School's out! Now what?
If your kids are not one of the eight million who attend sleep-away or day camp each year, then you're currently not stressing out like me, since I have two trunks to pack and only 48 hours to go before my daughter's clothes leave our home nine days before she does.
Once you spend a week vegging out with your children, you may find yourself wracking your brain trying to figure out what you're going to do for two straight months - especially when they wake you up each morning with the same question - "Mommy, where are we going today?"
While we typically hit the beach, pool and playground, we recently spoke with Jill Tipograph, the CEO of Everything Summer, who offered some great options to keep toddlers and tweens entertained during those lazy, hazy days. "If your child is too young for camp, or has opted out of traditional camp this summer, there’s no need to fret," says Tipograph. "There are lots of fun and exciting things to do to keep them – and you – busy all summer long."
Toddlers: They still need a parent or caretaker, but use summer to help them grow and separate more, so that when they return to preschool in the fall, they are more independent.
- Graduate your toddler to more advanced classes from this spring. If you participated in the class, see if he/she is ready to separate for a short time in a class of his/her own. Choose an activity they really like or talk about trying; it keeps the focus off of the separation.
- Sign up for swim classes. Every kid needs to learn to swim. Many don’t like instruction as they mature and can develop anxieties, such as diving (that was me!). When kids are young, they adapt more. This is a fun activity to do as a Mommy & Me activity too.
- Push their imaginations. Drawing, painting, crafts, dance, music, drama, cooking and even basic photography are great creative pursuits for toddler exploration.
- Techno kids galore. It still astonishes me how at ease toddlers are with technology; they show their parents how to master tech gadgets. Computer classes are available in every type of media; some even help to build reading and writing skills in the summer. An extra bonding exercise: choose a technical product to learn and/or create with your child, such as an on-line scrap or photo book. The result is a lifetime memory.
- Short Camp Hours or Days. For those not ready for full day camp (generally 9am-4pm), check out the shorter days these camps offer for toddlers, including mornings or afternoons, or a few days a week. The experience gradually prepares them for longer days next year, stretches your dollar, and gives Moms a short break to regenerate themselves.
Kids (5+ years old): Once kids are ready for kindergarten and elementary school, a host of wonderful summer activities are available to them.
- Mini Specialty Camps– can’t fit in more than a week or two of camp this summer, due to scheduling or financial challenges? No problem. Many camps offer shorter term options in the form of specialty weeks (baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, etc.) or mini-weeks, that do not require longer commitments. Pick an activity your child really likes, or you want them to try. It’s a great way for him/her to dip-the-toe in the water. These niche camps are a big hit with kids and parents. Special Programs – there are many cooking, dance, science, computer, and other instructional and fun programs available on a weekly and/or half-day basis
- Create a Mommy or Daddy Camp – for stay-at-home parents, summer should be a break for them as well. Gather a few friends in similar situations, even working parents. Take turns spearheading themed day camps each week; hold wacky games in a backyard; go to the town pool; bake fun summertime foods; visit the zoo; go to an amusement park, and more. Be sure you have enough supervision; hiring teenagers as mother helpers can provide the extra help you need at very affordable prices. Working parents can chip in by organizing, helping to develop programming, hiring, buying supplies and more. Schools, Museums, Parks, Zoos, Libraries & the local “Y” – many hold special programs and camps that your kids will enjoy. And some may even be free!
- Kid created activities – nothing seems more challenging than kids being occupied on long road trips (does ‘are we there yet’ sound familiar?). Have your kids create their own activities backpack during down time to bring with them on their travels. Examples include: music mixes; assembling book making materials; finding recipes of snacks; creating lists of DVD’s they want to watch; researching landmarks they will visit; discovering the history of cities they might travel to, etc.
- Sample camp – many camps offer special days each summer that kids can sample their camp’s experience as a taste for future campers. This is a fun way to get kids excited about the camp experience (as you can imagine, I am a huge advocate of everyone attending camp!)
- Experience camp inside – on rainy days, set up in your home a tent and sleeping bag; create ‘smores in the kitchen, use flashlights, tell ghost stories. Don’t let the weather get you down!