One mom’s DIY approach to summer: “structure, not scheduling”

Photo credit: Kyran Pittman
Photo credit: Kyran Pittman

In response to my summer vacation "big picture" post, Sara responded:

…I'm trying to balance [my 4 year-old's] need for lots of stimulation with my need to get things done. I've decided to say somewhat structured, but not scheduled, if that makes sense.

Structured, not scheduled. Doesn't that sound lovely? I talked about something similar in my relaxed parent's guide to summer vacation, but her phrasing just ties it up in a bow. (Thank you, Sara!)

Flexible structure works for my family because we all need a break from the tighter schedule of the school year BUT we don't (usually) lapse into the blahs (them) and regret (me) that come with no structure at all.

But what does "structured, not scheduled" look like?

For Kyran Pittman, it looks like Camp Whattawedo.

Open mornings (complete with breakfast bar) and themed afternoons based on local activities, library visits, swimming, crafts and projects.

Some preparation is required (stocking the breakfast bar, researching local events and attractions, communicating the plan) but there's lots of room for wiggle and input.

If your kids are too young for self-directed mornings, perhaps there's a local kid who wants a summer job as a "mother's helper"? The first time I heard the term mother's helper it sounded like a cutesy cocktail. But it refers to a kid who gets paid to entertain and take care of your kid while you're home. Babysitting lite.

Read Kyran's post for details (and, of course, fantastic writing). Then follow along with her summertime adventures (and share your own!) on Kyran's Facebook page and on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #WHATTAWEDO.

→ At Planting Dandelions: Welcome to Camp Whattawedo

Kyran is a dear friend and one of my favorite writers. Her book is also titled Planting Dandelions, and it's the perfect summer read.


  1. says

    I love the Camp Whattodo idea! We live in VT which is a lot like living at camp. For example even in our tiny town there are probably 12 outdoor parks within a 5 mile radius. So there is no dearth of fun things to do.

    But I’ve noticed in the past we just run around all summer – swimming, camping, playdates, hiking, etc. And then BAM summer is over. So we’re going to try something new this summer which is the Summer Wish List. I want to capture special things we (kids, me, husband) want to do. So far the list includes:
    – Boston summer trip
    – Backyard camp out
    – Boat ride
    – Learn to ride without training wheels (WEEE!)

    OK so we’re still working on the list. But the point is I don’t want to schedule everything but I want a rough list of things we WANT to do so summer doesn’t just float by as is has in the past :)