Home EVERYDAY LIFE 30 Ideas for Keeping Your Kids Busy in the Summer When You Still Have to Work

30 Ideas for Keeping Your Kids Busy in the Summer When You Still Have to Work

July 6, 2018
30 Ideas for Keeping Your Kids Busy in the Summer When You Still Have to Work

School's out for the summer! Yay! But now what? You only have one or two weeks of vacation time: How will you keep the kids entertained for the other eight weeks, especially without breaking the bank?

Here are 30 ideas to get you started!

  1. Summer camps can be pricey, but in many areas, parents can find YMCA summer camps for their kids that are affordable — and are just as creative, active, and fun. Think cooking, chemistry, and robotics in addition to the classic archery, volleyball, and basketball. If you have more than one child, ask about sibling discounts.
  2. Call upon extended family. Kids can spend whole weeks with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, all in the name of quality family time. Be thoughtful about your family members' summer schedules, though (yes, even retired grandparents!), and try to coordinate with them in advance. Bonus? If your kids have to travel to get to those family members, travel costs will be lower with advance planning, too!
  3. Swap day-long playdates. Are you a work-from-home parent? Find some friends or colleagues with a similar working lifestyle and suggest taking turns hosting full-day playdates. Your turn Monday; their turn Tuesday. (Now you just need to sign up some more friends for Wednesday-Friday!)
  4. If your work setting is the kind of place where it would be safe and appropriate to have an older child with you occasionally, ask permission to have your own "bring your child to work" days. Convince the powers that be by explaining that your mature child can help you file, make copies, and do other tasks that are approved by your boss.
  5. Set up "shadowing" days. Does your kid want to be the next great fashion designer? How about a veterinarian? Have your child make a list of the professions that interest them most, and see what you can do to have them shadow professionals who work in fascinating fields. Ideas for finding those professionals? Trusted family members, friends, and maybe even your alma mater's alumni network.
  6. Gauge your tween's or teen's interest in training for future jobs, such as babysitting or lifeguarding. The American Red Cross offers babysitting training classes for kids who are 11 or older, and lifeguarding prep for kids 15 and older. Another option? Have your teen hire themselves out as a "mother's helper." This might involve babysitting, but can also include other tasks that help Mom out while she works from home.
  7. Get a job! Older kids can legally work, and a part-time job at a restaurant, ice cream shop, café, or pet store are just a few options for learning key life and work skills, including responsibility, punctuality, and customer service.
  8. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, day care, plant nursery, or animal shelter.
  9. Kids of all ages can practice their entrepreneurial skills by launching their own summer business. Some ideas? Walk dogs or pet sit. Mow lawns. Water plants for neighbors.
  10. Encourage your kids to clean and sort their bedrooms and help organize the garage or basement. How to motivate them? Tell them they can gather all the unwanted stuff, sell it at a yard sale, and keep the profits.
  11. Plan a road trip! Dig out your state map and gather the family around the dinner table. Talk about possible destinations for a weekend getaway, and have the kids help plan the agenda and the budget.
  12. Record a podcast. Does your kid nerd out over animals or cooking or science experiments? Then, they can have fun making their own podcast. Many laptops and desktop computers have the basic software for simple podcasting. New to the medium? There are plenty of kid- and parent-friendly online guides, such as this one. Before you launch it into the world, be sure to talk as a family about how much you want to restrict others' access to your child's podcast.
  13. Create a video blog. Have a kid who's a total ham? Help them start a video blog to talk about their favorite activities or to document their summer adventures. Again, be sure to talk as a family about Internet safety before you publish any material online.
  14. Revive the tradition of having a pen pal. If you remember having a pen pal as a kid, you'll recall how thrilling it was to see an envelope with your name on it in the mailbox. If you're worried about safety, have your child pal up with one of your friend's children to exchange letters.
  15. Participate in a reading challenge. Most public libraries have summer reading programs, and many offer prizes for the most books read. Don't live near a library? Scholastic also has an online summer reading program that runs from May to September.
  16. Encourage your child to become a puzzle master! Math puzzles, like ken-ken and sudoku, can help them keep their skills sharp during summer months.
  17. Consider summer school if there is academic content with which your kids struggle. Even if your child doesn't have any academic challenges, many public schools offer lower cost academic and extracurricular programs.
  18. Tutor other kids. If your child excels in a certain subject, help them find opportunities to share their skills with other children who could benefit.
  19. Create a mural. Whether temporary or permanent, at home or in the community, planning a mural requires teamwork, creativity, and planning.
  20. Use old magazines to make large-scale collages. Younger kids may need your guidance to come up with a theme, and preschool-age children can be encouraged to learn or practice colors by making an all-yellow collage, for example, or a collage with as many letter "A's" as they can find.
  21. Learn origami. If patience isn't your child's strong suit, learning origami could be helpful. If they're really into it, give them a big challenge — like making 1,000 cranes!
  22. Plan a scavenger hunt. Indoors or outdoors, treasure hunts keep kids occupied and entertained and playing together.
  23. Build forts! Use whatever materials you have at hand: pillows and blankets for indoor forts, wood and (safe!) scrap items for outdoor forts.
  24. Write and perform plays with costumes. Some of the kids can also make tickets, a playbill, and snacks.
  25. Create a butterfly-friendly garden. Assign older kids the task of researching the plants that are most likely to attract butterflies, and work with them to find a place in the yard where they can plant the bushes and flowers they've chosen.
  26. Don't forget that old-time favorite: the lemonade stand! Homemade cookies sell well, too!
  27. Give in to screen time. Look for educational apps to help build skills and prepare for the next school year, and establish clear boundaries that let your kids know how much screen time they're allowed on a daily basis.
  28. Go on a hike. Neither you nor your kids have to be avid outdoors-people to enjoy a family hike. Not sure where to go or whether you need any specific gear? Recreation.gov can help answer both questions.
  29. Learn to skateboard. And don't forget the safety gear!
  30. Put on the ultimate fashion show. Pull the fancy clothes off their hangers, dust off the dressy shoes, and let kids go all out to put on the ultimate fashion show for you.

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