Thursday, June 28, 2012

summer bucket lists: surprise edition

seems like everyone these days is doing the summer bucket list thing. there are good reasons to pick up on the trend. for one thing, the kids love it. summer also is a special time where, even amid pesky work obligations and juggling the new schedules, there's a feeling of giddy nostalgia. school's out! i'm free! well, sort of. to wit, i'm on board with Dumb Mom who finds that having a plan is definitely better than no plan (which, as she puts it, is a sure-fire way to drive a person "bat-crap crazy").

there are several ways to approach the summer bucket list. you could simply make a list, and check it off as you go. you could do the same thing, but use an actual bucket. you could invoke your inner Kinko's and create fancy labels. you could come up with a bucket for each member of the family and do it crafty style. you can color-code by the length of time an activity takes or by the type of activity, a popular method. or take things to a whole new level and make it a game.

me, i'm a procrastinator. i'm also of the "good enough" parenting philosophy. do the kids get a kick out of it? then why go to the extra effort of making it an ode to Martha Stewart? bleck. so with no further ado, here's our version: the summer bucket surprise! (we actually don't call it that. but this is a blog. and blogs give things names. so there we are.)

step one: find some containers. we used three plastic red cups. (tip: don't buy anything at Costco unless you know you're going to use such massive quantities. we have about a billion of these things. need any?)

step two: get a Sharpie and label them "indoor," "outdoor" and "excursions." or whatever categories you decide on for your summer activities.

step three: have the kid(s) decorate the cups. my oldest isn't much into art. a smattering of glitter glue on each and she was done.

step four: cut out slips of paper (if you bring out a ruler and debate whether to use cardstock or construction paper, and mull the merits of coordinating colors, you are seriously taking this too seriously).

step five, part a: commence writing down activities, one per slip, for indoor activities, outdoor activities and excursions (can you guess what July's vocab word will be here?). i am of the firm belief that we should let kids lead on things like this. don't relive your teacher's-pet years and stay up at 10 p.m. doing this all yourself, writing with your perfect penmanship – involve the ones this is for! my daughter chose things i wouldn't have thought of, like roller skating. i made other suggestions as well, and wrote some more on my own to make for plenty of options (and inspire the use of all the puzzles and craft projects sitting on our shelves). here in the rainy PNW we're still waiting for summer to begin. so our "indoor" cup is most popular.

step six, part b: now comes the 10 p.m. part. write something down on a slip of paper for each cup that will be a surprise activity for the kid(s), marking each with a symbol (heart, star, etc.). my contributions include a hula party (indoor), with Dollar Tree once again being my best friend, and an awesome kid-in-a-bubble trick i want to try (outdoor). then get some paper bags, fill them with the necessary supplies for the surprise activities, all prepped and ready to go, and label them with the corresponding symbol. (this is as creative as it gets, folks.)

step seven: have fun! look at your day and the weather, and have the kiddos draw a corresponding slip. you should endeavor to do whatever's listed -- that is the point, after all. but if necessity dictates, toss the unwanted one back and draw again. for example, our first outdoor activity drawn was to hop in the little purple plastic pool. but while it was finally sunny today, it wasn't exactly hot. so we threw that one back in for later and instead drew the "go buy a treat" slip and walked to our neighborhood coffee shop for a bagel and then on to the playground.

other examples of things on our summer bucket lists:
- do art
- play baseball
- go for a hike
- fly a kite
- write a story (say, by re-purposing an old board book or painting rocks)
- play a game
- make a superhero cape (or in our case a superhero princess cape)
- have a tea party
- bake cookies (this recipe looks similar to our dog-eared fave)
- dance party! (a trip to "Istanbul" perhaps?)
- make and play Angry Birds (stay tuned for my half-baked version ... it involves those red plastic cups, too) here it is! diy "Angry Birds" game, in two parts
- have a race
- have a picnic (indoors and outdoors)
- build a fort (indoors and outdoors) (get rad inspiration at All For the Boys' Fort Fridays, and get in the mood with "Andrew Henry's Meadow")
- write a letter
- play chalk games
- run through the sprinkler
- play soccer
- go for a walk (and make it into a scavenger hunt, perhaps)
- go to the zoo/children's museum/park/beach

so far this has been a success. i feel like i'm sneaking veggies into their diet: my oldest is giving art projects more than a passing scribble because the idea came from a cup. in turn, i feed off my oldest daughter's enthusiasm, so it's good for my mood too. she's now really feeling the anticipation with "the surprises" – she can't wait to draw the mystery slip of paper, and neither can i!

what's on your summer bucket list? share your ideas in the comments!

you might also like:

happy times with angry birds
the best kind of book
to get us started


  1. You have lots of great ideas! I think making ordinary times an adventure is a gift! One tradition my kids recently talked about was how we would take a picnic lunch (or get takeout Chinese) and meet their dad for lunch and eat along the river downtown once a week when they were small. We road the bus-trip there-lunch-return took the betterpart of a summer day...sometimes we'd add the downtown library. Fun times at low cost.

    1. I love the idea of meeting Daddy for lunch. It's something he would appreciate, too, and feel like not all the fun is happening while he's in a cubicle! Thanks

  2. Melissa, I love you. Your creative mind and witty humor make me want to create all sorts of bucket lists for all sorts of reasons! How about indoor, outdoor, surprise and CHORE. Ha! Do you think they will get excited about a chore bucket list? I think we are going to take up a Sundin Family bucket list this year. Thanks for the great ideas!

    1. you know, a chore bucket is worth an experiment at the very least!!