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Summer Planning Guide for Parents


School’s out for just three short months yet parents can spend that much time (or more) planning summer. Planning the practical aspects of school holidays undoubtedly means lining up multiple summer child care options around a schedule likely full of vacation dates and deadlines--all while hoping to infuse some summer fun into kids’ days. For work at home moms, some of those summer days are likely going to be spent together at home so you'll need a full repertoire of everyday summer activities too.

Though it’s best to start the summer planning while the winter is still upon us, this step-by-step guide for summer planning will help whenever you get started.

Step One: Plot out the summer on a week by week basis.

Mother and son at beach bonding
Karina Mansfield/Moment Open/Getty Images

I like to print blank calendar pages to use as a rough draft. This allows me to put down mere possibilities, rather than marking and erasing on a paper calendar or deleting with no trace on an electronic calendar.

Begin summer planning with the events that have certain dates. Put any vacations, summer camp, houseguests, day trips, holidays, etc. that you know on the calendar. Also add any important work-related dates, i.e. deadlines, vacations of colleagues, business travel, etc.

Now you have a rough idea how many days or weeks for which you’ll need to make a summer plan.

Step Two: Set summer goals.

With a skeletal outline of the summer schedule in hand, it’s time to start setting goals. Summer is frequently a less productive time (both for people who work at home and those who don’t). But that is all the more reason to set some goals. You don’t want look back on the summer only to feel as if you limped through it, moving toward nothing other than Labor Day.

But take it easy on yourself when setting goals, keeping in mind that client and coworker vacations, as well as the kids being home from school, will be a factor in how much you can accomplish. 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 a certain number of hours per week or day.

Perhaps the family already has a summer “bucket list” of things to do. If not, get some ideas from this list of 100 fun ideas for kids and parents. Or maybe there’s a skill kids didn’t quite master during the school year (math facts, shoe tying, etc.). Summer can be  the time to tackle it in a more relaxed way.

Step Three: Search for summer child care.

Now that you have a time frame and a goal, it’s time to start filling in that calendar. Look over this list of 8 ideas for summer child care. Think about which ones would work for your family. Often parents use a mix of them. Summer camp one week, grandparents the next and then kids just might have to entertain themselves at home or with a babysitter for another week, etc.

Many summer camps start filling up in February and March, and babysitters get booked by other moms before the school year is out. So don’t delay in implementing the details of the summer plan. But if you're getting a late start, don't despair either.

Step Four: Make some decisions.

Given your options for child care and workload, are there many weeks or days still uncovered? If you've exhausted affordable child care 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. Maybe your spouse can arrange a more flexible schedule for the summer. Consider whether to take a working vacation (i.e. you work, the kids play). That breaks up the monotony of spending the summer together at home for both parents and kids.

Step Five: Plan the day-to-day activities.

Unless you choose back-to-back weeks of summer camp, the kids will likely be home with you for some days in the summer. Check out these everyday summer activities for kids to do while you work. Think about how to move toward those goals you've set on a daily basis as you plan the days. But have some fun together too. Try some of these ideas for free summer fun or join a summer reading club.

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