When my friends started making summer camp plans for their children, I joked that my own son (4.5) and daughter (2.5) were going to Camp Mama. All jokes aside, my kids would love to go to a proper day camp every morning … and I certainly wouldn’t mind getting a few hours of daylight myself. But my gut feeling is this: After a year of uncertainty, the three of us need each other the most. Nature. Playgrounds. Picnics. PLAY. I am incredibly grateful to have this time together. In just two weeks, our shared adventures sparked meaningful conversations, inspired imaginative game scenarios, led to elaborate block-building sessions and offered us daily opportunities to exchange ideas.

As our family settles into a new summer routine, my goal is to balance our adventurous trips with the imaginative playful experiences we share at home. Do you fancy your own summer memories? Here are 5 fun tips for your family’s next adventure:

Start as early as possible!

Every morning we listen to happy music while we talk about our plans and pack for the day ahead. Usually we set out early to brave the heat and the crowds of NYC – either by bike trailer, scooter, ferry or our walking fees. We seem to have more energy – and more patience with one another – when we start the day early.

Name a family sunscreen

Sunscreen is still my least loved part of preparing for summer adventure. This year I have declared the entrance stairs of our building to be a designated “sun protection area” for our family. This is especially helpful for my young daughter who is usually the first person in our family to be fully dressed and ready to walk. From our new sun lotion spot, we can enjoy the fresh air, watch cars go by, wave to our favorite dogs and chat with friendly neighbors. Sure, it’s better to huddle around our front door while we put on the sunscreen!

Prioritize the toys (and fuel) your family needs.

Regardless of whether we are going to a new playground or one of our favorite places in nature, we pack the same two toys for every outdoor adventure: our loved one crunch Bucket + Twee Chalk. I also pack snacks, water and lunch boxes. Although we’re usually back at lunchtime, I like to have the lunch boxes with me … just in case we need to refuel during our exploration. Flexibility is always helpful! And since summer adventures are often dirty or wet, I always have a swimsuit and an extra set of clothes for each child in our huge wet bag.

Plan your trip home.

Hot, sweaty children + exhaustion after the adventure = total meltdown.

An inviting play area paired with a refreshing drink makes the difference. Before I leave in the morning, I fill up a few bottles of water for the fridge. I will also put a large basket with you blocks in the middle of our playroom or quickly two sketchbooks and a glass colored pencils. When we’re near home, I gently remind my kids of our routine: “Please take off your shoes, wash your hands, and meet me in the playroom.” Healthy snacks are an added bonus for everyone!

Prioritize gaming after family adventures.

My 4.5 year old son spends his afternoons building models of the playgrounds, piers and neighborhoods we visit and uses these elaborate block structures to share his experiences with my husband every evening. My 2.5-year-old daughter creates fake game scenarios to recreate exciting elements of the day, such as her first ferry ride to Brooklyn. One afternoon I found her sitting in a cardboard box, talking to her dolls about the “large Playground ”they visited together when their boat arrived in Brooklyn. Play enables children to further explore people or landmarks, reflect on the experiences they have had outside of their home, and share those experiences in meaningful ways. While it is tempting to get out and about and enjoy all that summer has to offer, we will continue to spend most of our afternoons right here in the playroom.

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