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Time to plan your summer activities

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Summer is on the way!

Depending on where you live, it's anywhere between cool to downright frigid outside right now. There may be snow and ice out there, and you dare not go out without layers. You wonder if you will ever feel warm again. We are in the depths of winter, and summer seems so far away.

Family Planning for Summer Vacation

In reality, though, it's not. And now, in the middle of winter, is the time to start planning your summer - and especially for your kids. Now is the time to start thinking about how you would like your kids' summer to look. I'm serious.

Scheduled or not so much?

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want or need to have your child fully scheduled, and what that means to you. You may need to fill up each week of the summer break with activities and other care coverage because of your schedule, or just because you know your child does better with such routine. On the other hand, you may have the flexibility to have no real schedule at all and may plan your time to give you and your family as much unstructured down time as possible. You can choose camps and classes - or just hanging out with friends in the yard.

There's also a hybrid approach: some scheduling with camps and the like, and time set aside for that much-loved summer freedom. This hybrid approach may take the most planning.

Are you thinking of a family vacation this summer? Find out how family vacations can actually make your children smarter.

Camps and classes

In the next weeks you'll see advertising increase for summer camps and other summer programs. The time for signing up for these programs is in the next few weeks. If you've never done summer camps and such before, you need to start doing research now on what is available and when - and the cost and deposit and payment guidelines. Then, you need to be ready to register as soon as registration is open. While one some level it may feel ludicrous to be so competitive for camp spots so early in the year (and when it's cold out!), if you need that camp space to help organize your family's summer, you need it. It would be a shame to be shut out of available programs by delaying. If plans change, it's better to lose a small deposit than to not have your kids covered at all.

Click here to find out which summer camp is best for your child.

No schedule

Giving kids a fully unscheduled summer may or may not work for you and your family - but if it does work for your family and you can swing it, it's a gift. Keep in mind, however, that the novelty of total freedom may wear off in a couple weeks and you kids may announce they are bored or whatever. You may find yourself doing some planning to move the weeks along, even if you intended not to. And it's okay if, in the middle of the summer, you realize you need a break from your unscheduled kids. Maybe keep some of those camp and class options in your back pocket for the last minute, just in case.

Get tips on creative ways to keep kids entertained this summer!

Variations

If you need to maintain a more rigid schedule for the summer due to your work commitments, but still want your kids to have mostly downtime or that hybrid approach, you likely will need some additional planning. Summer may, in fact, be your craziest time as you try to give your kids that great summer experience. You may need help beyond just the formal programs to give everyone the right kind of summer experience.

Responsible college students home for the summer are a great way to get your kids covered so you can maintain your schedule, get them to intermittent camps and classes, and give them down time. They also are starting to think about summer now, and ads may be popping up around neighborhood centers and in local papers. You should vet a summer sitter as you would any sitter, with references and the like, and it may take some energy to find the right fit, but this kind of situation can be great for all of you: your kids get what they need, you manage your schedule and have some peace of mind, and the sitter earns some money - and you may just develop a strong relationship that will last for years to come.

Whatever you want for you and your family for the summer, it's time to start planning for it now, in mid-winter. Rather than dealing with the stress of scrambling at the last minute, this early planning can mean you enjoy your summer that much more.

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