If you follow a lot of parenting blogs, as I do, your Facebook feed may be filled with posts about ways to make summer magical for your kids. From tips for bringing back the summer of one’s youth, to bucket lists 100 deep – there’s a lot of pressure to make summer great.
And summer should be great! But for many of us, and perhaps especially those of us who work outside the home, summer can be hugely overwhelming. School is out and the summer needs to be filled with camps or other activities to cover your kids while you’re trying to get your work done. But camps are expensive, and it's hard to cover the whole summer with them. Even though I am blessed with a flexible work schedule that allows me to work partially from home, I still find myself up before 5 each morning trying to squeeze in an hour of work before my kids are awoken by the early sunrise.
So for those of us for whom summer is not all fun and sun and endless mornings that stretch out before us like silly putty – here are a few tips for keeping your young children happy and occupied with summery activities that may actually buy you some time to get some work done. (Hooray for portable laptops!)
- Outdoor excavation. If you have a sandbox, great. If not, a pile of dirt works just fine. If you are feeling particularly motivated, throw a handful of marbles in the sand/dirt. But really all your kids need is a stick and the idea that there may be dinosaur bones out there. If you want to make them feel even more like an archaeologist, give them a small paint brush for careful excavation.
- Sidewalk chalk. Nothing says summer like sidewalk chalk. Let them chalk to their hearts content. You could even take a moment to draw out hopscotch and let them jump around.
- Blow bubbles. Between blowing the bubbles and popping them, this can keep my kids occupied for a long time. Although you will likely be required to look every 20 seconds or so at how big various bubbles are.
- Sprinkler. Water the plants and keep the kids active and occupied. It’s a win-win! If you don’t have a sprinkler, you can improvise by using the spray attachment of the hose.
- Daytime campout. If you have a kids’ tent (or even a full-sized one) set it out in the yard and let your kids play camping.
- Outdoor picnic. Serve lunch outside on a blanket, picnic-style. Let them help themselves to fruit, cheese, crackers, or whatever else you decide to serve.
- Bubble bath. Wash off the dirt and chalk with a fun bubble bath. On really decadent days I will give my kids tubes of finger paint and let them paint along the sides of the tub. You can mix the paint with shaving cream for an even more fun bath-time experience (though not a very clean one).
- Pillow room. We have a sectional couch in our tiny den. I take the pillows off the couch and cover the floor with them, then let my kids jump around on the pillows. It’s like a homemade bounce house.
- Make a book. Staple a few pages of blank paper together and let your kids draw pictures on each. When they’re done drawing, you can write down what’s happening on each page for them. We’ve had quite a few masterpieces arise out of this, including “Robot Goes to the Tulip Festival” (my five year old) and “Bubba Songy Duhzuhduh” (my then-two year old).
- Videos. There, I said it. While it does cause me some guilt to see my five- and three-year olds in front of the television, sometimes it is necessary to keep them completely occupied for a little while. Luckily there are a lot of great shows out there that can help assuage the guilt. I love Diego and Dora because they keep the kids somewhat active rather than turning them into little tv zombies, and they have the added bonus of teaching them a bit of Spanish. I also love Cosmic Kids Yoga, which has a number of free yoga videos for kids.
What would you add?