watching a baseball game, summer reading, and family vacation on top of washing the car, hanging at the pool, and helping friends.

  10. One thing that’s on my summer bucket list is to go on a family bike ride … and bring a picnic lunch!

  11. Camping! My kids beg to go camping. They love to be outdoors and free to get dirty. I love the return to simpler things.

  12. Our bucket list for summer includes going camping, looking for constellations, and going to the beach during a full moon.

  13. We are going to try to hit up Crater Lake, too. I want to try to get to Munch ‘n Music in the park – it is literally only about 3 blocks away from our house, so that shouldn’t be too hard!

  14. We can’t wait for days at the lake!

  15. Our summer bucket list consists of getting ready for baby sister, coming in August!

  16. Our summer family bucket list consists of one thing….camping! Hubby and I have wanted to go for a couple years, but now that we have a 2yo and a 4mo, it gets a lil tricky!

  17. My kids are older, but one thing that is becoming a summer tradition to to attend a baseball game complete with fireworks for the 4th! After the game, no matter how late, we return home for my homemade apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream. YUM! Thanks for the chance to win! 🙂

  18. We are driving from KS to FL to visit family, and I really want to stop and see some new, fun things on the way (Cathedral Caves, St. Louis Zoo, etc.)

  19. Margaret says:

    Going camping before the new baby arrives!

  20. We’re aiming to go the planetarium once, the mountains once, and either (or maybe both) the zoo or a museum!

    (Thanks for this great giveaway!)

    • Jenifer says:

      Our bucket list includes swimming, camping, driving to the beach and buildIng a cardboard boat,

  21. Brini Isaacs says:

    Moving into our new house and getting to know our new neighbors! (and lots and lots of organizing in our new- and smaller- house!)

  22. On our bucket list are lots of evenings down at the neighborhood pool, and having several BBQs with friends! We were just making a mental list of people to have over today. 🙂

  23. My kiddos are all grown and have bucket lists of their own but on the top of mine and hubs is going someplace special to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Maine perhaps?

  24. Ann Porter says:

    We’re planning on eating fresh food from our garden and spending a week unplugged at the beach.

  25. We are going to hang out as much as possible and visit our happy place (which is a private park/trout farm).

  26. our summer bucket list includes playing basketball at the ymca and swimming as much as we can at the grandparents’ pool!

  27. Elizabeth B says:

    Going to our family’s ranch is definitely on the top of our list!

  28. Travel to NY!

  29. we are going to picnic out at a local different local park once a week!

  30. Brianne says:

    On our family’s bucket list is camping and Disneyland. Fortunately we crossed Disney off early and now we get to spend the rest of the summer camping.

  31. A Nature Scavenger Hunt is on our summer bucket list. My children love walking in the woods and it’s a great way to exercise as a family! :o)

  32. Having a picnic by the river! We will most likely have a few!

  33. Valerie says:

    Camping with friends 🙂

  34. On our bucket list is spending as many days at the beach as possible!

  35. We’re moving to Texas, so we will be preparing for that, but still trying to have some fun too.

  36. We’re going to eat outdoors, visit some museums, and relax, just to name a few.

  37. Christine says:

    Going on a nature hike once a week! 🙂

  38. Elinore says:

    We want to take a local family vacation!

  39. We are planning an epic Grand Canyon trip. Getting so excited just thinking about it!

  40. Swimming! Pools, lakes, anywhere we can get wet and stay cool.

  41. Emily M says:

    Success road trip with 4 young kids!! That’s top of our list.

  42. Making homemade ice cream and spending more time at the library! 🙂

  43. We’re moving this summer, so our bucket list is long on things that we want to do “one more time” where we currently live. Lots of hikes, state and national parks, and children’s museums are making the list… and playing at Mimi and Pop’s pool as much as possible!

  44. Taking my son to his first amusement park!

  45. Our bucket list includes riding horses on my uncle’s farm, camping in Island Park, bass fishing, and growing our first ever vegetable garden. Thank you for the great giveaway. I would really love to win!

