So, your wonderful, beautiful, studious kids are about to complete another year of school. Congratulations! Now what? Finding the time as a single mom to keep your kids entertained during the long, lazy days of summer can be somewhat of a challenge if you’re not prepared. With the school year almost ending, now’s a good time to start making plans. As a response to an article I wrote for Peter Greenberg, which you can read here, one mom’s suggestion for how to keep the kids engaged in activity for the summer stood out among the rest for its ease and creativity. She calls it, “Summer in a jar”.

Basically, at the end of the school year, she has her kids write down at least 50 things they’d like to do, each on a strip of paper. They throw the strips in the jar and pick one thing each day, then set out to do it! Some of her examples included “picking farm vegetables/fruits at our local u-pick, European market, make oobleck, make home-made ice cream, bake cookies for our neighbors, plant sunflower seeds, go to the drive in movie theater, face paint, make stepping stones, feed the seagulls at the beach, take a bike ride, catch fireflies, camp in the backyard, etc.”.

Make Your Own “Summer in a Jar”

The beauty of this project is that there are no real guidelines besides the ones you make up with your family. It’s especially nice for single moms with two or more kids who find that agreement on just one activity or idea is a challenge. Letting both or all of your children participate in submitting activity strips allows for everyone’s preferences to be acknowledged and picking them at random eliminates anyone feeling left out or unheard. Everybody wins!

  • Pick a jar: Make a trip to the craft store, or even use an empty pickle jar! Make sure it’s big enough to fit the strips of paper inside. Be creative if you want and make decorating the jar an activity for the kids as well!
  • Get some paper. Different colored construction paper, lined notebook paper, blank white paper, anything will work!
  • Sit down as a group and talk about some of the things you’d like to do together over the summer. The great thing about this project is that it’s totally flexible, and it’s unique to your family and your tastes. If you work every day, and your kids have 10-12 weeks of summer, maybe you’d like to just put 10-12 strips of paper in the jar and one day each weekend pick one of the activities at random to do together. If you have more time, submit more activities. Do whatever feels like it fits your family best.

*As an added activity if it best fits you and your kids, let them keep a journal to reflect in after the activities. For younger kids, this keeps their writing and thinking skills sharp over the summer and helps them discover their likes and dislikes while still keeping things fun. They don’t have to write a novel or even a hundred words, but even a couple of sentences about what they did or a picture will help keep their minds engaged and will show them that writing and reflecting aren’t just helpful school skills!

Most importantly, HAVE FUN! While it’s great to set some parameters, don’t get too attached to the guidelines. This is vacation!

If you have any suggestions, pictures, or testimonials once you start this project, be sure to leave a comment!