Moms Reveal Their Secrets to Keeping Kids Busy at Home This Summer

When school is out, the parenting struggle is real. And this year? LOL school has been out since March! And while the kids may be celebrating their freedom, you’re probably just wondering how you can possibly keep them entertained until September (we’re still going back to school in September, right? Pretty please?). You know, while you still accomplish everything else on your own endless to-do list.

That’s why we turned to the experts for help: the moms themselves. Below, regular moms share their secrets to coming up with kid-driven summer break ideas that are pandemic-friendly (yes, that’s a necessity now). These moms come from different backgrounds and live all over, but they have one thing in common: They’re super busy, and they have mastered the art of summer survival. Some of them are living that stay-at-home-mom life, some of them are working, but they all have brilliant, creative ideas for keeping kids happy and engaged all summer long — and without a screen in sight. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Lean into your kids’ interests

“I’m a mom to a 9-year-old boy who loves to read and who has also started showing an interest in writing,” Meenakshi Agarwal of Hooked On Heat tells SheKnows. “To encourage him as well as keep him busy, I started a free blog for him where he can share his stories and poems. He loves it and now says he wants to become a writer when he grows up!”

Just get moving

“One of the benefits of working from home has been that I have been able to rearrange my schedule to accommodate being a mom,” Amanda Knapper of Silly Mummy Family Tree tells SheKnows. “It’s been especially beneficial since we’ve been home, isolating. I’ve also been especially wary of trying to ensure the kids get enough exercise, so when I am working they’re quiet and content. So, as the weather here in Ontario, Canada gets warmer, we’ve been doing daily walks…a little bit of sunshine, clean air and exercise goes a long way to keeping us all sane.”

Turn your home into “camp”

“My summer home-with-the-kids tip is to turn home into ‘mom camp’! We are doing themed camp each week,” explains LaToi Storr of ToiTime. “With fun treats, arts and crafts, and special play as well. “This way, kids can enjoy home in a different way, but still have fun. Moms can join in too, and take a break from working from home. It’s a win-win.”

Explore your hometown

Bri Grajkowski of Brigeeski is planning to keep her family local, but still adventurous. “We plan to take the kids swimming at my parents house as much as possible,” she tells SheKnows. “We also plan to do bike rides and day trips to the beach. These kids need a fun summer after so much change. My plan is that they learn more about things they love, explore in our home town of San Diego and spend time with family.”

Write a summer bucket list

“Sit down with your kids and make a written list of things that they want to do this summer, perhaps a new skill they want to learn, some art projects they’d like to complete, or science projects they’d like to conduct,” suggests Nicole Cline of Not Quite Supermom. “Then, go to Pinterest and do some searches for the items that they are interested in. Be sure to continue to add to the list as you go. After you have a large list, type it up and put it somewhere accessible to the kids. Perhaps on the inside of the snack cupboard door? Our list of kids activities to do at home came out to 75 activities. Our number-one suggestion: Take it outside, and add water when you can. Summer + water = fun.”

Build some fort fun

“Younger kids especially can spend hours building and playing in forts, so give them the materials they need to make this imaginative activity happen. Atlanta-based mom of two Kate Rope, author of Strong as a Mother: How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and (Most Importantly!) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood, suggests filling one shelf in your linen closet with any unmatched sheets or old blankets and labeling it “Fort Supplies.” “My kids will get several days worth of entertainment out of an elaborate fort,” she tells SheKnows. “And, since it’s the summer, I often let them sleep in it!”

Get crafty together

“Pick a project that will last a long time to complete and will force kids to get off the electronics,” advises Jen Tousey of ThisFamilyBlog. “We chose homemade bath products. Our daughter learned how to make soap scrubs, bath bombs and soaks — by doing that old-fashioned thing: reading. Then, we go out and get the stuff (which involves making a shopping list and price comparison). Then, she actually makes the stuff (and a mess, but it’s easy cleanup). Then, she gets to test everything she makes. Last, she is packaging them and creating gift baskets… She’s learning all kinds of new skills and having a great time doing it. “Bonus: All of her Christmas presents are handmade and completed by August!”

