27 answers

Not So Great Summer So Far.

Okay, we have had a pretty rough start to summer so far (stay in hospital followed by stomach virus, etc). So now everyone seems healthy (knock on wood) but I have no idea what to do with them. How do you keep your kids occupied during the summer break? I do not have a vehicle at the moment (unless I take my husband to work everyday) and I don't have much money, so I need to be creative, but am really at a loss. We end up in front of the TV way too often. In addition, I feel like I am always making food. This is driving me a little crazy I must admit. Does anyone have a great schedule or any advice on a good way to keep everyone entertained and happy (and work in some educational time without having a complete riot break out). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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Make a schedule of activities: art, movie, friend comes over, water time (sprinklers, neighborhood pool), chores that need to be done, etc. I find having activities set in my day make a lot accomplished, as well as makes the time fly.

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You have had a rough start to the summer, but there is plenty of time to have fun.

First of all put together a "summer bag". This should include a sun hat for each of you, sunscreen, bug spray and water bottles. This way it is all together whenever you are going to be outside.

The library and movies are always a staple for kids in the summer, plus it is cooler in there than outside.

Build living room tents with every sheet, blanket and pillow in the house..

Cover up the windows in the living room and make it as dark as possible and pretend it is a theater to watch videos or old movies (videos from your childhood).

Make a menu for the week. This includes snacks, so that your children will know what they will be eating and canmake suggestions.

We also always did a lot of cooking and baking all summer. At lunch sometimes we would play restaurant and our daughter would be the waitress. She would make up a menu and then take my order. Or I would be the waitress and she would be "the fancy customer" I would serve her off of some fancy dishes and a stemmed glass.

We would play store and she would organize the cans and food and I would shop and she would ring me up and then bag the groceries.

We would play library. She was the librarian to all of her books. I would ask for suggestions.. 'I am looking for a funny book for a boy"... "I am looking for a Christmas book." "I would like a little critter book"
"I am looking for the books written by Dr. Seuss"...

I placed boxes of cereal, granola bars, fresh fruit, fruit roll ups, bags of popcorn,pop tarts, loaves of bread on a low shelf in our kitchen so that she could get her own snacks..

There were also plastic plates, plastic bowls, cups and spoons for her to easily get to.

In the fridge, I kept a smaller carton of her milk,Juice boxes when she was young, but then pitchers of juice once she could pour, cheese slices, peanut butter and lunch meat, jar of pickles, hard boiled eggs etc. sliced veggies and cleaned lettuces on a lower shelf so she could also get to these when she was hungry.

We would also try to plan all dinners for the week and she would help me make the shopping list, help me look at the grocery ads, help me prepare the meals..

We tried to go to the pool every afternoon one summer. It was really fun, but I only had 1 child.The slip in slide and sprinklers are great. Bubbles are also always fun.

Since it did not rain very often during the summers, when it did rain, I would let her grab an umbrella and run around in the rain... We would walk up and down the sidewalks or she would play in the rain in our yard.

If you have a driveway.. Get sidewalk chalk, grab all of the kids "vehicles" and pull toys.. Take them all out to the driveway. Make a roadway on the sidewalk with the chalk. Yellow lines, white lines, stop signs, parking spaces. Then I would be the traffic police or she would be the police and issue traffic tickets.. This is how she learned what all of the stripes on the street meant.

With one car, you need to make a rough draft for each week so you can decide what day you will need the car. Then take your husband to work (with the kids) and go and have a "breakfast picnic". I noticed you are in San Antonio so there are a ton of interesting places to take the kids with bagels, fruit and juice and play in a pretty park one morning.. it is cooler...

Take a picnic lunch to the park next to the Zoo and then pick a few animals to go and visit.. you do not have to go for a whole day.

In the evenings, I am sure San Antonio has free concerts or movies in the parks or colleges. Take a picnic dinner with blanket and all of you pick up your husband after work and go see the concert.

Purchase some of the disposable cameras, write each child's name on them and let them be in charge of taking photos. Be sure to tell them not to waste the photos, cause they are only getting 1 camera, per month.

There are tons of workbooks, playing cards and memory cards.. for down and quite times always have these available.

While the older kids are doing active play, have your 2 year old sit next to you and ask the child "tell me a story". It was always amazing to me to hear what such a young child had to say.

Have fun!

5 moms found this helpful

Hi R.-

I also have a 7, 5, and nearly 2 year old. We have a daily scheduled that we have been trying to follow since summer started. Some of these things may not be available to you without a car, but here's what we do.

Nature walk: the kids collect leaves, pinecones, etc and bring them home to make art projects with or to write stories about.

Library: we go weekly to return books and check out new ones and our library also has weekly special events that we go to.

Pools: we go to the public pools at least 2-3 times per week

Backyard: we have a slip n slide in the backyard that the kids just love. Water balloons and water guns are always fun too.

