Creating a Summer Bucket List

By Lisa Bates

When I was young, roaming about my backyard and neighborhood, summer seemed endless. Ten weeks of friends, fun, beaches and fireflies. As a parent, summer seems to fly by in a blink. One minute, it is Fourth of July fireworks, and the next minute, we are back to school shopping and savoring Labor Day weekend.

There is something precious and indescribable about summer, therefore it is worthy of careful thought and planning. Don’t be alarmed, I am not talking about planning an overscheduled summer; rather, a little planning to help you have the carefree, relaxing, fun-filled summer you deserve.

We started the Summer Bucket List when my children were just around school age, the time that summer becomes increasingly important and often fleeting. And, while the bucket list is designed for a child’s input, it has become my most favorite and precious To-Do List. I know, a To-Do List and summer should not be used in the same sentence, but hear me out.

Like most parents, I know that I have promised my children things and then not delivered on those promises. This bothers me, as it should. For me, the bucket list represents those commitments that we (particularly me) have chosen to be accountable to. We will read the books we want to, visit the friends and family that we don’t get to see in the rush of the school year, find time for our favorite park, and go to the beach with the cool boardwalk. Our theme for the summer will keep us in tune to something as simple as “the summer of the sea shell” (I still have sea shells from the summer of ’04, and five extra pounds from the summer of 2012, “the summer of ice cream”).

So, why the list? A Dominican University Study found that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. The study also points to two other very important factors in getting things done: accountability and commitment.

While the summer bucket list is first and foremost a fun, interactive family tool, over the years I have found that it serves some other very important purposes. When we come together on decisions about what to do with our time, who to spend it with, what activities are important and where we see ourselves, we are also making important decisions about commitment, accountability and values.

As parents, we talk and plan and rush about our worlds, sometimes forgetting the “commitments” we make to our children. Being accountable to our summer bucket list—to those things that we as a family have deemed important—teaches our children the value of commitment. Our word, our promise to do something, to go somewhere, to spend time, is given a more permanent and lasting home on our list.

When the dreaded, “I’m bored” descends upon the house, sometimes a quick glance at the list holds the perfect solution.

“Hey, why don’t we check the tide and take our annual swim off the boardwalk.”

“Give your Auntie a call and see if we can take her out for ice cream.”

“It’s stifling hot outside; do you want to watch a movie in front of the air conditioner?”

For children young and old, the most important part of this list is the joy it brings. Its simplicity and collection of even the simplest activities makes it a no-brainer for us every summer.

Last, but most certainly not least, be prepared to be amazed at what your child may contribute to the list. Even teenagers have favorite summer traditions that you may think they have outgrown. Choosing an activity that your child contributed, validating their suggestion, involving them in the planning, and enjoying your time together, will fill your bucket to brimming.

Happy Summer!

About Lisa Bates

Lisa Bates has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, Certification to teach Behavioral Sciences and a degree in Business Administration. From school administrator and non-profit executive, to teacher, coach, counselor and mom, Lisa has extensive experience, knowledge and training working with children from toddlers to teenagers. Currently, Lisa owns and operates LB Living Better, an organizational and educational services business. Lisa has just released her first book, Barbies in the Horse Bin, Living Better with Organized Children, and she is a seasoned, energizing, humorous, workshop presenter with extensive experience. As a mother of three teenagers including twin boys, Lisa maintains her sanity by writing, traveling and playing with her dogs. Read more about Lisa Bates at or contact her at

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