How to Have a Great Summer With Your Kids

It’s summertime and the living is easy, right? Wrong. Life is footloose and fancy free for the kids. For parents, things just got a bit more challenging. Having the kids around 24/7 for the next eight to ten weeks means a few changes need to take place.

Don’t worry. You are not the only parent for whom the summer break can seem like a daunting responsibility. We understand. This report is designed for you, to highlight some of the issues that arise when school is out as well as possible solutions.

Are your kids already living it up? That’s not a problem either. The information here can help you as well. The point is to have options. In most two-parent households, both parents must work in order to make ends meet. For single parents raising a child, the squeeze can be that much tighter during the summer. Whatever your situation, this report can hopefully be of assistance.

Did summer sneak up on you this year? Well, next year, you’ll have a plan. We’ll discuss that, too. Plan for summer break as early as you can so things roll smoothly from school to vacation. Know what challenges face you and your kids each year and set out to tackle those obstacles beforehand. Kids don’t stop moving or wanting just because school has ceased. If you have teenagers, rest assured, they are trying to make plans for their break. Parenting calls for doing the same so that you don’t have to worry about your loved ones.

So, let’s get going. Keep reading to discover some of the common summertime issues for parent and child along with possible solutions for the situation. Throughout we will discuss how to put together a “summer plan” that only requires a bit of tweaking year after year once it is set. We want the living to be easy for parents too during the summer break.

Making a Plan

Are your kids still fairly young? What have you done in summers past for those who are older now? If the answer to these questions is “winging it,” you are in good company. However, that is where much of the stress of taking care of children comes from – flying without a route in mind.

Save yourself some grief and the kids some boredom by creating a rudimentary summer map, as it were, right now. Just sit down at the table, take a deep breath and jot a few notes on a sheet of notebook paper. What should the plan include? That depends on what, in your experience, are the issues that cause you to pull out the hairs on your head. Here is a short list of a few to consider:

* Childcare
* Expenses (not including summer vacation which many begin planning for right after the last)
* Household responsibilities
* Work schedule
* Time management (for you and for the kids)
* Boundaries and rules
* Educational concerns (keeping the brain sharp for next school term)
* Exercise (most kids don’t spend nearly enough time outside anymore)

Depending on your family situation, some of these issues may be easier to solve than others. After taking the time to discover what will affect you most this season, the framework is set. It’s time to flesh out the details. That is where we can offer some advice.

As far as implementing your plan, the prep work on each of the ideas that we will provide begins months in advance. When dealing with people like family and friends, as much advance notice as possible is greatly appreciated and also offers the best chance of a positive response for you.

When dealing with organizations, businesses always plan ahead and will set things up for the summer season as early as you are thinking about it. Programs and other activities usually fill up before school is even over for the year. You don’t want your kids to miss out.

Another list to create for your notebook is interests – specifically those of your children. Knowing what types of sports and/or activities they fancy can assist with decisions about their summer plans.

Single parents benefit even more from having a plan in place. Because the children’s other parent is also involved, making contact as early as possible is proactive and conducive to a smooth transition. For instance, discuss time spent with each parent over the summer, division of expenses for their care, summer activities and more.
Because you live in separate households and maybe even separate cities, travel is a huge consideration as well as work schedules.

Childcare – Who Can Help You?

This may be the number one issue for most parents. During the school year, kids wake in a haze and get ready in a whirling dervish before they are off to the bus stop or the car for transport to the school house. When school is out, it seems that they wake with much more alertness and action than one might have thought. How will all that energy be channeled throughout the day? Better yet, what will be the venue for their energy? Here are some childcare options for you to consider.

Family

The name of the game is “affordability” for most of us. Finding quality childcare at a reasonable price takes research. Getting it for free is even better if you have a willing family member. Do your parents live nearby, or are they retired? They may love to watch the grandkids while you are at work. Money may not exchange hands but a sign of  appreciation might be reflected in helping out your generous babysitters with their needs.

Some parents consider leaving older teens in charge of their younger siblings during the school break. If that has crossed your mind, let it be the very last resort after you have exhausted every option on the table. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, teenagers need a break as well. They may be older but they are not adults yet. Summer supervision of them in some form is in order for your peace of mind. Two, older siblings are not always watching. Accidents can happen and they may panic. Your younger ones might be left to their own devices most of the day which is what you desire to avoid in the first place.

Assist a young neighbor friend and yourself by hiring them to sit with your kids. Have you hired a neighborhood teen or college student before for date night or an afternoon off? They will most likely be looking for employment during the summer months and might welcome the chance to make some change while helping you out.

Daycare Centers

Are you already paying for afterschool care? If this care occurs at a licensed daycare center, inform them that your child (or children) will become an all-day resident during the summer. Since you already have a spot, this is likely the first choice for working parents. Most daycares now offer first and second shift care for parents with non-traditional work schedules. It also provides overlap when each parent works a different schedule. This avoids overage charges if you happen to work late one day, as these charges can quickly add up.

