The Reverse Bucket List Summer: Helping Kids Grow in Gratitude

by ParentCo. July 10, 2017

A baby is sitting on mother shoulder showing something

I realized the other day that I have about 10 summers left with my oldest son before he'll be off on his own (or at least partially). Ack! That really puts things in perspective.

On the other hand, I don't want to feel pressured to create 10 magical summers filled with awe and wonder. I just want us to enjoy the time we have together. As a stay-at-home mom, I have the luxury to have the one thing that can never be replaced: time.

So how do you balance the desire to make summers fun, but not over-scheduled, over-pressured, and overdone?

I have written before about the value I see in kids experiencing boredom. Summer is prime time for boredom. We have loads of free time, few scheduled activities, and the weather is nice outside. I want to allow my sons time to just be. Just to hang around the house, tinker in the yard, dig in the garden, or build something out of a cardboard box.

Getting them past the uncomfortable feeling of boredom is often a struggle. There's usually whining or perhaps some begging for a new book or toy. I have to remember to push through that feeling and let them work it out on their own.

However, this feeling bears down on me too. I sometimes feel bored and want to take them to do every activity or camp that's available. Slow down, mama, I have to tell myself.

We often feel the need to entertain, direct, organize, and otherwise "enrich" our kids' lives.

This year I really want to focus on nurturing a sense of contentment, in my sons and myself. Compared to much of the world, we live in such luxury. We have healthy food, comfortable homes, and an almost endless assortment of entertainment options.

In such a culture, consumption has become a lifestyle. I feel this type of lifestyle breeds ungratefulness and that is one thing I do not want my kids to absorb. As Elizabeth Millard points out in her article, "If your brain is focused on what you don't have, then you'll be unhappy." At some basic level, we all want our kids to be happy. I'm hoping that focusing on gratitude instead of consumption will help them develop a sense of deeper happiness that is long-lasting and meaningful.

I want my boys and myself to feel like it's just enough. It's enough to just enjoy nature or a good book. It's enough to just go for a morning walk and find a new bug that we haven't seen before.

Many summertime posts are filled with ideas of new places to see, exciting things to do, and all the things that we "must" experience before summer is over. This year, in lieu of the summer "bucket list," I've decided to put together something different.

Based on an article that involved a reverse bucket list, this year I'm going to help my boys create a reverse summer bucket list. The idea is to list activities that we did in the past that brought us joy and contentment. I'm hoping just the conversation itself will inspire a sense of gratitude. Of course, if we feel like doing these things again, that's great.

Here are a few things we came up with on our reverse summer bucket list:

1 | Played in the sprinklers until we got too cold and had to come inside

2 | Had a lemonade stand

3 | Went for a ride on paddle boats

4 | Went to a national park (or two)

5 | Went to family camp

6 | Went camping

7 | Went to visit a farm and feed the animals

8 | Played board games or card games

9 | Learned chess

10 | Swam with friends

11 | Found a new park and climbed a cool tree

12 | Went to grandma/grandpa camp

13 | Had an ant, tadpole, or roly-poly farm

14 | Had plenty of water gun fights

15 | Wandered around a library or bookstore

16 | Went roller skating

17 | Roasted marshmallows by the campfire

18 | Went to see a kid’s movie on a hot afternoon

19 | Went to the farmer's market

20 | Listened to music at an outdoor concert

21 | Went for a cool hike with a great view

22 | Found an awesome playground

23 | Went for a bike ride around the neighborhood (costumes make it awesome!)

Want to create your own Reverse Summer Bucket List with your kids? Grab a pen and get started. Foster a sense of contentment and gratitude to create a summer of memories.

Originally published at the



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