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It’s a beautiful, warm, spring day, and I’m summer dreaming.  Imagine it with me, ladies – relaxing mornings, sleeping in late, long leisurely cups of coffee, afternoons of reading by the pool with a book, maybe an evening dinner with friends and the latest blockbuster hit …

Oh wait.  Who’s going to watch my three kids under age 4?  Scratch that plan.

My summer is much more likely to consist of watching the sunrise while feeding my baby, passing out grilled cheese and fish sticks at lunchtime, afternoons reading Dr. Seuss books by the kiddie pool, and evening “concerts” by my very own toddler band.  It will be a mix of princess dresses and diapers, cuddles and time-outs, giggles and meltdowns.

So, given the reality of the season of life we’re in, how do we create a summer with little ones that at least gives us pleasant dreams instead of endless nightmares?

Here, five summer tips for planning a successful summer.

Dive in with both feet

Maybe into the pool, but also into the summer plans.  One of the hardest things about summer is that it completely disrupts the usual routine.  Don’t wait for the kids to feel bored or you to feel overwhelmed.  Create a new daily and weekly routine that will help you and the kids know what’s coming and enjoy what’s there.

Enjoy the wildflowers

As you create your routines and plans, look for simple, natural ways to entertain the family.  Don’t feel the pressure to visit every kids play place or come up with new, messy Pinterest crafts every day.  Instead, make Wednesday water day and let them paint on the walls with water in the backyard (seriously, minimal prep and no clean up!). Or perhaps take them to the library every Friday for the free library reading program. Find ways to work smart instead of hard.

Beat the heat

I don’t mean the 90+ degree weather. I’m talking about the fact that summer is hot, unpredictable and often over-stimulating for little ones; it’s truly a breeding ground for baby meltdowns and toddler tantrums.  Know this, and plan accordingly.  Don’t overdo it in an attempt to create the best summer ever.  Create breaks.  Keep lunch time and nap time in place.  And while you’re at it, schedule some down time for yourself to avoid the mommy meltdowns too.

Plan for rainy days

In spite of your best intentions to create a simple, fun summer, there will be rainy days when everyone is tired and moody.  There will also be times where you feel inadequate and overwhelmed.  Give up that vision of the perfect summer everyone else shows on their Facebook feed and do your best to roll with the rainy days too.

Turn toward the sunshine

As the summer progresses, stop and check in.  Where is the sun shining the brightest?  In other words, what’s working?  Adjust and do it more!  Also, as you plan the perfect summer for your little ones, build in some things that make you feel bright and sunny too.

Bottom line?  Summer won’t be perfect, but it can be a time full of treasured memories that you’ll carry forward when this season of little ones is over.  Maybe it’ll even include some times you dream about in 20 years when you finally get to lounge by the pool and simply read a book again.

Kristen M. White, Psy.D. is a licensed, clinical psychologist ( who resides in Southern California with her fantastic husband and three, vibrant children.  In addition to running a private therapy practice and teaching at the graduate level, she tries to help other moms via her weekly vlog. “The MOM Degree” aims to provide support and tools to women to help them feel less crazy and be more effective as moms; check it out and tell her what you want to hear about today!