For work-at-home moms, day care may be as close as your next-door neighbor. Most WAHMs are familiar with their local network of moms. Consider a child swap. When you have an important project or need a few hours alone to work, another mom with free time can take your kids. In exchange, you will open your schedule to reciprocate when asked. The system is affordable and can get your child to a sporting practice in the event that you are stuck at work, for example.

Summer School

If you have a child who has fallen below the mark in school this year, summer school may be the perfect way for them to catch up in a less stressful environment. Unlike during the regular school year, summer school classes are about four hours long in the morning. Teenagers above 16 years of age can drive themselves to and from school. Younger ones will need transportation.

If this is your choice, check with your choice of daycare center to see if they offer transportation for children from school to their center during the summer. Another advantage of summer school is that it keeps the brain engaged during the break so knowledge learned during the year is preserved.

Summer Camps

This is a biggie over the summer and there are several choices to choose from. Just go to your web browser and search for summer camp programs in your area. Popular ones fill up fast so time is of the essence. Free and reduced price options will go first but even spending a few weeks in the summer at a camp can be done without breaking the budget. Types of camps include:

* Day camps – Aptly named, they offer daily activities for your kids for about ten hours a day. Children bring their lunch and a snack or two. For the weekly price, some offer field trips to museums, parks, community pools as well as activities within the center. Age ranges differ from camp to camp, so check carefully. Siblings can have fun and keep an eye on each other if they are close in age. Try your local YMCA organization, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 4-H clubs and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts clubs.

Day camps have a variety of themes. There are camps geared towards special needs children, history, math, cheerleading, science, various sports, artistic pursuits and outdoor activities. Knowing your children’s interests will narrow down the search from the beginning. Try to mix it up by offering a mix between educational pursuits and
some fun ones as well.

* Church camps – Are you a member of a local church? Many run daycares and summer programs for not only their member youth but the community which they serve. The cost is usually affordable so they will reach capacity quickly. Faith-based camps keep kids occupied and focus on religious aspects of life as well.

* Overnight camps – The ages range here too. Is your child ready for such an experience? Gauge their maturity level for a week-long adventure away from home. You can always go pick them up if they want to come home but the experience is ever more meaningful when they are ready to embrace it. Living in the woods even for a week is a new experience for many kids. Here is a chance for them to cultivate their social and physical skills.

Employment

As kids get older, so do their wants. They get more expensive. When they reach the age of employment in your area, your son or daughter may ask about earning money. A job will keep them active, help them learn a new skill and earn them some cash for savings and free time. A job nearby means they can ride a bike or take public transportation if the car is in use. For single parents, the added income can relieve some financial burden as well as showing responsibility on the part of your child.

Expenses – What Do You Need?

Just like planning for a summer vacation, putting aside money a little at a time is less of a hardship than forking it over all at one time. Paying in advance for summer camps that you’ve chosen for your children eases the mind and solidifies your plans. Kids who are usually at school all day suddenly seem much more needy and hungry when they are home all day. The truth is that they were always hungry but it was the teacher and the school’s responsibility during the year.

There is nothing worse than a big expense hitting you when you aren’t prepared for it. What would additional summer expenses look like? Let’s jot down a few.

* Food – Kids are eating at home. Just like us, when they are not busy, they are prone to grazing out of boredom. Your weekly lot of groceries may not go as far as it once did. Learn new strategies for saving on your grocery bill. A few couponing tips can help you to stockpile foodstuffs for your pantry and freezer without breaking
the bank. Keep enough snacks on hand for summer camp and daycare lunches as well as lunch and snacks on the weekends.

* Childcare – One plus is that if you already pay for afterschool care, there is a measure of money set aside for that. All day care will cost extra, though. Putting aside a set amount from each paycheck into a special savings can help offset that cost.

The big hit may be summer camps. Again, investigate the free ones first. Some camps are based on income and need. If you meet those requirements, apply as early as possible. Overnight camps cost more than day camps depending on the focus of the camp. For instance, an outdoor day camp that features water activities like canoeing or rafting will be expensive.

* Travel – This is a consideration for single parents. Your children will likely split their time between you and another parent. Either the expense will come from paying for travel for your children or taking time off of work to accompany them to their other destination. After you discuss the particulars with the other parent, check for affordable flights and/or rental car rates.

* Activities – The best thing about summer is having the time to spend with your children doing something fun. It doesn’t have to be expensive but over eight or twelve weeks, it will take some money to keep them entertained. Kids are energetic and need their minds to be occupied. As a parent, part of enjoying this time is that you have fun as well. Those activities might include both paid and free activities: seeing a movie, visiting a museum, going to the pool, playing sports outdoors, and camping in the backyard, playing at the park and others. Mix up fun and education just like with summer camp experiences.

