Keep Summer Exciting for the Kids – Without Expensive Camps and Vacations

by Vincent King · 2 comments

Kids playing outside

“I’m BOOOOORED!”

“Mom! What can we do?”

“Can we go to Disney World?”

If you’ve got kids at home, you’ve likely heard that once or twice during the summer.

But you don’t have to pay for expensive summer camps or vacations to keep them entertained.

Welcome summer and all of its glories with your own summer camp.

This won’t be easy — banish that thought from your mind. But, the kids will LOVE you for it. And you’ll re-form those family bonds that were stretched so thin during the long school season.

What you’ll need for your successful summer camp:

1. A notebook

This will become your best friend this summer. You’ll keep your plans, ideas, and even results in here.

2. A plan

Sit now and start planning your activities. By starting early, you’re not only making sure you have enough excitement ready; you’ll have time to stock up on craft supplies without paying (toilet paper and paper towel rolls), or without paying for them all at once (markers, glue, etc).

3. A theme

If you want to make this da bomb for the kids, involve them in the planning. Let them help you come up with a theme for your summer camp. One year, we did Flylady’s “GonnaWannaFly” summer camp. It was truly amazing to watch the kids get excited about cleaning house!

4. Pinterest

There are very few places as awesome at turning out stellar kid-friendly science experiments, activities, and ideas than Pinterest. Set up a board and title it “Summer Camp.” Voila! You’ve JUST generated your own vision board of fun! Search for “kids activities,” “summer camp,” “homeschool science,” and anything else that pertains to your theme.

5. Supplies

Hide them away in a closet, and keep track of what you’ve bought in your notebook. Buy them in small quantities each week, so it won’t feel as though you’ve spent a small fortune on craft stuff. (Although my wife does adore raiding the craft and school supply section at Target — I guess it must be more fun buying in bulk!)

6. Banners

Let the kids help you make some creative and colorful banners. Keep them in the kitchen, so you can be reminded of your ongoing summer camp fun!

7. A schedule

Set the schedule — and STICK to it. Don’t get sidetracked. The key is planning a few fun activities, some quiet time, and a few unstructured moments each day.

8. Hidden chores

Home chores can be figured into those “fun” activities (think: mopping the floor with bathing suits and socks, or races to put away laundry).

Our sample schedule: Breakfast, unstructured play time for half an hour, fun activity #1, lunch, fun activity #2, quiet time, fun activity #3, unstructured playtime, dinner, next day prep.

Of course, to make this schedule work, each day’s “fun activity” is specifically planned, with chores hidden within and routines in place to make cleaning easy.

9. A system of fairness

If you have more than one child, you’ll need a hard and fast system that ensures no one goes first more than the others, or that each child gets a turn being the “leader” of the game. At our house, we have what we call the “Shell Spoon” (you know, the old sugar dish spoons that came with your grandma’s good china). The Shell Spoon is rotated.

The eldest had the first Shell Spoon Day, the second had it the next, and the third got it last (this is why birth order screws us all up, but I digress). Anyway, we’ve rotated this spoon for about three years. The Shell Spoon person goes first, sits in a special chair, takes their shower first, helps set the table, etc. And it (usually) prevents a lot of headache because there’s no “You went first last time!” stuff, and we don’t have to remember anything except whose Shell Spoon Day it is.

10. Flexibility

Sometimes the plan won’t work. Somebody gets up on the wrong side of the bed, or doesn’t like the activity that was planned. Whatever. You must be ready to either change activities, handle the disruption with a smile and love, or just chunk the day together. Adopt one rule: never skip summer camp more than one day at a time. It’ll be too hard to return to its routine.

Most of all: HAVE FUN! This DIY summer camp is an alternative to expensive summer camps and vacations, but if you’re not enjoying it, neither will your kids. Rise each morning with the notion that “Today will be the best day. EVER!” Live that notion — even in the face of fights and complications.

What activities will your kids love the most this summer?

Btw, there's a pretty nifty tool that motivates your kids to do chores. It's called MyJobChart.com. With a free account, they can earn points for finishing jobs you assign them, good towards free merchandise. Give it a try. It's completely free!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com May 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm

We have a couple of special needs children so #10 is paramount to us. Generally, if we get them out of the house almost every day during the summer and do just about anything, they are happy. I know other parents have children that are a bit more demanding than ours.

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Property Marbella May 23, 2013 at 2:12 am

Set up development goals that you want your child to reach during the summer. Maybe read 10 good and interesting books, learning to swim 500 meters, etc. there are lots of fun and great tricks to get child interested in cheap project.

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