Countdown to Chaos: 6 Tips for a Balanced, Productive Summer

As far as school moms go, I’m definitely a rookie.  My oldest is in Kindergarten, my middle is in pre-school, and my youngest is at home with me all day.  However, I must admit: I am afraid of summer break.

As much as I love those long, lazy days of summer, I am also reminded that I will have all three of them home with me all day long.  While I do miss my oldest when he’s gone all day, and I love to see him when we pick him up, it is bound to be an adjustment.  As a work-from-home mom, I have gotten used to our current routine, with a couple hours of semi-quiet to work and finish a thought without some major chaos happening around me.  Not to mention that kids thrive on routine, and now there will be none of the daily errands or tasks that we are used to doing.

{insert panic here}

School is almost out. So I have only a few more days to figure out how to get ahead of the chaos before it hits. How will I get my work done, keep my kids entertained and enriched, get outside, and find time to grocery shop at some point here and there?

In some ways, I feel like I’m prepping for battle/a large storm/Armageddon/all of the above.  In other ways, I’m so excited to spend the summer with my littles, that I tend to forget that I have other responsibilities, too! So here’s my rookie attempt to finding a balance between the two, and my reminder to stay on top of all the things that we all need to have a fun, healthy, productive summer together.

1. Work:

I am determined to set myself a work schedule, which is not easy for me.  No matter what it takes, I am going to get myself on some regular hours/days if it kills me! I’ve been stocking up on some fun workbooks for my boys to prepare for Kindergarten and 1st grade, and some fun projects for my toddler to (hopefully) keep her busy.  In an ideal world, we could all sit around the table with our respective “work” together. In reality, I realize that I will most likely need to resort to waking up at the crack of dawn to work before they get up.  And then stay up late, after they all crash, to work some more.  Either way, here’s hoping we all get some work done! 

Hit up the Dollar Tree for workbooks and fun, educational crafts for the kids. They have tons!

2. Play:

An essential to summer (and any time for kids, really) is play. Don’t you remember longing for those precious months off of school to sleep in, play all day long, and then repeat? Let’s not forget to give them time to play and have fun, both structured and unstructured. Get outside and enjoy the amazing outdoor activities and great parks that Iowa City has to offer. Or make it simple and just throw the sprinkler in the backyard and let them run in it for hours on end.

3. Date:

If you have multiple kids (and you’re able), try taking some one-on-one dates. My middle son and I had one of these dates last week, and it was so precious. It’s amazing how different it can be when you have time with just one of them! And when the whole family’s together, make sure to visit some of the awesome farmers’ markets in the area.  Those markets are a great way to have fun and teach them a little something at the same time!


4. Eat: 

After visiting the markets, bring home your locally-grown goodies and make a meal together. If your kids are eating lunch (and breakfast) at school all year, make a point to tell them how much you enjoy having them at home for meal times. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but find ways to let them help with the meals, even if it means dinner takes a little bit longer to get done.  Believe me, they will enjoy it, and you will cherish these memories when summer comes to an end and you are sitting alone at the lunch table while they are away at school.

5. Play:

Yes, of course, more play! Not feeling up to planning a fun activity or craft for them?  Don’t forget, they love a pile of pillows or a big cardboard box just as much as all the toys in aisle 7 (or at least that’s the case at my house).  Let their imaginations run wild, and listen to how adorable they are when they “pah-tend” (pretend, as my daughter pronounces it).  Stuck in the house for too many rainy days?  Check out some of the fun indoor play places in the Corridor!  There’s so much to do!

6. Slow down:

This is perhaps the most important tip, and one that I will be reminding myself of frequently, I’m sure.  Allow yourself (and more importantly, your kids) time to do nothing.  Life is so busy, our  routines are so full, and kids these days are doing way more work in elementary school than we did (am I right?!), so let’s remind ourselves it’s ok to take a break, and to let them do the same.  Pop some popcorn (with M&Ms dumped in the bowl, of course) and lounge around in your PJs for a movie day (or movie afternoon/night, if you are working moms).  Read some books, look at old pictures or videos of the kids and laugh with them, do some kid-friendly yoga poses, and allow yourselves to take some deep breaths. 


It can do wonders for the soul, and those workbooks can wait until tomorrow.  Before you know it, they will be putting on the backpacks again and waving goodbye.

And so begins my first summer as a “school mom”.  Bring on the chaos; I think I’m prepared!


How about you?  What are your go-to tips for finding balance and enjoying the summer with your kids? I’d love to add to my list!


Sara and her husband Matt (sweethearts since they were just 16) got married in 2007, and since then have welcomed four beautiful children (Sam in 2008, Cooper in 2010, Nora in 2012, and Adam James in December 2015). A born-and-raised Iowan, Sara received both her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees (in Spanish Literature) from the University of Iowa. She's still teaching Spanish wherever and whenever she can, but her true passion is owning Iowa City Moms and building this community alongside her amazing team. Sara is also the Community Engagement Coordinator for City Mom Collective, and the owner of Cowork Collective downtown Iowa City. Common denominator in all of these jobs: community, community, community.


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