Dinner at the beach

Pick blueberries

Canoeing

Music festival

Camping at the lake

Ice cream

Water park

Outdoor movie

Mom scribbled furiously while everyone shouted out ideas. While there were a few, “I don’t want to do that,” there were a lot more “Yeah!” and great ideas flowing out. This is a summer planning family meeting, and everyone is getting into it.

Hold a Family Meeting to Decide What to Do This Summer

If you haven’t held family meetings regularly, holding one to decide what to do over the summer is a great place to start. It’s a light-hearted, fun reason to meet, and everyone can get involved.

Family meetings are a great way to stay connected and to talk about issues—light or serious—that arise. They are a place to talk about family rules and tradition, discuss responsibilities and family spending, or entertain ideas about getting a family pet. Ideally you make family meetings a regular thing, so that when you face a challenge or big decision, you have a space to deal with it.

So why not start now with planning your summer? Choose a time when you can spend some time together unrushed. Put this meeting on everyone’s calendar and consider it a significant event. Serve popcorn or watermelon or a fun, summery snack.

For most family meetings, you may keep a running agenda or start off the meeting asking what people want to talk about. For this meeting, you have one agenda item: decide what you want to do this summer.

Start with a big brainstorm.

What makes it feel like summer to you? What things have you been waiting for warm weather to do? What have you done in the past that you want to do again? These are questions to ask as you start brainstorming.

Set a timer and have everyone write down things they would like to do over the summer. They can be as big as Go to Disneyland or as small as Sleep in or Look for fireflies. When the time is done, share your lists.

Alternately, have a lively group brainstorm where everyone shouts out ideas. Have somebody write them all the ideas.

Remember, in a brainstorm, you don’t judge. You just get all the ideas down.

Choose Your Big To Dos

Look at all the things you want to do. Highlight any idea that everybody was excited about. Put a star next to any idea that was somebody’s top pick. These are top priorities.

Is there anything on your list that isn’t possible? Maybe you need more planning time for a 6-week cross-country trip or you already booked a place at the beach so going to a lake isn’t going to work this year. Put those ideas aside. Talk about doing them at another time in a different family meeting.

Pick 1–3 big items on your list. The things that will take planning or reservations or vacation time. Look at where you can do that in your summer and schedule them.

Make Your Summer List

Look at the rest of your ideas. They are probably a mix of day trips or treats or small activities. Maybe it’s visiting a state park for hiking or eating corn fresh from the farm or reading on the porch.

Use these ideas to guide your summer, so that you spend free time doing the things you, as a family, really want to do. And since weekends fill up fast, you can also use this as a guide to saying yes or no to events and invitations. Maybe you say no the neighborhood block party because you really want to go to a music festival that weekend. Or you flex your schedule to go into work later, because lazy mornings are important to all of you.

Try one of these methods to set up a list that can inspire you all summer:

Create a Poster. Using a poster board and colorful markers, write each thing you want to do on the list. Each week as you approach the weekend, choose something to do, or check in with the list if you have a free day or evening. Maybe a random Tuesday is a great time to go out for ice cream.

Make Fun Jars. Divide the ideas into day trips and quick activities. Then write each idea onto a small, separate piece of paper, keeping the piles separate. Put the papers into two jars (or boxes). When you have a free day, pick an idea from the day trip jar. If you have some free time, but not a full day, pick from the quick activities—maybe it’s time to go fishing or do a jigsaw puzzle or have a picnic dinner.

Summer can get so busy, but if we set some intentions about how we want to feel and what we want to do as a family—and put those ideas some place as a reminder, we’re more likely to come to the end of August feeling like we had a great summer as a family.

Wrap up your family meeting by deciding on your first summer activity, and get ready for some fun.

Also, write your stories down this summer. Save them. You’ll be surprised how much it means — to you, the writer, and to those who read it. Often the first step in saving family stories is learning them and that means asking questions, so I’ve gathered 5 to get you started.

P.S. I would love to hear about your summer fun ideas. Please tell me in comments!