It isn’t just you — when the school year ends, the parenting struggle is real. The kids are celebrating their newfound freedom, but you’re just wondering how you can possibly keep them entertained for the next few months. You know, while still doing everything on your own endless to-do list.
As mom to 7-year-old Hazel, Amanda Thomsen has quite a few summers under her belt — and plenty of kids summer break ideas to share. Her recently released book Backyard Adventure: Get Messy, Get Wet, Build Cool Things, and Have Tons of Wild Fun! was inspired by her own attempts to keep her daughter busy in the summer months. Over the years, her home has become a hub for neighborhood kids looking for summertime fun.
“It’s definitely different than when I was a kid and I’d go out after breakfast and come home before dinner,” Thomsen says. “Kids need a little more guidance to play outside and usually need some materials to play with. I make a mental note of play materials that are lurking in the garage and throw some stuff into the driveway each morning, and they just play and play with that stuff all day. We’re talking a stack of delivery boxes that need to be recycled or a roll of kraft paper. Nothing fancy, but it sparks their imagination and then the play comes naturally.”
Looking for more kids summer break ideas? We chatted with six real-life moms who’ve 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.
Write a summer bucket list
Get everyone excited about the summer months ahead by kicking off the kids’ break with some brainstorming. Santa Cruz-based mom Michele Bigley makes a poster with her kids and hangs it on the wall, checking off items throughout the summer. “I’ll make them dig deeper than just ‘play video games’ or ‘see friends,’ and we usually have about 100 things on the list,” she tells SheKnows. “Some crazy — like boogie board down the stairs — and some simple, like eat at X restaurant, learning to make X.”
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 labelling it “Fort Supplies.” “My kids will get several days worth of entertainment out of an elaborate fort and, since it’s the summer, I often let them sleep in it!”
Hit up the library
Sure, you can kill some hours there at story time or hunting for a new book, but don’t overlook their summer programs. Littleton, Colorado-based mom Christa Tomlinson Palmer says, “Local libraries usually have a lot of free programs for kids from toddlers to teens. Some are lame but others are great. I found a coding class for my tween last year. You have to sign up early, so people should be stalking their library websites now for information.”
Have a working play date
Whether you work from home or just have a long to-do list, other busy moms can help you. Work-from-home mom Suzanne Brown of Austin, Texas suggests joining forces with parents in similar situations. “Do a working playdate with someone who has kids around the same age,” she tells SheKnows. “Kids are entertained and you and the other working mama get things done.”
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!”
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.
This post is sponsored by Juicy Juice Fruitifuls® Organic.