My kids never went to an overnight camp. They were happier sleeping in their own beds, and with a flexible work schedule, I didn’t have to worry about daycare most days. However, I would not have been able to work had I not planned out activities way in advance. Luckily, there are dozens of local opportunities to keep the kids busy this summer without breaking the bank.
1. Spend the week at Grandma’s. Every year my sister and I would spend a week with our grandparents. Twice we went on vacation with them, but most years we just hung out at their house. We played with our cousins, went shopping, played games and went to local events. It was nice to experience life with my grandparents in charge and it gave my parents the opportunity to go to work, worry free.
2. Attend Vacation Bible School. VBS is held at many different churches every summer. This is an activity that your kids can participate in from preschool to high school and beyond. It is usually presented as a half day camp where kids do crafts, sing songs, watch skits and play games around a Bible theme. Many camps include a snack or lunch, too. The best part is that when the kids outgrow the activities, they can volunteer as a leader.
3. Attend a local high school camp. Most local high schools offer sports, music or science week long, half day camps. The camps are usually run by older students and/or the coaches and teachers at the school. Camp is usually available to kids third grade through high school. It is fun for kids to participate in camps at the high school they will attend one day as the usually get a cool t-shirt as part of the camp.
4. Go on vacation. Most families take some type of vacation – even if it is a staycation. Many people allow their kids to have a friend come along on the trip so they have someone their own age. If you are lucky, that same friend will invite your child to go on vacation with their family.
5. Park district camps have something for everyone. In addition to sports, they may have cooking camps, STEM camps, first aid camps and art camps. Many also offer an all day, day camp where campers go on local field trips to movies, pools, museums and zoos. The drop off and pick up is close to home. Choose one or more camps to suit your needs over the summer.
6. Create your own summer camps. Work with your neighbors and friends to arrange activities like those offered in park district day camps. Save a few vacation days to take your kids (and theirs) to nearby water parks, nature trails, etc. It is a great way to fill in the holes of your summer daycare plans.
7. University camps. If you live near a university, take advantage of their summer camps for kids of all ages. They offer both academic and sports camps over several weeks. Like the high school camps, they have activities for a large range of age groups and most camps run for a week or two.
8. Make time to volunteer. If you kids are middle school age, they can volunteer some of their time by helping younger kids have fun. Libraries are looking for kids to help with summer reading program tables. Churches look for VBS helpers. Animal shelters look for dog walkers and people to entertain the cats. Food pantries are looking for stockers and nursing homes are always happy to see younger faces.
9. Take it day by day. When planning your summer calendar, turn to websites like Groupon to find affordable entertainment. It is a great source to find the new activities in town for a discounted price. Most Groupons are good for a month or more so if you see an interesting activity, snatch it up and save it for those rainy days.
10. Have an unscheduled week. This is the week you can catch up on projects at home, shop for school supplies and clothes or create your own fun. This is also the week to schedule dentist appointments, school physicals and other things that need to be done over the summer.
Pam Molnar is a freelance writer and mother of three. She has discovered that the best summer plans are made early and hearing “I’m bored” from her kids is unavoidable.