Pick a Summer Theme!

With school out, longer days, and more open space in your family’s schedule, summer offers a great opportunity to try something new!

Instead of getting bogged down (like I often do) with lofty goals and plans that just aren’t realistic (like cleaning out every closet), why not pick one main theme for your family’s summer – something you can all have fun exploring or doing together?

At camp, we have a theme each summer. The themes generally focus on one of our core values, something we want campers and staff to learn and practice more. What’s fun about having a theme is it helps everyone (staff and campers) be focused on the same topic and learn the common “language” of the topic. We learn about our theme, talk about, and practice our all summer long. Our hope is that campers leave camp with a greater understanding of a particular value, and we’ve gotten feedback that that is the result of our focused themes.

Our first summer theme was in 2012 when we chose the theme of gratitude. We followed that theme with kindness (Cool 2B Kind), relationship building (Creating Connections), helpfulness (Give a Hand), grit (Growing Grit), positivity (The Energy Bus). We’ve  focused on friendship (Find-a-Friend) and building others up using the concept of “Filling Buckets” from the book, How Full is Your Bucket.

What is something you’d like your kids to practice more of? Would a theme around that character trait or value be a fun way to develop that virtue?

Picking a family summer theme could be a fun way to have a clear focus for the summer. Your theme could be around a value you hold dear – like service or gratitude – especially if it’s a value you feel could use a boost. In addition to finding specific ways to practice your theme, you could also learn more about other people who practice that value by watching movies or documentaries, reading books, and learning about past heroes who practiced that virtue.

Your theme could also be learning a new activity or skill as a family, which could provide some much-needed family fun and bonding! For example, you could take music lessons together, learn how to mountain bike or play tennis, or learn a new craft skill like candle making. Or, perhaps if you’re wanting to read more, you could do weekly library trips and participate in a reading challenge of some sort.The opportunities are endless!

Here are a few ideas for values-related summer themes we’ve tried at camp:


There’s been so much research about the life-changing power of gratitude. If you have a complainer in your family or are feeling there’s a negative vibe going on, focusing on what you’re grateful for could be really beneficial! At camp, we wrote thank you notes, shared daily gratitudes, and some kids started gratitude journals. At home, we’ve used a gratitude bulletin board. In my family, it seems to works best when the bulletin board is for a short, specific period of time (like one week). At camp, we do WOWs all summer, but we have a lot more people to keep up the enthusiasm!


One summer our theme was “Give a Hand.” We focused on doing different types of service projects. Back in middle school, I loved to sew. I hadn’t done much sewing since then, but I dusted off my old sewing machine and, together with several different groups of campers, we sewed over 100 pillow cases to make hospital rooms more cheerful for kids at our local children’s hospital. I had so much fun using my old hobby again, and the kids really enjoyed it. Is there something you could do as a family to serve others? Something you can make or do for others or a place you can volunteer? Maybe you have an elderly neighbor who you could help with a home or yard project. I often think service has to be a huge commitment, and I get overwhelmed by lack of time, but service can come in many forms, and is a valuable (and happiness-producing) activity.


There are so many fun ways kindness can be incorporated into your family’s summer. What about doing Random Acts of Kindness? You can be on the lookout for opportunities to do something kind for others. Maybe you can even come up with a goal as a family for how many RAKs you want to do over the summer? At camp, our theme was “Cool to be Kind.” We talked about kindness attracts friends, and we practiced ways of being kind – like giving compliments and helping others.


This summer, our camp theme is friendship. If you’ve been around my website for awhile, you know that I  research, write, and speak extensively on the importance of helping kids develop their social skills so that they can have positive friendships. So, of course, I am especially excited about talking and teaching kids about friendship this summer. We’ll be focusing on all things friendship-related, including how to find new friend, make friends, be a good friend, and stay friends! If you want to focus on friendship with your kids, I have so many resources and ideas! Just search for “friends” or “friendship!”

For your summer theme, you can pick any value or activity that sounds fun to you and that you think will benefit your family.

What I’ve found really helpful about having a summer theme is that it focuses our energy and attention on one topic and helps us to really dive in deeply. Also, I can see, looking back over the summer, how the theme had a positive impact.

If you decide to have a summer theme, I’d love to hear what you pick and how you plan to live out your theme! Please comment here on the post or send me an email!

Filmed up at camp, so I’m sorry it’s a bit blurry!

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