Study time: I bought a few workbooks and have websites that have free printable worksheets that they work on every day for about 30 - 45 minutes. My 5 year old has started to work on sight word flashcards and my 7 year old is working on multiplication tables.

Art time: we sit down with paper and crayons some days, playdoh sometimes, etc.

Reading time: my 7 year old reads to the other 2.

Household chore time: It's my time to do things around the house and they help by cleaning their rooms. If their rooms are clean it is their free play time.

Children's museum: we have a membership so we go regularly

Parks: we go to the parks in the morning to avoid the heat. Usually our nature walk is a walk to the park where they can play for a while before heading home.

Cinemark movie club: If there is a Cinemark near you they offer $1 movies for kids on weekday mornings.

Board games/cards: when it's too hot or the youngest is napping we play games. Sometimes just the 7 and 5 year old play Go Fish, Guess Who, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders. If I'm available then I play Battleship or Sorry or other more involved games so that I can help the 5 year old.

Good luck,

4 moms found this helpful

so sorry to hear about the start of your summer. But I'm hoping the rest of it will be much better for you and your family.
A friend of mine just wrote a blogpost about 100 free things to do for the summer and has quite creative ideas on it. Some require transportation, but most can be done at home or at a local park if there's one close enough to you to walk to.
hopethis helps and that you have a TERRIFIC summer from now on. :)

mommy to Kate (6), Ethan (4), and Karis (2.5)

2 moms found this helpful

Sorry your summer is not going so great. Can you maybe take your husband to work every other day if you don't want to do so everyday. Here are some of the things I do with my son (mine is two and a baby) we go to the pool 2-3 times a week, library has a lot of free activities, we go to fast food places to eat and play (most places have dollar menus) so if you don't want to spend a lot have lunch at home and go to McDonalds for ice cream, dollar movies (I have not tried this yet) we have a membership to the museum, vacation bible school, parks in the morning, the gym (which is for me but they have an awesome kids area. Can you get a membership to the Y, they usually have pools and activities. At home we play with toys, dig in dirt, sandbox, bubbles, sidewalk chaulk, we play with our dogs. watch a few shows.

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Hi R.,

I know what you mean about always making food! I just started working for a school district last December, so this is my first summer home with my kids. We have been home less than two weeks and I feel already keeping them entertained and fed is a challenge! We have a $75.00 Academy "pop up" pool (12 feet in diameter and 36 " inches high - water is only 30" deep though) and that keeps my two boys entertained a little. We also have a trampoline and an 8' by 8' sandbox in the backyard as well. Inside my boys have a great playroom with lego, blocks, Playstation, puzzles, art stuff, etc. And I still get the "I'm bored" whine from them.

The downside for me is that keeping up with the housework while supervising them is hard. I don't let them in the backyard on the trampoline and pool without my eyes on them. Also, if they have a friend over I have to be extra vigilant. So they want to come in and out of the house constantly wanting this or that or food or drink! Also, keeping the toys picked up is a constant battle. And with all the food prep - popcorn, snowcones, sandwiches, cookies, keeping the kitchen cleaned is also a full time job! The amount of dirty dishes has multiplied exponently since the kids and I are home during the day. I really had no idea it would be like this.

Like you, I envisioned a summer of happy "Mommy Day Camp" for fun and play, but so far it has been alot more work than I imagined. We are on vacation this week and next week they go to vacation bible school in the mornings so Mommy can go to her own doctor appointments and other errands and not have the nightmare of bringing two active little boys along. But after next week, I am going to have to toughen up on all the toys, food, etc.

My plan was to go to bed and get up at reasonable times so the day isn't wasted. Also, if money permits, go on a low cost "Field Trip" once a week. This might be a trip to the zoo, or a picnic at a local park or reading at the library or other free (almost free) things I might run across.

Was maybe hoping to do a trip to Schlitterbahn or Space Center Houston, but those may be out my extremely limited budget.

I was thinking of a SuperNanny type schedule, but haven't got that far yet! So I am thinking of pulling out some toys they haven't played with in a while and other family projects they can help with to keep them occupied. We shall see how that really plays out!

Good luck! I am finding out that is being a part time SAHM is just as much work as working outside the home. (But I really do like it so far! It is a nice break from having to all be out of the house by 7:20 every morning!

