Last week I talked about the importance of setting up systems and routines for you and your kids so your summer can run smoothly.
The next step in this “getting ready for summer” process for me is to get all of my summer bags organized.
Stop for a second. You should know by now that I am the anti-planner. I love all things spontaneous — it’s my favorite thing in the world to do a crazy, spur-of-the-moment activity with friends and my kids.
But I do know that anything spontaneous with five kids requires some level of readiness or else we end up taking two hours to “get ready” to jump in the car for our fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants adventure.
Enter Summer Bags.
You could also call them kits. Or boxes. Whatever.
These are bags that you have stocked, organized, and ready to go for certain activities. The goal of these bags is to avoid the “we’re leaving in three minutes and we’re not ready to go yet.”
Getting these bags prepped now will also save you money. Instead of running to the store on the way to the park to get supplies and pay full price, you can shop sales and search Amazon for the best deals.
Here are my Summer Bag plans I’m planning to assemble for this year:
First Aid Kit
This one seems like a no-brainer, but I actually don’t have one in my car. Time to fix that.
You can purchase a ready-made bag on Amazon (or at your local drug or big box store) or make your own with supplies you already have in your closet.
Sanity Saving Tip: Use medical/surgical tape + cheap gauze instead of fancy (and expensive) bandages for larger cuts and burns. This has saved me so much frustration and money. For any injury not served by a standard-sized Band-Aid, I now use gauze and medical tape.
I get the gauze that can be cut or torn to size so I can perfectly cover the injury by cutting or just folding a piece in half. If it needs some anti-bacterial gel stuff, I smear it on the gauze, place the gel-side on the cut, and tape the whole thing down with medical tape.
The big box of 3M Paper Medical Tape and this sleeve of Medical Sponges (not the best descriptor) will last you for a couple of years. I store the sponges and a roll of tape in a Ziploc bag. The tape tears easily so you don’t need scissors.
Dedicate a bag, box, or basket for the library so your kids know where to put a book or DVD when they are finished with it. You could also have a baggie with everyone’s cards and summer reading program charts inside.
This storage basket would make it VERY clear to your people what goes in it. Seems perfect for both storing the books at home and toting them to and from the library. Plus it’s not ugly. You could also use a sturdy canvas tote from L.L. Bean (or similar style).
Our swim bag has extra goggles, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hats, and pool toys ready to go. When we’re running out the door to swim, we only need to remember dry towels and snacks.
I use a big insulated bag like this one because it makes the bag waterproof. Make sure it zips as well as swim bags are always getting dumped in puddles.
Costco has an insulated freezer bag for less than $7 in the food storage and picnic section that will work as well.
As I stated in my Summer Systems post, I’m not in charge of children’s individual swim stuff (goggles, towels, rash guards, etc.). They each have their own swim bag (Speedo’s medium-size Teamster bags are the BEST) with their random stuff and I am NOT responsible for anything inside. They can also use last year’s school backpack as their dedicated swim bag.
Sanity Saving Tip: Buy a bunch of cheap-o sunglasses at the Dollar Tree. These live in your swim bag and are only used for pool or swim time. This will make sure you aren’t hunting for a pair of sunglasses minutes before leaving.
I also found great water toys at the Dollar Tree, including water balls and rubber ducks.
If you go to the park or beach often, have a Sand Box Bag ready to go. I use a large mesh-bag and keep it in our garage. Every couple of years I just go restock broken buckets and shovels at the Dollar Tree (or troll garage sales for cheap upgrades).
I really wish my bag zipped at the top so toys wouldn’t fall our during transport and storage. This bag on Amazon looks amazing. This sand bag doesn’t have a zipper, but the outside pockets, inside zip pouch, and carabiner for your keys is almost perfect.
Focus on emergency snacks — individual packs of chips and crackers (like crackers and fake cheese spread), jerky, non-chocolate protein bars, fruit leather, apple sauce pouches. Look through our Amazon Prime Pantry deal list for inexpensive non-perishable snack options.
This medium-sized square lunch bag should be the perfect size for storing in the trunk of your car.
I found some inexpensive options at Fred Meyer but Amazon or Walmart works just as well, including whiffle ball + bat, football, soccer ball, four-square ball, and a waterproof blanket for the spectators.
This inexpensive mesh sports bag would work well for your playground equipment!
Water Bottle Bag
Okay, you might not need a bag for this, but it’s a good idea for everyone to have their own personal water bottle. Label it with their name (or everyone gets their own color) and they are responsible for keeping it safe throughout the summer. And if they lose it, they get to buy a new one. (See? We’re teaching the importance of hydration AND personal responsibility.)
I might have an actual bag with water bottles ready to go so I’m not searching through the house when we’re ready to leave for the dumb things. The only time the water bottles are removed from the bag at home is to dump or refill them.
Or how cool would it be to have a DRINK CARRIER to transport bottles?!?
And after trying out about 7,935 kids’ water bottle opens over the last decade, I’ve decided that simple and inexpensive are the best. I now only care about three things when it comes to water bottles:
- They are cheap enough that I won’t go ballistic if someone loses one
- They are actually, truly leakproof with twisting lids — NOT snap or pull up lids or straw lids. Forget it. Those leak.
- The child can open and close the thing themselves
You know what meets all the above criteria? PLASTIC JUNK FROM THE GROCERY STORE.
Obviously, reuse them for as long as you can and then recycle them when you’re finished. To keep germs at bay (and to know immediately which kid left their bottle in the car), mark them. I’m thinking the thin decorative duct or washi tape will be perfect — one color for each child!
If you want to see the Summer Activity Bags in action, be sure to check out my Facebook Live video below!
Looking for more ways to help survive the summer?
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