I need a To Do list. If I don't have one, I pretty much don't get anything done. My seven-year-old, Harry, has picked up on this and occasionally tells me about things on his own To Do list.
The other morning he said, "On my To Do list today I need to say sorry to a pigeon" - and it made me think. Not about apologising to birds, but about creating a family To Do list for the summer holidays.
Remember when six weeks seemed like a ridiculously long time? Days and days stretching out ahead with no plans apart from having fun (and enjoying the sun)? Well those days are gone (as is, apparently, the sun). Now I find that the summer holidays are over in a flash. A couple of pyjama days to recover from the end of term, a week away, the next thing you know it's time to go shopping for a new uniform and that's it, for another year.
But not this year. This year we're going to make the most of the summer holidays. We're going to create a To Do List and put it up where we can all see it. (The first thing on the list can be making - and decorating - the list!)
So far Harry has suggested going fishing, having a picnic, staying in a Travelodge ("for the very first time!"), making cinnamon rolls, going on a big wheel, seeing a film outdoors, and visiting an aquarium, and the more we talk about it the more excited he gets. As the list's administrator, I'm trying to make sure there's a balance of free and paid, educational and fun, new and old, and something all four members of the family will enjoy.
Along with the individual 'To Do' items, we've also planned a summer project. Harry moves up to Juniors in September and I want to make sure he keeps learning over the summer, so that by the time he goes back his brain hasn't completely atrophied.
He was fascinated to learn about the Great Fire of London, the Plague and Florence Nightingale this year, so London seemed a natural project. So also on the list will be reading books and watching films set in London (Paddington Bear, Mary Poppins), trying London foods (jellied eels?!) and finally visiting London for the day – with Pudding Lane and the Florence Nightingale Museum our top picks.
Obviously the To Do list is limited by time and money, but there's fun to be had in choosing what you'll do each day. If you're uber-organised you may prefer to schedule the events depending on cash flow and/or the weather or you could go for a more relaxed 'whatever takes our fancy' approach.
If you really want to be spontaneous, you could write each item on a piece of paper, put them all in a jar, and take turns picking one out each day (you could allow for, say, one veto per person).
I recently read a great book by Peter Jones called How To Do Everything And Be Happy in which Jones suggests creating a 'Trophy Board' of mementos of things you've done, places you've been, people you've met.
We had a pinboard by the front door that was covered with takeaway menus and the odd bit of school info and swimming schedules. I stripped it off and pinned up tickets, leaflets, receipts and photos. Harry loves looking at it and remembering the places we've been.
Being a bit of a self-help junkie, I'm familiar with the concept of the 'vision board' and so we may also make one of those, featuring pictures of and information about the things we hope to do over the summer. Then we can ceremonially move them from the 'To Do' board to the 'Done' board each time an item is ticked off.
Come September, instead of saying, "Wow. Where did those six weeks go?" we'll have a couple of visual reminders of What We Did In The Summer Holidays.
Or it could be the beginning of a treasured family tradition. I'll let you know.
What's on your summer To Do list? Things you've always meant to do but never got round to - until now, or firm holiday favourites?
Tell us your plans and share some inspiration.