  46. We want to walk the dogs more–not easy with 2 kids and #3 on the way but we’ll try!

  47. Lindsey says:

    On our list: weekly playdates with friends. We’ll go to the museum, go to the beach, record and watch puppet shows, play in the sprinklers, bake together, and generally enjoy each other every week. Really looking forward to it!

    Thanks for the giveaway!
    lindseyjunk (at) sbcglobal (dot) net

  48. Our family’s summer plan is to spend as much time as we can by the beach 🙂

  49. Ours is a boring bucket list…but we want to spend a lot of time at the pool! In summers past, we haven’t gotten to go too often, but since I’m now staying at home with my kiddos, we want to make it our “thing” to go to the pool at least once/week (if not more!)

  50. Camping with the family, having grandchildren come to visit for a week, Food and Family Reformation Conference, and lots of fun stuff!

  51. We just won’t do anything indoors that we could be doing out!

  52. Trip to Yosemite, day the beach, weekly library trips, swimming lessons, lots of rest!

  53. Jennyroo says:

    So many of our summer bucket list items are food related! Go to the beach and eat at our favourite fish and chips shop…. Eat popsicles on the back deck…. Picnic in the park on the other side of town with the super awesome play structures never seen anywhere else in any other park…. and make s’mores by the campfire!

  54. At the top of our bucket list is taking our little guy camping at my husband’s favorite childhood camping spot in the mountains!

  55. Weekly library visits, weekly pool and/or beach visits, weekly farmer’s market visits. Sprinklers, sidewalk chalk, reading lots of books, Cooking Week, visiting their great-grandparents, a few chores, two weeks of camping, plus a road trip. Two more days of school, and I don’t know who’s more excited…the kids or myself!

  56. We are planning on more evening walks, and stopping to smell the roses more often! It sounds simple, it sometimes you need a vacation to get over the vacation! This daily, intentional, act of devotion (to God and each other) will help bring peace and joy into our busy daily life!

    Thanks for sharing!

  57. Go to New York City to see a show!

  58. We’re looking forward to getting to Grams’ summer house. We always look forward to getting to play in the ocean.

  59. This summer we are looking forward to swimming lessons, BBQs with friends and getting fit (mommys goal)

  60. I just loaded a container of summer “supplies” in the trunk of our car so we can stop whenever/wherever when we’re out and about for a quick game of frisbee or whatever!

  61. Christina says:

    1. swim lessons for the big girl.
    2. gettin’ born for the little girl!

  62. Lots of backyard barbecues and I’m hoping a trip to Victoria B.C. is on my summer bucket list.

  63. This summer we are looking froward to my daughter’s first dance class, our baby turning one, and a family road trip/camping trip along the coast, exploring areas we haven’t had a chance to see yet.

  64. More summer bbq’s with friends and a pool party!

  65. Catherine says:

    As we are currently saving vacation days, we are planning some short getaways – day trips to the beach, an overnight stay in the mountains. Kind of like a staycation, but out of town if we can manage it!

  66. Our bucket list includes 2 very exciting camping trips. Great giveaway! Blessings.

  67. A few of the items on the list include taking several long weekend getaways to parts of the our state that we have not been to. We also planted our own garden for the first time so we are anxiously awaiting to see what sprouts up and learning about growing our own vegetables.

  68. Savitha says:

    We are going on a very long road trip. Our kids suffer from motion sickness so we generally avoid road trips. But we are being brave and adventurous this summer.

  69. Our family’s bucket list includes:
    – Weekly walks to the mid-week Farmer’s Market
    – Pool parties (big and small!)
    – Growing herbs & tomatoes
    – Celebrating new marriages & new babies with family & friends

  70. road trip to disneyland!! 🙂

  71. crystal says:

    We are going to perfect the art of making (& eating!) snowcones, homemade smoothie popsicles & and homemade ice cream!

  72. To go to the drive-in! We’ve been saying for seven years that we’re going to go (since it’s two minutes from our house!) and we haven’t gotten there yet. This is the year!!!

