Parenting is hard enough during the school year when a teacher is looking after your child for part of the day. Sadly, the end of spring can signal a time of panic and pending doom for parents. Simultaneously, children are pining for the end of school and months of fun in the sun. Finding ways to survive summer with kids can be challenging but with a little help can be easier than you think.
Getting my kid outside can take a bit of convincing. Hopefully, your kids just gleefully run around until dinnertime. If not, it might be worth investing in a trampoline, kiddie pool, squirt guns or sidewalk chalk to encourage the kids to get outside.
If you can chill in the backyard in a reclining chair sipping lemonade while the littles play it will make for a stress-free day. There’s a chance with this strategy, you may even get a few pages of a book read. Or if you’re lucky, write a few pages.
Heading to a nearby park or zoo is always an option too. We have a few local parks that have splash pads so the kids can wear swimsuits and run through sprays of water. It’s always a big hit and a good place to meet-up for a playdate.
Another option is to take a walk or go on a short hike. Encouraging kids to appreciate nature will inspire them to spend more time outdoors. Usually, once I get my little guy outside he doesn’t want to leave.
I hesitated about including this one because it’s not my idea of a good time. I dread the public pool because of all the stuff to bring and the wetness of everything afterward. But kids enjoy splashing around and keeping cool on a hot day. If you can find one with a slide that’s even better. Now that my little is older I can watch from a distance and not have to get in the water with him. Although I know that once I do, swimming can be a lot of fun.
Our Parks and Recreation Department has several different pools to choose from. And if you have a baby or toddler, some have a separate warm kiddie pool that is shallow enough for parents to sit down in while the kids get wet.
My son and I sat down and made a list of things he could do by himself without my help if he gets bored this summer. We took out some colorful markers and brainstormed together.
Now when he whines, “I’m bored,” I will refer him to the list and he can make a choice or I’ll give him a chore. I’m trying to teach him that it’s not my job to entertain him all summer. He’s an only child, which might be why sometimes it feels like more of a battle. I find that making a list really helps encourage independence and he makes it easier for him to actually play without me for longer periods of time. And playing alone longer is an easy way to survive the summer with kids.
It may seem like a silly idea, but a staycation can be enjoyable for the whole family. When kids are involved, enjoying a mellow day of activities and food in a nearby town can be all that is needed to shake things up.
My family enjoys museums followed by a food truck lunch. We might even head to the beach for the day. It saves so much money when hotel and airfare aren’t required to make fond family memories. I also find that I see where I live in a different way after a staycation. We end up trying new things or going to our tourist attraction we never would have tried.
If your budget allows, there are plenty of classes and camps available during summer. In Portland, where we live, there are classes that fit virtually every interest. Learning to be a Lego expert or a super swimmer can be achieved, or at least attempted during the summer.
Got a tight budget? There are parks and recreations and YMCA’s that offer reasonably priced classes. Sometimes the city or county will offer free classes for kids in the arts or sports during the summer. Take the time to check out all your options to find the ones the most affordable and best for your family.
While having children means a vacation is more work, it can still be exhilarating to get away. This plan may cost more than a staycation but it is a way to kill a week or two of summer, leaving you with only 2.5 months of time left to fill. No, I’m not counting!
Try choosing something easy that doesn’t involve air travel. For example, our family is driving six hours to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands near Seattle.
Once we arrive we will stay in a condo with a kitchen and hang out by the pool and the beach. Hiking, whale watching, and walks to nearby eateries will be part of the plan too.
Alternatively, send your children to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the week. They might come back exhausted and full of marshmallows. But the break will make it worth a day of having to get them back on track.
Other good more affordable vacation ideas might be car camping close to a lake or river. Kids love water and camping. And you’ve succeeded in getting them outdoors. I always find it smart to book early in the summer because good camp spots fill up fast.
This might be the part where kids reading this would start throwing things at the computer. Summer is around three months long where we live. That is a long break from the routine of learning. Sneakily working in educational activities will help keep your kids sharp and ready for the year to come.
We do the summer reading program through our library. The library awards prizes to participants if a certain number of books are read before summer’s end. Science Centers are also fun places to learn new things. Local museums usually offer learning activities for kids too.
The Brain Quest Workbook have lots of activities to keep a kid busy and learning. They make good time fillers on road trips too.
I was lucky to find a local moms’ group on Facebook. Park playdates were arranged throughout the summer and some involved a potluck, which was fun. This was an opportunity to meet other moms and give my son a chance to get his energy out while we both soaked up a little vitamin D. Good places to find playgroups, other than social media, are at local kids stores. There is usually a bulletin board with information. Finding a tribe of other parents with kids the same age will make it easier to survive the summer months.
Finding an occasional baby-sitter so you can enjoy a date night or a lunch out alone can be a life saver. We are lucky to have a teen in our neighborhood who likes to make a little summer cash and is great with kids. I always try to get a babysitter during the day rather than at night. At night my little one sleeps, so I’m already getting a break. My husband and I like afternoon movies. I find that it’s smarter to pay for a babysitter during the day than at night.
Maintaining a schedule and sense of routine can help parents and kids feel in control of their time. Having bedtimes, meals, and snacks at consistent times will help everyone maintain better moods. If your child is too old for naps, establishing a “quiet time” in his or her room can give you a chance to rest.
Finally, take a deep breath out and remind yourself that summers don’t last forever. If these ideas don’t work, before you know it orange leaves will fall again signaling the start of another school year.
Melissa Uhles is a Freelance Writer and mom who has authored three books under her pen-name MJ Greenway. She writes under the clouds of the Pacific Northwest where sometimes her son and husband pop in to check on her.
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