If I’m being honest, I dread summers just a little bit.
I am in charge of keeping five human beings engaged and active. Otherwise, they’ll melt down on each other and me. The yelling, crying, fighting, and complaining is what causes most (Ok, ALL) moms to jump for joy on the first day of school.
Add that I work from home and that my productivity tanks during the summer, and it’s easy to see why moms clamor for camps and outsourced activities to keep sane.
Last year I went so far as to hire a nanny part-time to herd my kids so I could work and get stuff done.
It worked great.
I got a lot done.
It cost me a lot of money.
This year I’m trying to DIY it a little bit, because DH and I decided to trim expenses to pay off student loans.
Here is my plan to keep my children engaged and menace-free.
The RULES to create an 'Easy, No-Stress, Low-cost Summer survival Plan'
Principle 1: There has to be unstructured play-time every week.
I can’t repeat the “soccer season chaos” in the summer.
I will go nuts. My kids will go nuts.
We will not like each other.
Plus: there's research. I linked below. Go read it.
Principle 2: I won’t be spending money on lots of camps. We want to pay off debt.
This will require me to get a little creative. And my kids will need to get a little creative. I'll provide them with a list of ideas (that I can live with) and let them discover and explore.
It might get messy. There might be disagreements (undoubtedly). But over-structuring a child's life stifles their creative problem-solving so it's time for me to woman-up and let the kids be bored.
Principle 3: The activities we do will be inexpensive or free.
Library programs, city and county programs, church programs, outdoor recreation.
And I'm printing out a list of ideas and posting it on the fridge. The kids are smart. They can figure out stuff to do, just like previous generations did.
Hopefully with minimal damage to life and limb.
Principle 4: Mom needs blocks of time during the week to work, not just 10 minutes here and there. 3-4 hour blocks of time.
While it would be nice to put my children in week-long camps (all at the same time), the logistics and expense of it are not feasible. My kids range from 13 to 4.
Finding programs that will suit all of them at a reasonable price would have me driving all over the city every day. I don’t relish spending that much time behind the wheel.
Instead of giving you a long list of this, that, and the other, which frankly will only overwhelm me and you, I’ve broken the week down into a healthy balance, I believe, of planned activities and unstructured play time.
(Ok, Ok, for those of you who love the lists, I’ve included some too.)
Depending on how many weeks of summer you have, you may only need 10 Adventure Day ideas, or 10 trips to a pool or splash park to plan.
The Easy, No-Stress, Low-cost Summer survival PLAN
Sunday: My day off. (Let's be real, though... I TELL them it's my day off so I have an excuse for not planning anything)
Monday: Self-directed, unstructured play time. (friends optional)
Tuesday: Dollar movie day or Adventure Day (See the lists below) Budget $10-30
Wednesday: Playgroup / Friend Day @ splash park or pool (FREE is best!)
Thursday: Self-directed, unstructured play time. (friends optional) OR half-price Pool day, budget $20
Friday: Library day
Saturday: Family activities (We try to stick to Free activities, like community events during the summer)
Adventure list (FREE):
Explore a new park in your community
Build an obstacle course with things pulled from the garage
Neighborhood bike rally
Kids science project
Building project (life-skills)
Backyard ninja adventure
Backyard water park (tarps, slip-n-slide, sprinklers, kiddie pool)
Backyard nerf war
Adventure list ($$):
Historical sites (some are FREE)
Select a few ideas from this list, add your own twist to them, and create a no-stress summer plan to keep your kids happily busy without the electronic babysitter.
Remember the Goal!
My #1 Goal is to keep my kids entertained without the expense (Remember, my #1 Priority is paying off debt right now). So we won’t be using the more expensive ideas on the Adventure list. Instead, my plan is to stick to a budget of $50/month and see how many slushee trips we can enjoy (cuz I’m a bit of a slushee addict).
Plus, I would rather spend money on our family summer vacation then on lots of “little” activities to keep my kids busy.
This isn’t a critique of summer activities, it’s just our family sticking to our plan this year. If your goals are different, then allocate your money towards your priorities.
And as always, enjoy your children, build those family bonds so they’re stronger than peer bonds, and take pics so the memories continue to have an impact over the next year and beyond.
Read More: Those terrifying 'unstructured play' hours during summer break (stay tuned next week!)