  73. lots of trips to the river

  74. To:
    – make it out of the house with both kiddos (2.5 years and 7 weeks) at least once a week.
    – go to farmers market weekly
    – prepare veggies over the weekend so all I have to do is grab them and use them during the week.
    – remember to have fun.

    Packing to-go bags, what a great idea!

  75. We’re shuffling boys…from sharing one bedroom to creating a bedroom for each of them! (along with continuing to homeschool, getting to karate and swim lessons and archery, enjoying the Olympics, and heaps of other stuff…) 😉

  76. Enjoying sunsets on our balcony
    A special vacation with mom
    Jet-skiing or parasailing as a birthday gift for hubby

  77. We are looking forward to doing a lot more camping and hiking this summer. We are getting the trailer ready for those weekends away.

  78. Carrie Cotton says:

    Berry Picking! Strawberries, Blueberries then finally Blackberries!

  79. My kids cannot WAIT to go to the waterslides this summer!

  80. Jess forrester says:

    Building a fire pit for lots of summer s’mores!

  81. Play in the fountain downtown (it’s encouraged).

  82. The zoo! My daughter is 3 and hasn’t been yet.

  83. SPKarenO says:

    I want to take the kids {and me & hubby} to the Butterfly Pavilion at a local museum. I’ve wanted to go for several years now, but actually have it on my calendar for THIS WEEK no less. We homeschool, and we finished our curriculum last week, so this will be the second item on our bucket list – the first was a family beach day!

  84. stacy s says:

    Lots on the bucket list:
    Camping with friends
    Swim lessons
    Baseball camp
    Having fun!!!

  85. *Move back to the U.S.
    *visit fiance
    *plan a wedding!
    *prepare for a new job
    It’s a busy summer!!

  86. Our bucket list will include:
    Trips to the library
    Time at the beach
    Plenty of hikes
    And long afternoon naps for all!

  87. Camping–we’re getting all geared up and excited. Also, my girls love playing in the sprinkler or kiddie pool, so plenty of that!

  88. this summer: overnight at the beach; roast marshmallows; wildlife safari; zoo trip…

  89. We want to go to the zoo, ride bikes to get ice cream, go to the lake for vacation and enjoy many unscheduled days at home!

  90. Go to the lake! We just moved and are now close enough to go swimming/fishing as the weather allows. Really looking forward to it! And yeah, I would have NO problem spending $500 at Target & The Container Store. 😉

  91. Spontaneous fun! Leave the laundry for an impromptu trip to the splash pad, road trip to Grandma’s house and teaching 6 weeks of summer school. My last 6 weeks of working outside of the home. Next year I’m teaching my 5 little ones at home!!!

  92. Richelle says:

    Definitely picnics by the beach, visits at the local aquarium, family BBQs at home, maybe attend some local festivals!

  93. Visit family!

  94. Amanda Wolford says:

    Road trip to the water park and reorganizing the craft closet so I can actually use it!

  95. Camping, hiking local trails, and making the most of our aquarium membership! Also, taking advantage of our city summer concerts in the park and movies on the beach!

  96. Visit all of the libraries in our city, try to ride as many types of transportation we can think of, daily bike rides

  97. We are moving back to the States in mid-August. So we are going to be doing some packing, dreaming, and trying to soak up all of the “last time to do this in Korea…” stuff. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  98. Ok, so we live in Uganda (but could totally use the gift cards for online shopping, or Christmas gifts for people in the states)- so on our bucket list this summer is a trip to the Rhino Sanctuary. how fun is that? i love that my kids get to grow up in africa!

  99. The golden crown atop our summer bucket list is for my seven year old daughter to spend an afternoon interviewing her great grandmother over tea and fairy cakes. She has been compiling all her questions, and can’t wait for the special day. Neither can I.

  100. Lots of days lounging by the Russian River! Plus we have to get ready for baby #3 coming in the fall so lots of cleaning and organizing too.