5 Tips for Planning a Great Summer for Your Family

Although some of the best summer fun for kids and parents is unplanned, the reality is those precious, spontaneous moments are few and far between. When you're a parent home with the kids, day in and day out, summer is long. But you don’t want to look back only to feel as if you limped through it with your eyes cast toward Labor Day.

To make it go smoothly with happy memories at the end, parents need to line up multiple summer child care options around a schedule of vacation dates and activities—while at the same time trying to infuse some summer fun into their kids’ days.

That's a tall order, so it’s best to start the summer planning as soon as you can. This step-by-step guide for summer planning will help you get started.

1

Plan on a Week-By-Week Basis

planning summer

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Print blank calendar pages to use as a rough draft. Begin summer planning with the events that have specific dates. Fill in the calendar with any vacations, summer camp, house guests, day trips, and holidays that you already know.

Also add any important work-related dates, such as business travel and deadlines. Once complete, you'll have a rough idea of how many days or weeks for which you’ll need a plan.

2

Set Summer Goals

young girl reading book in the gass

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With a skeletal outline of the summer schedule in hand, it’s time to start setting goals. Summer goals might be work- or family-related.

Professional goals could be something ambitious, like completing a complicated project, or they could be as simple as setting aside a certain number of hours per week for work. Family-related goals might include taking day trips or enjoying this time with the kids with less stress.

But take it easy on yourself when setting goals.

Factor in the general summer slowdown fueled by client and coworker vacations. Likewise, the kids being home from school affects what you can accomplish when it comes to work.

You also want to avoid over-scheduling your kids with activities every day. Kids benefit from having downtime and options for free play. During unstructured play time, kids release stress and learn about the world around them.

So, make sure to incorporate some time for unstructured play alongside your structured activities. While some families need to get out of the house every day, others find that several times a week is adequate.

Perhaps your family already has a summer “bucket list” of things to do. If not, find some ideas online, such as berry picking, local water parks, and nature walks. Or maybe there’s a skill ​the kids didn’t quite master during the school year that you could focus on, such as math facts or shoe tying. Summer can be the time to tackle those things in a more relaxed way.

3

Search for Summer Child Care

kids outdoors at summer camp

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When it comes to securing childcare, the sooner you start planning, the more childcare options you will have. Taking the time to map out your summer and set goals first will help you make the right decisions for your family. Think about which childcare options will work best for your situation and your schedule.

Often, parents use a mix of options, such as summer camp one week, grandparents the next, and then kids at home or with a babysitter for another week.

Many summer camps start filling up in February and March, and babysitters get booked before the school year is out, so don’t delay in implementing the details of your summer plan. But, if you're getting a late start, don't despair either. Something will come together.

4

Adjust Your Work Schedule (If You Can)

Mom and two kids laughing in hammock

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Given your options for childcare and your workload, are there days or weeks still uncovered? If you've exhausted affordable childcare options, then take a look at your work schedule instead.

The next step may be to cut hours or rearrange your schedule to work evenings and weekends. Or, maybe your partner can arrange a more flexible schedule for the summer.

Consider, too, whether taking a working vacation (where you work and the kids play) is an option. This scenario breaks up the monotony of spending the entire summer at home for both you and the kids.

5

Plan Day-To-Day Activities

two young girls stringing beads

Mike Kemp / Getty Images

Unless you choose back-to-back weeks of summer camp, the kids will likely be home with you for a few days in the summer. If you have to work, look for everyday summer activities for kids to do while you work.

Think about how to move toward those goals you've set as you plan the days. Use flex time and vacation time to allow you achieve your goals, and be sure to set aside some time to have fun together. After all, you want to make some memories along the way.

Remember, you don't have to have elaborate plans to make memories.

Simply sitting down with your kids and playing with them can have huge benefits. In fact, research shows that parents are a child's most enriching toy. The things they learn from playing with you are endless.

As a result, consider painting, making a craft together, or playing with play-doh during your lunch breaks. Take them to the library to explore while you work at a nearby table. Or, play a board game, a game of tag, or basketball at night after dinner.

Even a family bike ride on Sunday evenings can be a great family activity. Regular activities built into your summer help strengthen your parent-child relationship and create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.

A Word From Verywell

As you plan your summer with the kids, go easy on yourself. Leave some room in your schedule for spontaneous activities. Trying to plan every minute of the summer is not only time-consuming and exhausting, but it also can hem you in too much. Part of the beauty of summer is the fact that it's often unstructured and full of possibilities.

So, map out your schedule, get childcare lined up, and plan a few outings, but also allow some room for last-minute decisions. Given the flexibility, your summer with the family can take you in some exciting directions. Plus, you might even develop a few traditions along the way.

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  1. National Institute of Health. It's a kid's job: Playing helps kids learn and grow.