Saturday, May 14, 2016

Summer Bucket List: Who, What, Where, When, Why?!

Counting down the days until summer vacation. Building forts and sandcastles...collecting shells....roller coasters and smores by the campfire. Dirty faces, stuffed bellies, late nights, and special treats. Fireworks, lemonade, new adventures, family memories. The smells of the beach, the wind whistling through the trees in the forest, the excitement of a new experience. All vivid reminders of my summer adventures as a child.

Fast forward 30 years and now I have three children of my own. I wanted the magic of my childhood summers to be something that I shared with them. As a family, we love to travel and we love new adventures whether in our own backyard or miles away from home. About three years ago, I learned about the happy family movement and the idea of a summer bucket list. I was hooked! From there, I drafted, created, and worked out a plan that would work for my family. Now, we are just building our third summer list and it is one of the things that my children most look forward to all year. I'm not an expert; I'm not saying my method is the only one to do this and I am sure families everywhere have a similar program. But....because several people showed is how we do our summer bucket list...

Step One: Preparing our master list. In April, we start discussing potential ideas for our summer bucket list. My husband and I mention to the kids to start thinking about ideas and to remember to include things that are local and close to home as well as big dreams that are far away. We encourage ideas that are free (ex. learn something new) as well as costly ones (ex. trip to Yellowstone). The first week in May typically, we sit down as a family of five and create our master list. We take turns adding an item to the list that we want to try this summer. Sometimes, it is a repeat of a favorite from the year before (ex. mini golf always makes the list!) or sometimes it is something that we didn't have time to complete the previous year (ex. ordering passports). And sometimes, it is something new that we haven't experienced yet--something they learned about in school, a new adventure opening in our hometown, and so on. Each person takes turns listing something important to him and we open it up to discussion if there is something that not everyone likes (this doesn't happen often!) As we all discuss, I write out a list of about 25-30 things that we wish to accomplish. The kids all know that we did do out best and will likely not finish the entire list and that that is okay! Sometimes, things get moved to fall or deleted or saved for another year. Usually, we spend about 45 minutes to an hour making our list.

Step Two: Creating the bucket list board. After we have created our master list, I take 3x3 white cards and write the name of one item at the top on each card and leave the rest blank. I give my kids a set of markers and divide up the cards and they create illustrations for each adventure. These cards then get hung up on a piece of ribbon with mini clothespins on our family room wall. I work on planning the experience and putting bigger items on a summer calendar so that we can request time off and work around summer camps or other activities.

Step Three: Summer itself. We typically start out list in the beginning of May and work on all the way thru until Labor Day or early September. I try to include a couple of different items each time we travel or go on an adventure far away from home. For example, we try mini golf courses in a new city or go to a trampoline park or waterpark on vacation. For each thing that we complete on the list, the card on the wall gets taken down and replaced with a family photo of that event. Slowly over the  summer, the wish list becomes a memory board of sorts. When we have a free day or a morning with no plans, the kids run to the bucket list and choose something.

Step Four: Post-summer bucket list. After summer ends and the school year begins, we take down the pictures and the bucket list. The illustrated cards the kids had drawn as well as the family photos become a summer bucket list mini album. I also document these adventures in our regular albums and in our  project life albums. If we missed a couple of things and need to complete them over the fall, I still include them with our final product.

By no means is this a fool-proof program. We get bummed about missing things or we add things later that we didn't think of at the time of the list creation. Each summer, we usually complete about 70-75% of the items on the list and typically before the next May we have completed about 85% of the list. It works for us and we love it. We have tried new things like stand-up paddle boarding and indoor skydiving. We have made time for family camping trips, adventures at the beach, and added pins to our family travel map (another story entirely!) throughout the years. We have eaten new foods like calamari and rattlesnake and even enjoyed new places within our hometown like lava tube cave hikes and local staycation hot spots. It has been an incredible adventure!

We look forward to these adventures all year not because they cost a lot of money or take us far from home but because they are protected activities that we are all invested in and all complete as a family. We are building memories and including everyone's dreams and ideas into those memories which makes it one of our favorite times of year! If you have more ideas or questions, please reach out to me! Leave me a comment below telling me about an adventure you have planned for your family this summer...I would love to hear from you!

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