Financial matters are hard to handle sometimes, especially if you are constantly coming up short. You and your children can have an enjoyable summer when you use all your resources. Earlier we discussed putting money away throughout the year into a savings account to cover those summer activities.

Holding a yard sale is an option. Have the family gather all of their gently used belongings like toys, clothing, small furniture, appliances and the rest. Decide what is in suitable shape and value it for the public. Advertise in the neighborhood, at work and at your place of worship. On a Saturday of your choosing (the day most yard sales are held), set up early and wait for the crowds to roll in. Each family member can be in charge of managing the sale of their own items. All money goes into the pot for summer fun. As a sidebar, kids learn about managing money.

Here’s a tip when it comes to funding expenses. Does your job offer a health spending account option? It makes good sense to take advantage of it when you can. Set aside money in anticipation of health needs including hospital stays, emergency room visits (kids have accidents), doctor’s visits, physicals, medicines and medical equipment. That’s one less expense to worry about.

Household Responsibilities – Who Can Handle What?

While you are working, why should the kids be lazing about like they own the place? The plan is to fill their days with some form of activity, but they will have time for other things such as helping out around the house. Most children have some form of chore responsibility – cleaning their room, picking up their toys, making the bed, dusting and the like. It teaches responsibility and a sense of pride for youngsters, as well as how to mature and care for themselves. With free range parenting, it’s the first step to independence for your kids.

Now that there’s no need to study every day, kids have more time to take on tasks that you don’t assign them during the school year. Yes, hold them to their regular chores but also a few more as is age-appropriate. Set up a daily schedule. Additional fun like going to a movie, spending time with friends or having a sleepover is not allowed until they complete their work.

Some chore ideas for young children include setting the table, throwing away trash, putting away groceries and picking up in the living room. Setting a schedule like with brushing teeth and washing their face helps chores become easier and second nature.

Chore ideas for school-age children include vacuuming, washing clothes, washing dishes, filling the dishwasher, raking leaves and helping with dinner. One benefit for you is that young kids like to learn new things. It excites them. Do your best to make the learning experience fun. Cooking is a favorite as kids learn the mysteries of the kitchen like stirring, smelling, baking, chopping (when ready) and more. The appreciation for food that they gain can also help fight childhood obesity with knowledge of better food choices.

Teens, by this time, know the routine. Even if they don’t, adding chores to their list can help them earn some money around the house. As a standard, making the bed and keeping their room clean is a responsibility that is not paid for. Beyond that, younger teens who can’t seek employment outside the home can make a little pocket change by babysitting for a few hours on the weekends, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, cooking dinner, running errands, cleaning the bathrooms and general tidying up duties.

As parents, especially for moms, the key to running a family during the summer months is to “let go.” You know what we mean. Kids are young. They won’t make the bed like you do or fold the clothing exactly as you like, but as long as they get it done, they are learning. And, it is one less task that needs to be tackled when you reach home after work. The same goes for spouses who shoulder the load as much as you.

Setting Down the Rules – What Will You Allow?

Naturally, when kids have free time, they like to get into stuff. Call it natural curiosity or a penchant for mischief – as the saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Trust makes you feel secure in the knowledge that everything is alright at home when you are absent.

One way to foster trust is to set down firm and clear guidelines for every young member of the household. Don’t forget the consequences if said rules are not adhered to. Let them know what they will be up against should they decide to disobey.

* Safety – This is a main concern of parents. “Will my child fall and lay there helpless?” No parent would leave their child home alone to run amok all day. Older sibling caregivers can, however, panic if an accident occurs and need your help. Avoid as many calls at work as you can by acknowledging health and safety issues first and foremost. Discuss the location of the first aid kit. Leave a list of emergency numbers by each phone in the house and in the directory of each child’s mobile phone.

* Chores – Before playing outside or participating in any leisure activities, all chores need to be completed. Inform the home sitter, nanny or family member of this fact as well just in case the kids try to bamboozle her (every child is capable of this, if only just to press their boundaries).

* Tech time – Technology seems to be the muse of the younger generation. Rather than helping out around the house, they would rather be texting, talking, Skyping, surfing the net, playing video games, watching television or listening to music.

Schedule their time on these devices just like you may already during the school year. With your computer, parental controls can be set up to monitor every child during their time on the internet as well the length of time. Some leeway is allowed as long as they are following the other rules.

* Visitors – As a general rule, especially with teenagers, guests are often off limits unless prior permission is granted. You were a kid once. A few friends over just for company can quickly turn into an impromptu party that goes awry. Even if that’s not the case, if another child gets hurt in your home without your presence or knowledge, it could lead to an unpleasant situation.

