How to Give Your Kids a 21st Century Summer

Yes. Enough with the 1970’s and 1980’s summer posts.

(They’re nice, but I’m busy, and I can’t handle any more pressure….)

So I’m saying, please, just enough.

It was in the past.

Back to the Future (love that Michael J. Fox) past. That was OUR childhood. (Or maybe you are a 1990’s child…hello summer of Nirvana and Grunge and start of the internet) I know, those years were great. Those were OUR summers. It was Schwann’s ice cream and plastic sided pools and Coppertone 25 and giant conversion vans and Bermuda shorts and baseball on the radio and the whole thing. Lovely memories.

But, yes, even with all the memories and nostalgia and articles praising the glory days of the past there is something they forget. We had cable. A Nintendo first edition. And I played them. Yes, I played in the sun and went to the beach and laughed and cried at three way calling, but it wasn’t this utopian summer that I need to replicate for my kids.

You know why?

It was simply summer.


So here’s the DEAL – our kids get a 2019 summer. Not 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s or so forth.

You know what our kids need?


(Not an event coordinator.)

It’s magical enough.

It’s summer.

No school, months stretched out in front of them that seem to last forever, popsicles (yes, buy them, as a bomb pop here or there won’t hurt them), sunburns (despite our lathering them up with SPF100), friends, vacations, skinned knees, late nights, camps, television, fireflies, drawing with chalk, seeing movies, staying up late, watching fireworks and boredom.

It’s all there.


My kids cheered the last day of school and the whole way home. They weren’t missing or hoping that I’d provide them with a list of 44 structured activities. They were excited because IT WAS SUMMER. And summer has this magic to it that lasts until the days they walk into Target and smell the school supplies and see them lined in the bin and they realize that they are a bit bored and they crave the structure of school and miss all their friends.


You see, we could stress and stress and stress as moms over not doing enough, being enough, going enough places and making their summers look like they deserve a page on Pinterest. But that’s not summer. That’s OUR IDEA of summer or recreating a summer that we think we remember. You know what I remember?

Playing Nintendo. Riding my bike. Sneaking some popsicles. Watching television. Swimming. Playing in the sandbox. Playing with friends. Shooting basketballs. Picking tomatoes from the garden.

And all of that exists today.

Ask my kids. Just add in a Kindle Fire or watching America’s Got Talent on Hulu. But it’s all there. The magic of summer.

It’s not us that creates it.

It’s just summer.

And summer has it’s own magic.

(That’s why this title is for the century…hahha….maybe it’s timeless)

Our job as moms isn’t to force a summer ideal on them, but to remember. To remember those mornings when the sun would flitter in or we’d ride in the car forever to family reunions or all of that. My parents didn’t have a cute activity a day chart for us to follow. They had chores. And trips to Dairy Queen. And that Coppertone that was slathered on my back.

That’s summer.

So how do you give your kids that 21st century summer?

Let them be kids.


Chasing bugs. Eating ice cream. Getting bored.

So let it go. Let all the pressures to recreate the perfect utopian summer from the past and to embrace the summer of today. Apps and Kindles and Hulu and Sunscreen 2000 and a million kind of popsicles and so forth.

Your kids won’t remember the lists.

They’ll remember their summer.

21st Century style.


ps. chances are when our kids are grown they’ll tell their kids magical tales of the summers where their parents had to call them on cell phones and snapchat and sunscreen and so forth….that’s the beauty of the past…it’s always more magical then we think when we’re living it. 🙂

19 Responses to “How to Give Your Kids a 21st Century Summer”

  1. June 5, 2017

    Robert Reply

    Moms OR Dads. We SAHDs get left out :,(

  2. June 6, 2017

    Valerie Barajas Reply

    Love this post!

  3. June 7, 2017

    Mette Jorgensen Reply

    I can only agree with you that summer in itself has a magic to it and the fact that the days are warm and long, makes for lots of outdoor fun. The things you described like popsicles, bikerides, playing with friends are exactly how I remember my summers growing up and it’s what I want my kids to have. However, I do think there is one major new modern thing, which often gets in the way these days when you have time to “do nothing” at home =the screens! Ipads, mobile phones, laptops, tv, playstation etc. It’s there in most families and it can be hard work to keep the kids off all the amazing technology. As a parent I find that the hardest bit about managing the summer holiday. The daily questions of “when can we do screen time”? Yes, it does make me wish myself back to the 70’s and 80’s when all kids (and adults) had was TV and that was only in the evening.

