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Summer activities are canceled, but the magic of the season isn’t

This summer feels like both an insurmountable task and an incredible opportunity.

Summer activities are canceled, but the magic of the season isn’t

It seems like everything that makes summer special has been canceled or restricted—summer camp, youth athletics, pools, amusement parks, fairs. This summer will look and feel different than any summer we've had before. As I stare down another day with nothing to do, nowhere to be, I worry about how we're going to get through it.

Summer break is typically a busy time for our family. The reprieve from academics is packed full of practices, playdates, pool sessions and athletic events. My 12-year-old always seems to be making plans with friends while my 5-year-old runs through a variety of summer camp activities to keep busy.

As a mom of three, accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle that characterizes our culture's worship of busy, I have reveled in the slowing down this pandemic has forced on us. Yet as I look towards summer I fear the endless empty days will overwhelm me.

How can I continue to enjoy the slow pace of staying at home without my children dying of boredom and taking me down with them?


This summer we won't be filling our days with activities morning, noon and night. We won't run ourselves ragged until, before I know it, I'm headed back to Target to buy school supplies. This summer feels like both an insurmountable task and an incredible opportunity.

When the days stretch endlessly ahead with no obligations to fill our time it feels almost suffocating. I look at my blank calendar and it seems this emptiness has no end. Leaving the house only sparingly causes the days to blend together and time feels altogether meaningless without the structure and rhythm school provided. We've only had a few weeks of freedom and already I've lost all sense of time. I never know what day it is or what to expect from myself or anyone else.

Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled the school year is over. Virtual school has hands down been the hardest part of quarantine thus far. Supervising my sixth grade and pre-k students' academic requirements while also caring for my infant was an overwhelming task. During those grueling weeks, I longed for the days I wouldn't spend peering over my preteen's shoulders ensuring he was doing his work or arguing with my daughter about attending her Google classroom. Here we are without a care in the world and I'm terrified.

This summer I plan on focusing on relationships and routines. This doesn't mean I'll be waking everyone up at dawn to sit in a circle singing about how much we love each other (although that does sound nice) followed by a strictly scheduled day of academically enriching activities. It does, however, mean I will prioritize relationships above all else and our days will have a sense of rhythm and predictability.

My kids need to know what my boundaries are, I need to know what the boundaries of our home are. Do we have unlimited screen time? Do we have to spend a certain amount of time outside? Are there projects we hope to work on? How will we keep our bodies active in lieu of organized sports?

In order to create an environment built on cooperation, my children need to know I care about them. Spending time with them one on one each day and allowing them to choose a favorite activity, will pay off in the long run when it comes time to enforce the boundaries we create.

I hope to let my kids be the guide for what our routine looks like. This is supposed to be a break after all. To enjoy it we need to know the parameters of our days but we don't need to be stifled by schedules either.

A bit of freedom, a bit of rhythm is what this summer is calling for.

If my son wants extra screen time, can he add in some extra reading? If his friend wants to go on a bike ride in the afternoon can he spend his quiet time later in the day? My kids will be more likely to comply if they know I'm willing to compromise and if they feel a sense of flexibility within the parameters we set.

This summer needs to feel like a break, we're all desperately in need of one. I know though, if I don't give my kids some structure this may end up feeling just as stressful as virtual learning and that is the last thing I want to happen. I want my children to have the freedom to explore and enjoy their break, without free-falling through our favorite months of the year.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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