Make budget-based activity jars

Dawn Allcot, a mom of two kids in Long Island, New York, recommends brainstorming a bunch of activities that fall into the following categories: free, cheap, and splurge. Write those activities onto slips of paper and then place them into three corresponding jars. “So, depending on my bank account, if we have a day where we don’t know what to do and have no pre-set plans, we will draw from one of the jars,” Allcot tells SheKnows. “So I will determine which jar we draw from, and we will do the [chosen activity]… no arguments!”

Make learning life skills fun

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KIDS + NEW FOODS I count my blessings every single day that when I began feeding my kids, I was eating real food. It’s a journey and I’d love to share the story if you’re interested in hearing more about my own real food journey. The fun part of feeding 4 little ones is that they all have unique preferences and it’s so interesting see learn what they love/don’t love. BUT it can be frustrating at times. I try and not let it bother me when they don’t like something. I remind myself – I’m playing the long game and right now it’s all about exposure! Want your kids to be more excited to try new foods? Here’s 5 tips. 1. Role model trying new foods. 👈🏻this is big. If we want our kiddos to try new foods or even enjoy the foods we eat, we need to show it, and live it. 2. If kids are old enough, talk about the flavors/textures/colors as you try it. Make it not just about eating, but about exploring the new food. 3. Bring them into the kitchen! Let them help you make it. Let them feel the food. Play with it. 4. Give them the freedom of choice at the store to pick something new. Even if you think it’s not tasty, encourage and be positive about the choice. 5. Just keep exposing. I was telling my husband the other day that I care more about exposing the kids to foods and them liking it as adults than kids – they’ll be adults much longer than kiddos and I’m in it for the long game. How old are your kiddos? Do you have any tips that have helped get your kids excited to try new foods? #fitmamarealfood #feedingkids #blw #babyledweaning #pickyeaters #adventurouseater #realfoodkids #feedinglittles #kidfriendlyfood #whatmykidseat #kidfood #kids #lifewithkids #lifewithlittles #momchat #motherhood #kidseatincolor #eattherainbow #eatrealfood #realfood #momlife #toddlerlife #kidlife #momof4 #babyledweaningideas

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“I plan to use the summer and time away from formal learning to focus on teaching my kids to cook,” says Heather Englund of Fit Mama Real Food. “My kids’ ages range from 2-8 so I plan to utilize this list of 100 simple ways to involve kids in the kitchen by age. They’ll be included, entertained, learn new skills, and I’ll get help in the kitchen. Win-win!”

Get gardening (yes, even in the city!)

“We live in Brooklyn and we don’t have a yard, but we’ve planted carrots in a box on our roof and it has provided my two boys (aged 7 and 10) with hours of entertainment, education, and responsibility,” says Maia James of Gimme the Good Stuff. “From watering and weeding to exploring the many critters that have taken up residence in the soil and on the greens, the carrots have already been worthwhile and we have yet to eat any!”

Create a foolproof ‘no boredom’ rule

It’s inevitable — every kid, at some point, will complain about being bored. The key is how you handle it. Montana mom of four Kate Wehr has an effective method: “Loud expressions of boredom from my older kids, after several suggestions of activities, will start to trigger chores or homework assignments.” Works like a charm.

Keep education going over the summer, too

“We are having a very distanced summer as our eldest is on immune suppressants,” explains Alexandra Stapleton-Smith of Hedgehog Hollow. “So we have bought lots of outdoor games to get some fresh air; we are also putting in a schedule for a fun-time curriculum but help bridge the learning gap. We have an hour for worksheets, and we change subject daily and rotate; then, we have outdoor time, crafts, lunch and in the afternoon they get the choice of one activity and then one educational activity too.”

A version of this story was originally published in April 2019.

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