K. Howell
Mom to two boys - ages 6 and 9 and wife to my great husband.

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well first let me tell you there is pleany to do with kids that age. Make paper airplains or jets. Make paper hats, make pom poms. ues coffee filters, paint with food coloring and flour. to make the "paint" just mix flour with water until a little thick then add food color or cool aid packege even until not real watery. They could use it like finger paint or use spoungs or anything really. even a paper towel. Save your dryer link for a week or so and then just mix some flour and water and glue in it and cover an old jar or can. Go out side and find some rocks and sticks,leaves, and fill a jar then decorate the jar lid with an old piece of cloth you could even put a piece of cotton under it to made it padded. Save the cotton out of the medican bottles, or just use dryer lint. Give them a list of things to find. My favorer memory is when we had "Washing Maching Appreation Day" We washed the cloths in the bathtub...the stepped on them and shushed them back and forth from one end of the tub to the other. They even called the neighbor kids to come over. They still talk about it and they are in their 20's To ring the cloths out they would pair up and twist the cloths to get the water out. Then we hung them on the line.(My washing maching was really broken.) You just have to get out of the house and see what is around you. Play games run around the house. We use to put a piece of ice in our hand and see who could run around the house without putting the ice out of their hand...see how far we could run. Walk a barrel, have rolling races...lay on the ground and roll to the end of the yard. If you need more just ask.

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Some ideas:
1. Create playdates for all three, either by having a friend bring their kids over or the friend picking up your kids to go to their house.
2. Pick an area of the kitchen where you will put acceptable snacks, drinks, and mini-meals for the kids to get themselves, reducing the need to be always making food.
3. Start collecting clean, recyclable items (cereal boxes, tp and paper towel tubes, yogurt containers, etc in a box or tub and use those items for an "invention" craft time---the kids glue, staple, tie pieces together and the you have them tell you about their invention.
4. Art, art, art and more art/crafts, crafts---markers, paper, grocery bags, holiday wrap, old clothes cut up for scraps: go online for free teacher tips or parent craft ideas.
5. Have them make a fort in the house with blankets, chairs, etc.
6. Indoor picnic---the kids get the items from the kitchen (unbreakable), set it up and pack it away in a basket or tub.
7. Pick up the local San Antonio parents' magazine next time you go to the grocery store to see free or low cost things to do in the calendar section/check their website for calendar items. Her ethe mag name is Houston Family Magazine---perhaps if you google San Antonio Family something will come up.
8. Library Summer Reading Program!!!! With prizes for your schoolager and preschooler. Picture books for your youngest. Videos, cds all freeee!!!

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Wow, R.,

Such wonderful suggestions! I want to reinforce a couple of the ideas and add some suggestions (several of which will be great for your OWN health and well-being, if you do not already include these in your daily activities):


(1) Include a short session of "formal" exercises in your daily activities. With the rampant medical problems stemming from overweight children (and adults), learning the discipline and joy of daily physical activity is a NECESSARY life-skill. With the ages of your children, "exercise time" can include stretching, some weight lifting, some aerobics and a "cool down." You can make up your own routine. There are exercise videos for kids, as well as books that give exercise suggestions. You could check into these materials on a library visit. But at their young ages, the exercise routine does not need to be sophisticated; it just needs to be regular, disciplined and FUN, because you are creating a life habit.

(2) For a companion activity, you can help your 5 and 7 year olds make their own "weights". Fill a plastic, screw-top bottle or jug, like an appropriate-sized sports drink bottle that you think each child can comfortably hold, with the amount of water each can "lift" (start modest and increase the water-weight as each of you can lift more). For more fun, you can add small, floating plastic toys, plastic sequins, beads, marbles glitter or color the water to make each child's weights totally unique. Make a set for yourself in larger size and make tiny ones for your 2-yr old.

Using these "smart-bells" have the kids follow you as the workout leader; at first, a lot of your time will be taken in helping your 2-yr. old to see "how" to do the exercises. A routine might include: Plant your feet shoulder width apart, lift the right arm up, stretching the right arm overhead to left side (touching ear with inside of elbow) and back down to the side, then left arm up and stretch to the right side (touching ear with inside of elbow) and back down, for 10 repetitions. You can also hold the weights, arms straight out to the front, hands together, and then twist side-to-side at the waist (don't turn the whole body, just twist from the waist.) Make all moves smooth and deliberate. No jerking moves. For aerobics: you can do jumping jacks or run a relay in a long hall or other area where the kids will not run into furniture or breakables. Use a paper towel tube for a "baton" to hand off to one another. If it is early and still cool outside, a brisk walking program may provide the best aerobics, and you can push/pull your 2 yr. old in a stroller or wagon.

With your role modeling, encouragement and reinforcing the kids when they do the exercises correctly, you will soon have a little "work-out club". [FYI, I an NOT a work-out addict. But, I struggle with managing weight and disciplining myself to do regular exercises in my 50's, so I WISH that my mom had embedded the "discipline" of daily exercises into me at a young age.]

