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Have yourself an inspired little summer

Summer break has officially started. No more running around looking for matching socks at the last minute or loading up the dishwasher with one itty-bitty lunch box container after the next. For the next two months, we can play barefoot all day and we can eat off paper plates.

For some people, summer is stressful — all the kids under one roof all day long inevitably leads to the occasional bickering. Days without the routine of school (at home or away) can feel overwhelming, but I personally embrace the free days to do things, like swim all afternoon one day, and the next day lazing around doing puzzles and playing inside.

My family and I take off and spend our summer days at a cottage on a lovely little lake. The backdrop is breathtaking, and the opportunities for exploring and play are endless, but even we have our uninspired days of not knowing what to do next that we haven’t already done.

Each year when we are packing for the cottage, my other friends at home are talking about all of the fun camps where their kids are enrolled — full of hands-on activities to keep the young minds of their kids open.

A very good friend of mine runs several week-long summer camps through her preschool. As I thought about that idea and how fun it sounded, I thought to myself, “Why couldn’t I give our summer a bit of structure around the idea of week-long camps?” It’s just me and the kids, so the idea of having a theme for each week sounded easy, with a little bit of help from ideas around the Internet.

Here is how we’re going to use the idea of “mini summer camps” throughout the season to add structure, keep our play fresh, and learn some fun new things at the same time.

Theme weeks

Creating a theme for each week will inspire ideas, give a little routine to our days, and keep us from doing the same things over and over again. I have one almost-7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, so we will alternate weeks with themes each of them individually are interested in. Some ideas for themes based on my kids and their interests are:

Butterfly week

During this week, we’ll head to the local library and check out some books about butterflies, go on a field trip to a local butterfly house, and do some butterfly crafts.

Photo by Meg Duerksen

I’ve been wanting to do for a while now is this butterflies craft at whatever. What a fun way to spend an afternoon after chasing butterflies all morning!

Wildlife week

Photo by remodeling this life

Each week brings the new opportunity to return last week’s books at our lovely, tiny old library nearby, and then check out new ones for our new theme. Since we will be surrounded by everything from birds to loons to otter, wildlife will be an easy theme to work into our daily routine of swimming, hiking and boating.

This week, we’ll go hiking, stowing along our binoculars and magnifying glasses so our adventure is a little more fun.

There is no shortage of animal activities at DLTK-Kids. It has great coloring pages and crafts.

Flowers week

Photo by remodeling this life

This is a week to focus on digging in the dirt and planting beautiful flowers from the local nursery. Flower identification games are fun to play at home, as is finding flowers while hiking. This will be a fun way to notice more of the world around us.

Story week

This week is full of reading, writing, and learning about our local area through stories. This theme will give the kids a chance to act out plays and do puppet shows, too. (A tension rod in a doorway with a curtain makes for a great puppet theater).

Photo by remodeling this life

The idea is to think about what’s around you that you can celebrate for a week. You’ll notice a bit more, give you something to do on those “I’m bored!” afternoons, and will hopefully inspire some creative ideas for everyone in the family.

Other great summer activities inspiration can be found at these places:

What fun and inspiring ideas do you have for summer?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Tara@riceandbeanslife

    I love these fresh ideas for mini home summer camps! This will be a great addition to our first summer in our new small town (we previously lived in a large city). I particularly love the tension rod puppet theater curtain. Brilliant! Perfect to pair with our pending sock puppet craft. Thank you so much!

  2. Centsational Girl

    Excellent article Emily, you summed it all up perfectly! I miss the structure for awhile, then learn to embrace it. Can you believe it’s almost July, I love how the days float into one another. And I love the idea of theme weeks, I’m going to try a mini version of that! Thanks so much for sharing your insight (and for some link love).

  3. Rachel @ the minimalist mom

    These are great ideas for creating structure in the summer. We just moved to a small island in the UK from a big Canadian city. We jumped into a pattern of activities – toddler groups, gyms, library story times – right away.
    But in a mid-July all the groups shut down for 6 weeks. This piece has given me some great ideas for theme weeks we can run. We have a retired horses ‘rest home’, nature conservatory, heritage train system and there are a few villages we can visit by bus.
    Thanks for the summer inspiration!

  4. Trish D

    I love these ideas! We’ve had a number of activities so far this summer, and I was trying to figure out what to do to provide a bit of structure/activities without driving myself crazy for the last 3 wks before school starts back up in August.

  5. Brad

    I love summer. It is by far my favorite season. I was so happy to begin another one yesterday.

  6. Melissa@HomeBaked

    I joined forces with a friend to create a little summer camp for our kids. We’ve got theme weeks planned, so for 3 hours a couple times a week, one mom takes a turn leading camp activities, while the other has a break. Our kids have really enjoyed it so far and it has been a great way to turn off the tv and sneak in a little learning, too.

  7. Molly

    What about “kitchen week” or “help mommy run the household week”?
    Yes, that might be cheating. 😉

  8. Anthony from CharismaticKid

    Okay COME ON! What if your kid is a boy! Or a tom boy! Flower week? I feel stripped of my manhood.

    • Emily@remodelingthislife

      I have a boy and a girl, so we have to do something for both of them. Maybe it’s their ages (4 and 6) but my son loves butterflies and flowers just as much as his sister does. The idea is simply to pick themes that will work for your kids and their ages and interests.

      • Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

        For boys – You could do a cars week and go to a local car rally. Or fireman week and do a tour of a local fire station.

  9. Sharon

    I love the idea of theme weeks! I have a tension rod we aren’t using in my pile of things to donate, but I’m thinking the puppet show curtain rod idea is fantastic. Now I gotta go get the rod out of the pile!

  10. the domestic fringe

    I want to make that butterfly craft too! Awesome ideas.

  11. Kyle @

    I think the theme week is a great idea. My kids would love the variety of things we could do. I will throw in music week as there are many free music nights and music festivals in our area. We are actually going to one tonight called the ‘Mosquito Serenade’, make sure to bring OFF.

  12. karen

    our kids are all about maps right now, so as we prepare to drive cross-country (as well as move overseas again), we’re doing little map/geography projects with them. Turns out, though, cartography is tough!

  13. Alissa

    I’ve been pondering doing some of my own “Mom Camp” activities this summer on my days off with the kids. We all need the focus! And I love the suggestion to start at the library.

  14. Megan

    Mini-camps! HOW FUN! I love the themes and I love breaking it down into weeks. Just enough time to dig and learn but not so much time that everyone gets bored. This is fantastic.

    I have been wanting to do that butterfly craft, too. PRECIOUS.

  15. ChristineG

    I don’t have any particularly good ideas to add, but wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. There are some great plans there for an inspired summer!

  16. Luanne

    I came up with a theme for our kids this summer too. I just wrote about it in my blog. It’s called summer of service and we are doing at least one service project or volunteer activity once a week for the duration of the summer. we started last week and had a great experience. I’m really looking forward to spending this time together with the kids and allowing our hearts to grow in love with God and others who need our help.

  17. Tessa

    That’s a beautiful butterfly craft. I think I’ll make a scaled down version with my kids this week. They are 4 and 6 and a bit young for the hot glue gun 🙂

    I put together a little schedule for the family for the summer because we all function better when our days are a bit structured. As part of that I also decided to do theme weeks. This week happens to be butterfly week! We got some butterfly books from the library and today we made a butterfly project. I just printed a few butterfly worksheets and coloring pages for tomorrow (I love the Internet!). I wish we had a butterfly house close by, but we don’t. Oh well.

    Here are some of the other ideas I’ve come up with. I’m going to fit a few into the schedule based on existing plans (we have train tickets on week and already planned a trip to the ocean another week) and the rest will just fall into the schedule.

    Butterflies (this week!)
    On the farm
    Outer space
    Human body (I’m going to trace their outlines on large sheets of paper and have them draw in all the body organs they know 🙂 )
    At the circus
    County fair

    I doubt we’ll get it all in this summer, but those are the ideas I’ve come up with so far. I’m excited! 🙂

  18. Heart and Haven

    How about “Flowers & Bugs” week? That’d get the boys interested as well!

    I LOVE the puppet show idea! My kids are 4 & 3, and I was thinking of having my hubby build a puppet stage out of PVC pipes and curtains….but I like this idea EVEN BETTER as I actually have the space for this one!

    We have been enjoying bike riding as a family (kiddos in the bike trailer when we go on longer rides), playing in the park after dinner (we just got back and hubby is upstairs giving the kids a bath, getting all the sand outta their hair lol!). I’m already enjoying the beginning of summer!

  19. Rachel @ The Travel Pen

    I find myself looking forward to the days when my little one(s) will enjoy activities like these. Right now, we just have one baby (6 months), but we sure do get excited for doing things like this in the future.

    Anyone have suggestions for people that live in urban areas (aka we live at the top of an 18-story building in a city of 9 million people) and don’t have as much access to nature?

  20. sap

    are the “butterfly crafts” made of magnets? they’re amazing!

  21. Christa

    Great ideas! This is the first summer in a few summers, we as a family aren’t packing up the house and moving. I love the ideas because they inspired me to be engaged in the topic…not just busy work to keep the kids occupied while I do a “chore” around the house.

    We have an avid bird watcher in our house, the picture of the bird house inspired me.

    Thanks for the ideas.

  22. Jane

    Such a great idea, providing a little bit of structure but not too much! 🙂

  23. pam shensky

    my children are older so the specifics of your post may not apply, but i felt inclined to write to you to tell you how i admire your courage, courage to change the course of your life in search of contentedness.
    continued peace,

  24. Jenifer

    I do the same thing!!! My kids are 5, 8, and 11 so our themes are a bit more in depth. Last week was Dino week and we got books from the library on Monday, a dino craft on Wednesday and a visit to the Dino park and museum on Saturday. This week is American History with the 4th of July on Monday as our ‘activity’. We have a Life Skills week where we focus on manners, setting the table and cooking with Grandma (homemade pizza and cinnamon rolls, yum!) etc. A camping skills week (with s’mores) and a camp out over the weekend. Space week with a visit to the free shows and exhibits of the local planetarium. Play week is all about learning new games (indoors and out) with a ‘playoff’ on the weekend. Military week is all about appreciation of the people who serve with a visit on the weekend to the local Airforce Base museum. I try to pick the themes based on holidays or other ‘all ready in place’ activities. I also try to keep in no/low cost. My kids love it and it gives me plenty of unique picture opportunities. It’s not packing in every day with things to do but just enough structure to keep me sane!!

  25. Samantha

    I love this! My girls are still pretty young for a lot of the great activities you talk about here, but I’ll definitely keep this in mind for future years!

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