Time to slap your forehead – Memorial Day has come and gone, summer is here, and you still haven’t made plans for your kids.
You’re not a bad mom. Or dad. It’s surprisingly hard, especially for working parents, to plan a kid-centric summer, when the primary factors aren’t “fun,” but staying within budget, while also limiting the chauffeuring and hours of aftercare each solution requires.
Just like plotting a vacation last minute, last minute kid summer planning can work to your favor. Here are some tips from almost 20 years of summer plannery myself.
- Look local first. Does your neighborhood park or public school offer any low-tech nature-walk-sprinkler-splash options? Neighborhood summer camps usually are inexpensive, easy on the logistics (kids can walk to and from), and a great way for your kids to get to know neighborhood friends, if they don’t already.
- Look far away. This translates to “relatives.” Do you have grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles with a beach house, a lake house, or just a house (period), to host your child for a week or more? Visiting a relative or friend is akin to sleep away camp, without the steep price tag. Kids learn independence and gain exposure to life in a different place and different family. You get a taste of the pros and cons of what it will be like when your kids leave home (trust me, this day comes shockingly faster than seems fathomable).
- Take the initiative. If you can’t find a camp you like, start your own. Reach out to parents in your neighborhood or kids’ school, and see if there are four or more others who’d like to start a rotating daily playgroup. Each family takes the kids for one day a week. If you and your spouse/co-parent can each take a half day off from work, you don’t need to stress over taking vacation days yourself. You can also hire local teenaged babysitters to help.
- Don’t forget about traditional camps. You know, the kind you used to have to contact in January? These days, there’s a supply and demand surplus in many areas, especially at sleep away camps, As a result many camps still have slots at the last minute.
- If your kids are old enough, “a job” fills many of the summer camp requirements. Your kids get something productive to do while you are at work all day. And they earn money and learn responsibility. So…tell your kids to post a babysitting flyer, get their lifeguard certificate, or inquire at the local neighborhood camps (see above) that often hire teenagers under 16. Or create your kid’s own job by giving them a list of jobs around your house and yard that you will pay them for.
Surprising how easy it can be to get your kids off the couch and out of the house, where they should be, even if you’ve waited until the last minute to plan the perfect summer. Here’s the ultimate consolation for missing the camp-crazed rush: your kids will probably thank you one day for being a normal parent, rather than an obsessed OCD hovering one who plans her kids’ summers in January…like I always did.