Bucket lists stress me out.
They’re just another to-do list, and I’ve got plenty of those hanging around not getting done.
But I want to love them. Especially the summer bucket lists.
I daydream about giving my girls a magical childhood summer, from the ooey gooey goodness of s’mores, to chasing elusive fireflies, to no longer having dirty hobbit feet thanks to the endless pool time.
Summer bucket lists promise all this, and more.
And yet, as soon as you put it in list form, I get the heebie jeebies:
Look at all those checkboxes!
How will we fit it all in?!
Kids, hurry up! We need to have fun NOW!
3 Easy Fixes for Your Summer Bucket List
Still, the idea of curating a treasure trove of joyful summer experiences? I can’t shake it.
I did a little research on to-do lists with summer fun in mind, and I came across three secrets to success for summer bucket lists.
If you tend to take to-do lists pretty seriously, try these tricks for keeping your summertime endeavors happy and carefree.
1. Skip the Boxes
Checklists have checkboxes. And checkboxes begged to be checked.
When you have a list with a bunch of unchecked boxes, it stresses you out.
You don’t need that pressure when it comes to having fun this summer.
Instead of thinking of your summer bucket list as an actual list, think of it as an idea board.
Here’s what we did:
- Find some butcher paper or poster board in a fun color or pattern. I lucked out at our local crafts store and found a summery bulletin board background with sky and grass for $8.99, which I cut down to a smaller size so it’ll last us three years. The sky area is for stuff we want to do, and the grass is for stuff we’ve already done. (More on that in my last tip.)
- Hang the paper somewhere in your home. Use a strip of washi tape or a marker to divide the paper into two sections, or you can hang two separate pieces of paper.
- Grab some colorful sticky notes and fun pens. (We splurged on these tropical color sticky notes, plus they’re made with 30% recycled content.)
- Sit down with your kids and ask them what they want to do this summer. You can download this summer interview printable as a starting point to get the ball rolling.
- You write while they throw out ideas – one idea per sticky note. Or if they want to write stuff down, that works too. The most important part of this process is to write down every idea. If you start to pick apart ideas, your kids will clam up and not share their deepest wishes for a fabulous summer. Make sure to explain this so the kids don’t poo-poo each other’s ideas. (My 6-year-old Abby loved the brainstorming part!)
- Put all the ideas in one section of the paper. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain what you do with the other section in the last tip.)
Now your summertime cornucopia runneth over! If you think of more ideas later, add ’em.
You won’t get everything on your idea board done, and that’s okay. These are just ideas. Inspiration.
By creating an idea board, you’ve set your intention to have a fun, happy summer.
“[You’ll] be more likely not to miss those uplifting moments and even begin to have your radar out for them. Psychiatrist Dan Siegel argues that by setting your intention, you ‘prime’ your brain to be ready for positive experiences. And this can spur a positive cycle of happiness: Research by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson shows that when we allow ourselves to feel positive emotions, we become more open and sensitive to future positive experiences, bringing us even more of those good feelings down the line.”
2. Pick One Thing
Go easy on yourself. Pick one thing a day from your idea board. Or one a week.
Better yet, have the kids pick and give them one of those yes moments they crave.
Make it a game of Pin the Tail on the Summer Donkey.
In the course of research for her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, Brigid Schulte learned that the best way to approach your day is to pick just one thing you want to do.
“[She] gives herself one thing that she has to do that day, whether it’s something scheduled like dropping the kids of at an appointment or finishing a draft of an article, or something more personal like taking a real lunch break. It’s a reasonable goal Schulte often meets, changing her entire outlook on success. ‘You’ve done your one thing that you’ve set out to do and the rest of the day feels like a win.'”
3. Cut Your Board in Half
Why did I have you divide your summer idea board in half?
Because you’ll use the second half to keep track of what you’ve done. Two reasons for keeping a done list:
- This is a productivity hack to keep you motivated and stress-free about your summer plans. (See tip #7 in my post The Secret Formula to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed.)
- It’s like a gratitude journal for your whole family.
Remember how research shows that spending time thinking about the things that make you happy actually makes you even happier?
It works on kids too. Children who regularly look back on positive experiences are happier, more optimistic, and get sick less often.
For our idea board, we put things we want to do in the sky. Then when we do them, we move the sticky note to the grass – our done list. At dinner every night, we reflect back on the day and the fun stuff we did. If we didn’t already have something we did on our idea board, we’ll make a sticky note and put it directly in the grass.
I have an added urgency to knock out our summer ideas because we have Abby with us only half the time. As the summer marches on, I know I’ll start to get anxious that we’re not doing enough. That I’m not giving the girls the most perfect summer possible.
But our done list will save me. I’ll be able to glance up and quickly see how many awesome things we’ve already done. Each sticky note will conjure an image or a taste – a shockingly high number of our sticky notes involve food. (Pancakes for dinner, making s’mores, going out for ice cream, baking cupcakes….)
I’ll remember. I’ll smile. And I’ll be ready for our next summer adventure.
For more ideas for a super fun summer with your kids, follow my Pinterest board Playful Parenting.
What are you looking forward to this summer? Share your summer plans in a comment below!