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It’s Summer. Do You Know What Your Kids Are Doing? by Jacki Christopher (And give-away winner announced!)

Memorial Day parade has now passed our street, we waved our flags, kids (and adults) were decked out in the requisite Old Navy red-white-and-blues, and now we can say it: Summer is officially here.

Despite the weather, you know it’s summer and the kids do too, so why do all the summer programs wait a month to get started? What do we do with the extra-long days and the extra-antsy kids in the meantime? And what if (gasp!) you haven’t lined up any programs or activities for your kids this summer? Can they really be expected to play and occupy themselves “like we did in the old days”?

There’s lots to do before the formal summer programming and camps and vacations get underway. A little advance planning helps, but it isn’t always necessary. One of the best summertime parent skills is being able to think on your feet and pull off a good time on the fly.

Start with a calendar. Ditch your iCal and your other electronic tools telling you what day of the week it is and where you’re supposed to be. Get out the markers and poster board and make a family summer calendar with big boxes. Fill in the “black out dates” when kids will be at camp or you’ll be up at the lake. Then focus on that sea of blank boxes.

Those of us who are a little on the hyper side will be feeling the anxiety rise at the sight of all that white space, but this is where the fun comes in. Ideas to make the most of this season:

  • Community Offerings. Gather up your community newspapers and make a trip to the library to get a list of their summer offerings for kids. Pick out the things that look like they would appeal to your kids and even a few things that might be out of their interest zone. Why not try something new? Library readings and classes are often short, which means you’ll also have some time to let the kids run around (quietly) and explore the library. Here’s a mom tip: teach your kids how to love books and behave in the library and you guarantee yourself a free hour with a novel over in the adult section.
  • VBS Hop. Many churches plan Vacation Bible School week-long activities. These mini-camps are usually free and open to the community. Find out the churches in your area that are hosting VBS and sign up. This is also a great way for your kids to meet new friends outside of your regular circle.
  • Mom School. Maybe you’ve wanted to start teaching your kids to cook or garden. Take one of your free weeks and declare Mom School. Plan an activity related to the theme for each day. Get the kids their own aprons and cooking tools, let them pick a few recipes and finish off with a big family dinner on the weekend cooked by the kids. If Dad has some time off, he might want to get in some Dad School time. Take your hobbies and interests and develop them into mini-lessons and workshops for the kids.
  • Camp DIY. This takes a little more planning, but get together with some other parents and see if they would be interested in pitching in to hire a few theatre or dance students to host a week-long fine arts camp for your kids. The college students plan the activities, teach the skills, and write the script. The week ends with a performance for the parents.

How do you keep the kids occupied before the summer programs start?

Announcing the winner of our swaddle blanket giveaway: Kendra Mason! Congrats Kendra!

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