My kids were in second and fourth grade when I returned to work outside of the home. Both feared their summer vacation was doomed, that they’d traded in lazy days at the pool for never-ending summer camps. Attending one or two summer camps because you want to is one thing; being required to go because both parents work is completely different.

So summer changed and camps became part of the routine because they had to. But I wanted my son and daughter to know that just because mommy was spending part of her day in an office didn’t mean that summer fun had to disappear. We could still have fun together even though I wasn’t home all day long like I was the previous summers. 

Thus we entered a summer vacation ritual that continues three years later: the Summer Bucket List. It's a fun, creative, visual idea that helped my kids realize summer vacation wasn’t doomed after all. Here's how to do it.

1. Head to your nearest craft or box store and purchase a plastic beach bucket. An accessorizing shovel is optional but adds to the décor.

2. Grab some permanent markers. Write "Summer Bucket List" on the outside of the bucket. Feel free to decorate with stickers, drawings, etc.

3. Use construction paper (more colorful) or printer paper that can be cut into sizes equivalent to index cards. You can use index cards, too. 

4. Gather everyone for a family meeting. The discussion topic is “what do you want to do this summer?” Write down one idea per piece of paper.

5. Fold the papers and put them in the bucket.

That’s it. You now have a bucket filled with fun outings to get you from the first day of summer through the night before the first day of school. The activities can be as simple or involved as you want.

Here’s a sample of what’s in our bucket this year:

  • Catch fireflies
  • Enjoy a thunderstorm
  • Make s’mores
  • Go to the beach
  • Write a letter to a friend or family member
  • Go roller skating
  • Have fun on the lake
  • Make a sidewalk chalk mural on the driveway
  • Jump in puddles on a rainy day
  • Make an obstacle course
  • Blow bubbles
  • See a movie at the theater
  • Spend a day in the city

These are just a few of the activities we hope to do this summer. Throughout the next few months, we’ll access the bucket when the kids have an “I’m bored” moment (you know it’s coming). It will also be fun to take a look through the Summer Bucket List in August to see how many activities we accomplished.

The Summer Bucket List helped my kids realize that summer fun doesn’t end when mommy goes back to work. And filling up the bucket has become an end-of-school tradition that we all look forward to.

What’s on your bucket list this summer?