How Do You Plan for Summer?

Every spring, I find myself doing a new puzzle: How will all the pieces of summer fit together?

This isn’t an easy question when you have kids. The school year provides a structure to family life, and if you don’t plan ahead, that structure can quickly unravel during the summer.

I always sit down with my kids in the spring to talk through what they’d like to do for the summer. When my kids were younger, they would say, “Not go to school!” As they became young teenagers, they’d say, “Hang out with friends!” When they became older teenagers, they’d say, “I’ll figure it out when it gets here.”

That’s when I encourage them to get more specific and more concrete. I gather catalogs and flyers of camps, summer activities, weeklong offerings, and more. We also talk about a family getaway, even if we could only afford a weekend away.

How would I find these activities? Every spring, our local newspaper, the Star Tribune, publishes its Annual Summer Camp Guide. I keep this guide and read it in great detail. I often find camps and activities that might interest my kids. Many major newspapers throughout the country publish a similar guide for families.

I see what our school district offers in the summer. (And then I check the school districts near us as well.) I also look at the local parks and recreation offerings, the nature center’s offerings, the YMCA’s offerings, our church denomination’s offerings, summer offerings through a local college, and the community education’s offerings.

One summer, one of my kids did a kayaking camp through the YMCA. Another summer, one of my kids took a weeklong science class at the university and dissected a pig! (He was only in sixth grade, so that was impressive.)

When my kids were younger, the child care center continued its daily care, so that it made it easy to be a working parent. But as my kids got the sixth-grade level, then summers became a difficult puzzle.

That required getting creative on my part. I didn’t want teenagers not having enough to do. So, I encouraged them to find a project or activity and to set some goals. (I also did the same.) One summer, my oldest son (who had a driver’s license and couldn’t find a job) spent three days a week at his grandparents’, helping them with home projects and with their garden. The three of them bonded and had a great time. (My son especially liked the afternoon naptime.)

This summer, my 14-year-old has set a goal of trying to earn the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA). As we looked at PALA together, we decided this was something my 14-year-old and I could do together and both decided to work toward the award.

We also do a lot of summer reading. I got library cards for each of my kids when they were preschoolers, and every summer they checked out books. Our library has a summer reading club, which my kids join every year.

This year, we’re trying to figure out a family getaway. We’re on a tight budget because we have one kid in college, and we also need to do some landscaping in our backyard because of crumbling concrete.

So that’s the big discussion in our family right now. Where could we go on a small budget? What sounds fun? We’ve checked out a bunch of Fodor and Frommer travel books from the library, so it’s now time to start narrowing our choices and getting booking our travel.

How do you plan for the summer?

1. Family Fun, Parentfurther.

2. Image via on Alex{Very busy} on Flick’r

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