    • June 15, 2017

      Doing Good Together Reply

      We wholeheartedly agree, it’s tough to manage screentime – especially since many of us don’t have a ‘screen-filled’ summer of our own to look back on. We offer tips for creating a family media plan (yes, for adults too) in our June Newsletter (on our website). In addition, we might suggest many of the other resources for at-home acts of kindness and service. They are unique ways to give kids something to do besides the traditional reading, swimming, and playing outside. When kids incorporate routine acts of kindness in their lives, they might be less likely to dive into the world of screens and more apt to experience the world around them. Good luck and happy summer!

  4. June 7, 2017

    Spring Reply

    This was fabulous and just what I needed to hear. Thank you! Summer is magical.

  5. June 7, 2017

    Linda Reply

    So right. It’s summer Mom’s. It is exhausting to even read the list and must dos for summer. Sit outside, go to the pool. Drink iced tea or fruit juice. Relax!!

  6. June 7, 2017

    Jen Kirby Reply

    The whole point of “recreating” summers of the 70s and 80s is that mom’s didn’t entertain their kids all summer. Didn’t have lists, Pinterest ideas to replicate, etc. The idea IS to take the pressure off, let kids be kids, and just enjoy SUMMER.

  7. June 7, 2017

    Amy K. Reply

    I LOVE this! But in defense of my activity-a-day past summers with little boys, the activities were as much to keep ME from going nuts as it was them. We *needed* that little bit of structure and planning back then. Now that they’re older, we’re all better at finding stuff to do and less and less planning is required. phew!

  8. June 7, 2017

    A. Reply

    They don’t always survive sunburns. My husband died from childhood sun exposure.

  9. June 7, 2017

    Tia Reply

    This is the take away I’ve gotten from all those articles:summer itself is magical. We don’t have to make it magical. Let them play and be and have less structure and summer will be remembered fondly.

  10. June 9, 2017

    KF Reply

    I agree with the sentiment but please slap some sunscreen on your kids. I was one of those 80s kids that “survived” sunburns and now I’m dealing with skin cancer. I wish my parents had been better about dipping me into a vat of sunscreen before pushing me out the door 😉

    • June 10, 2017

      Rachel Marie Martin Reply

      Oh I don’t disagree with the sunscreen — just now the unbelievable number of choices and do this or don’t do that or never do this or stop that.

  11. June 10, 2017

    Phoebe Reply

    Great point! Summer for most kids doesn’t mean they get to stay home the whole time, though. Our kids go to summer camp, we continue to work, and our weekly schedule is pretty much the same. We do take vacations and play and eat dinner outside in the evenings and go camping on the weekends, and it’s magical, but most of the families that I know have two jobs and the kids are in day care or summer camp. They’re not getting the “endless summer” experience.

  12. June 11, 2017

    Sue Lones Reply

    I remember we were outside all day, but still had supervision-be it from parents,grandparents,aunts ,uncles,siblings or cousins or neighbors-everyone knew each other and if you didn’t behave,your parents would find out!!It takes a village to raise a child and that’s what I think is missing nowadays!!

  13. I love this! It is a great reminder that the best thing about summer is that they are lazy days to relax!

  14. May 3, 2018

    Flo Mueller Reply

    21st century kids should definitely have their time under the sun. However, not everyone “survives” sunburn, and its impact on our child’s health later in life shouldn’t be underestimated. I think we’re all allowed to be concerned with our kids’ safety without being too overbearing. So make sure your kid wears sunscreen before he goes outside, not just during the summer but throughout the year.

  15. June 1, 2019

    Elizabeth Reply

    Yes! Momma doesn’t have time or enjoy creatively making an alphabet list of summer activities! We roll with whatever each day brings and always pack our sunscreen!

  16. June 1, 2019

    K Reply

    Ummm… that’s the whole point of the 70s 80s summers.. that’s what all “those” articles are saying. I think you’re missing the point.

    They weren’t PLANNED! That’s the problem today. Who cares about the screens and video games. Why is it I have to sign up my kids in 15 camps in FEBRUARY just to get them “busy” in the summer.

    What’s not addressed here is that this generation of parents (I’m a 1975 one!) feel like every moment has to be filled.

    Let them be kids. JUST like in the 70s and 80s. Running through hose water and sprinklers that weren’t buried in our yards; riding their bikes on the street (OMG the horror); knocking on doors to see who can play.

    Come on. Keep it simple people. Your kids won’t resent you when they’re 25 years old and say “why did’t you send me to those 7 camps each summer?”

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