Tips for Stress-free Summer Fun with the Kids

School will soon be out for summer. Many moms are exhausted just thinking about that final ring of the school bell that marks the last day of uninterrupted days. For the kids, however, the bell signifies freedom from schoolwork and rigid schedules. It’s been a few months since spring break and they’re feverish for activities with friends and family. Mom, are you mentally and emotionally prepared to switch up the routine?

The pressure is on and expectations may be high. You are responsible for the daily schedule, meals and entertainment all summer long. You may even be a one-woman show caring for the kids and working during the day with no assistance from family, sitters or a spouse. Summer can be fun and stress-free (at least most days) if you plan ahead, enroll in activities, reserve time to rest, create visual tools to help with time management, and, most importantly, cut yourself a break.

Check out camps that pique your child’s interests and curiosity. If you’re an early bird planner, you may have already enrolled your child in camps taking advantage of discounts. If you haven’t, don’t fret, there will be an activity for your little or big one to do and enjoy. Many camps offer weekly sessions so you can schedule week-by-week all summer long.

What do you do with the time in between? Even beach club and local recreational programs don’t last all day. If money is tight, parents may have even fewer choices. Remember, initially your child will be thrilled with the break from less structure, but soon they will need a regular routine. As we can all agree, sitting for long hours in front of the TV, computer and DS are not healthy for the kids (or adults for that matter) and research has proven it. So let’s set limits, but also enjoy some unstructured time with the kids and summer’s beautiful sunshine.

“As at-home working moms, my friends and I are eager to spend time with our kids this summer, but we also work. We don’t want our children pasted in front of the TV or on the iPads, iPhones, iEverythings… I personally will come across this issue. My kids are enrolled in six weeks of summer camps so far, and that is the cap.  How will my kids occupy themselves for a few hours each day when they are not at camp?  Then, once I finish my work for the day and “sign off”, it’s beach, sun and fun for my munchkins and me!” says Jodie O’Connor, Director, Business Development, Hulafrog, Inc.

Jodie’s concern is common and many moms in this digital world have made a niche for themselves working at home, but some may also still find it hard to carve out time for the kids.

Here are my tips for any mom in need of a plan for stress-free summer fun:

Schedule It: You may have a child who has a hard time handling transitions. Ask your child how they would like to handle their time this summer? Create a schedule together and hang it somewhere where you can both come back to review the activities for the coming days. It will also help you to schedule one-on-one time with your child, treating the appointment like any business meeting. Avoid stress by not scheduling those with your child around a deadline that may cause you to cancel. You wouldn’t want to disappoint your child by having to reschedule the hour or two you were going to visit the local playground or hit the beach.

If you’re sharing custody, work things out with your spouse so that he or she is included on the family schedule and your child feels comforted that you will all enjoy time as a family, whether together or apart this summer. Feel free to even add time with the pets on the schedule. Everyone, the dogs and kids, will benefit from a walk in the park on a nice summer day. Cats and birds (not together) will appreciate the attention and playtime as well.

Book It: Set up projects for the summer that will engage your kids. There are hundreds of camps available throughout the season and many online resources like Hulafrog offer directories of local things for the kids to do. Try something new; your all-star baseball player may just be tomorrow’s Broadway star!

Limit It:  It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of summer and all the wonderful activities available. You may need to slow down and limit your scheduling. Your hurried child will thank you for it as you allow him or her time at home exploring his or her imagination. Discover the pleasure of creating games in the yard or home, instead of joining an organized activity.

Share It: Co-op with other parents in the same situation. Many shore residents run to the beach and pool club for summer activities, but both require your undivided attention on your children. You may just be able to preserve some time for yourself to exercise or maybe just veg out on the lawn furniture you haven’t dusted off in months if you buddy up with another working mom or neighbor. Barter for time watching each other’s kids. The kids will have fun and you’ll get that much needed break. If a pool is present at your neighbor or friend’s home, be sure to ask about pool safety. You both may even prefer to attend a CPR / First Aid training class together to give each other that extra peace of mind when leaving the kids.

Summers together can be fun if you’re prepared. Before you know it, you’ll be packing up book bags and helping with homework again, so enjoy your precious time with the kids and make the most of the season. I know summer, as beautiful as it is, can also be a stressful time for moms who are trying to juggle their personal and professional lives with the needs of their children. I hope that these guidelines help you to set realistic expectations for yourself and enjoy what the summer has to offer.