* Going out – For younger kids, all outside play needs some sort of supervision just to be on the safe side, even in the back yard. For teens with a greater maturity level and sense of responsibility, ask them to give you a ring or send a text to keep you informed of their whereabouts throughout the day. What parent doesn’t want to be able to say where their children are at any given moment of the day?

* Security – Today’s security systems come with the option of a nifty video camera. It’s not like spying on your kids, just monitoring them from time to time. During the school year, many parents use it to ensure their “latchkey” kids make it home safely every day.

Managing Your Time – Who Needs to Be Where and When?

This is the biggest tiger to tame in the summer. During school, the school bus picks up your children and ferries them to school and back home. If you use afterschool care at the school, the kids are there until you or another member of your family picks them up. With summer camp, work, summer school and other programs, co-ordinating times for drop-off and pickup can become a mess. Here are some tips to help you get it to run smoothly.

* Try to co-ordinate with your work schedule – Nothing has changed here for the moment, so try to choose programs that begin as early in the morning as you need to go at work. That’s one hurdle overcome. Pickup will be another matter. If the time does not coincide with your ending time at work, enlist the aid of a family member, friend, spouse or a daycare facility if applicable. Some parents take late or early lunches and use that time as pickup and delivery. It’s an option.

* Change work hours – Some bosses are amenable to such options if you are truly between a rock and a hard place. Some jobs have “summer hours” where they start earlier and/or work a 40-hour week in four days. That extra day off is a godsend to those with children. If you work in an office, ask your boss if it is allowed for you to bring your child to work in a pinch.

* Prep ahead of time when you can – Mornings are just as hectic during the summer. One way to slow things down a bit is to plan for tomorrow the night before. Fix lunches before bedtime. Lay out clothing for little ones or get them to do it for themselves before bed. Place backpacks, trip money, signed permission slips, chore lists and other essentials on the table for easy retrieval the next morning.

Dinner is also something that can be prepped. Chop, dice, slice, assemble and bake as much of the weekly meals as possible on the weekend so “heat and eat” is the order of the day every night. That also leaves more time for play and fun with the kids when you get home from work.

Keeping Up With Education – How Can You Help Them Learn?

Surveys have shown that children can lose between one and two months of knowledge over the summer. Each year it’s like starting over again in some respects. Teachers must recap and in some cases re-teach parts of the previous year’s curriculum just to keep them on level.

For students who might already be hanging at the lower end of the achievement gap, this puts them at a greater disadvantage. What can a parent do to keep their child’s brain functioning academically without turning the entire summer into a secondary classroom?

Well, don’t give any homework for a start. It all begins with your child’s teacher. They can give you ideas for adding education to the lazy, hazy weeks of summer.

* Access a summer reading list – Ask a teacher for a list of books that will help your child to bridge the gap between this year’s literacy teaching and next year’s lessons. Choose books based on your child’s interests. Set up a sort of contest. Every week that they complete a book, they earn points that can be redeemed throughout the summer for money or fun activities. For younger kids, read to them every day to keep them in the learning habit.

* Educational trips – Are you in need of inexpensive activities to participate in with your children this summer? Throw in a bit of knowledge with adventures at the museum, botanical garden, plays, science center, zoo, the library and other venues. Sign up for demonstrations and classes offered in these places.

* Home studio – Does your child love science or have an affinity for art? You don’t have to go outside the home to encounter a place for them to practice their interest. Purchase a book about experiments that can be done at home and set up your own lab in the garage or back yard. Buy art supplies and set up an easel in the corner of the living room so they can practice drawing and painting.

Another idea is to employ some of the computer programs that homeschooling parents use. One that has come up in commercials lately is ABCmouse. It is good for ages two through six to foster a love of learning at a time when their minds are looking for new interests. Other sites like FunBrain and Edheads offer stimulating learning experiences for older kids.

* Broaden their horizons – Use the summer months to introduce your child to a new skill or interest. Sign them up for swimming lessons, piano lessons, youth theater, art classes, cooking classes, hiking adventures and more. Because your child is interested in these subjects, the activity is seen more as fun than boring education.

* Sibling learning – They say that kids learn a lot from their older brothers and sisters. Enlist their aid to teach younger ones a variety of tasks like performing chores, reading a book, working outside, playing games and even everyday skills. You might be surprised how much both parties will be the richer for the experience.

Whoever said that parenting was easy? Summertime just confirms that. But, just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean it can’t be rewarding. Begin with a plan. This provides you with a general blueprint of what the summer will look like. Just knowing that you have tackled the legwork of finding summer childcare, educational activities, expenses, scheduling and logistics, will result in a better night’s sleep.

If summer has already begun for your children and it started without a plan, don’t fret too much. The tips in this post can offer options to move forward from today with a better idea of how the rest of the summer will play out. Turn those potential challenges into new memories just like the ones you made as a kid.