(3) I don't know about your faith, but if you follow Jesus, I believe that a short time for daily Bible study is the MOST PRECIOUS gift that one can give one's children. Here is a suggested model that might take 20-30 minutes a day. Pick one verse in scripture for them to memorize that week. Open with a short prayer, asking God to join you and to help all of you to hear His voice (guidance). Ask that He will be pleased with your study. Help the kids to locate the selected passage in their Bibles. Then, start by simply reading them the selected verse of scripture, out loud, while they follow along in their own Bibles. Read the verse in context -- with enough surrounding text to represent the complete setting/teaching. If you have a chalkboard or whiteboard, write the scripture to be memorized on the board. Ask each child, in turn, what he/she thinks it means. Discuss with them what the passage says, including the 5 W's - Who, What, When, Where, & Why (taking one "W" during each day of that week): Mon- Who is in the scene (e.g. the audience, observers and, if any, speaker(s)? Tue - What is going on? Wed - When does this happen (time of day; in association with a festival or at the direction of God; month and/or year, etc.) Thu - Where does the scene take place (city, region)? Fri - Why might God include this scripture in the Bible for us to read? Each day, have each child individually read or repeat the full verse several times. THEN, erase the last word on the board and have them repeat the scripture, filling in the last word from MEMORY. Each day, erase another one or two words from the end of the verse, while they continue to practice saying the whole verse, filling in the missing words from memory. Prompt them, if necessary, but try to set up some kind of positive reinforcement that encourages each child to complete the verse without your aid. Close each session with a prayer of thanks to God for guiding your study and keeping all or you in His care. By the end of the week, they will have memorized the whole verse! Hint: start with simple verses while they are this young and, as they mature, move up to increasingly complex scriptures. Also, don't forget to include the Book and verse references for where the scripture is found as a part of what they memorize, so that they are forming knowledge of where verses are found in the Bible. :)


(1) DO make a written schedule for a week. Block out the times for chores, exercise, study/reading, rest, outings/trips (perhaps batched on only one day each week since you are ride sharing). Don't forget to schedule SOME slots that are for "free time." Learning to follow a schedule is another "priceless" life-skill that will benefit your kids for their entire lives. If a written schedule sounds scary, just remember that you do not have to be a slave to the schedule. If you want/need to change the schedule, just do so as a "conscience choice" to alter the part that does not fit that day. For example, if Laundry Time is shown on the schedule, and you do not have enough laundry to warrant doing it, gather the kids and make the point: "Well, it looks like we don't have enough laundry to run a load, so let's save it until [next scheduled laundry time.] What shall we do during this time?"

(2) As for eating and snacks, I love the idea that others have suggested - to prepare foods and snacks that the kids can get for themselves. But in doing this, try from this very young age to teach your children to love HEALTHY snacks. Fruits & fresh veggies are the BEST! Slice an apple and place it in a container, sprinkled with fruit fresh or lemon juice. Beside it, place a little container of peanut butter that the children can "dip in." Peanut butter is good on apples, celery and even mini-carrots. Also keep a bowl of cherry or grape tomatoes ready for small hands. Thin slices of bell peppers (especially using the variety of colors: red, yellow, orange & green) are great. So are sliced zucchini rings. The fruits and veggies should be enjoyed in and of themselves, but for variety, occasionally you can place a small container of ranch dip beside pepper slices, carrots and celery. For protein snacks, nuts are a good addition, if eaten in moderation. Occasionally, placing peeled, hard-boiled eggs (sprinkled with a little fruit fresh or lemon juice) in a container might be enjoyed, but in general most of the other proteins - cheeses & meats - should be saved for mealtimes. TRY, TRY, TRY to avoid encouraging your children to form the habit of snacking on carbohydrates, like crackers, cookies, dry cereals and other products with high sugar content.

Also, teach the children to ENJOY water. Have containers of cool water for each child in the fridge - or use designated glasses for each if you have a door dispenser or water cooler. Make a poster for water consumption and give each child a "star" or other sticker for drinking the required amount of water each day. FYI: drinking adequate water each day makes the body efficient and refreshed. It prevents sunstroke and overheating and helps to prevent kidney stones later in life (as kidney-stones are primarily a function of repeated dehydration). Drinking water keeps the skin supple and moist. The list of benefits of adequate water consumption is almost endless, not to mention that drinking enough water prevents over-eating and over-snacking. This practice will form one of the healthiest habits you can instill in your children.

You can carry having a daily, written schedule into the fall, when the kids go back to school. School will obviously fill a greater part of the older ones' day(s) but you can still use the written schedule to designate time for chores (cleaning their own room and common areas), laundry (which can become selecting school clothes/accessories for the next day and making sure they are clean and ready), Bible study and "free time." As they get older, this pattern of managing free time may help you to manage the amount of time they spend on computers, texting friends and on their cell phone. There are quite a few past Mamasource posts about problems with teens that MIGHT have been prevented with more disciplined schedules, which MUST begin while children are young enough to be molded.

Best of success to you, R., in making this summer GREAT and one to remember. Have fun and establish the patterns that will enrich your lives and make the days easier and more organized. Then you can recollect to your children, “Remember when we…”


Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

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