Camps for Kids.. If Mom Stays Home... Structure Vs. Free Time??

Updated on May 28, 2015
L.O. asks from Sterling Heights, MI
25 answers

For the past 5 years I have worked part time.. usually 2 days per week... so kids went to day care.... so they had 2 "structured" days and 3 days at home with me.. (well we weren't necessarily home.. but they were with me).. It looks like my part time job is ending.. I can apply for a full time job.. or not work at all.. I am thinking I will be off for the summer and then apply in the fall..

so about summer.. I am wondering what to do with kids.. my kids are the only kids on this block so no neighbor kids to play with.. they do play together pretty well but then they bicker..

I am thinking of sending them to various camps for more structure.. I do have to consider costs.. as I wont be working... but I am thinking of a a few weeks of camps throughout the summer.. we do have at leasrt 1 week of vacatioin planned... and a few weekends camping trips...

how do you stay at home moms schedule summer...

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answers from New York on

I work but have a full time nanny so a similar debate bc my kids could be home all day every day. As they get older, they seem to want a mix of home and camp. So that's what they'll do. Some half day camps and some nothing and we go away two weeks. A lot of it is dictated by what their friends are doing. Since most go to camp, many go to full day camp, eventually my kids would get bored with no one else to play with. Hence some camp time. And now they're very vocal now what they want so I let them decide. It's their summer vacation.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

When you think about it, summer is really not even probably twelve weeks anymore like it was years ago. Those weeks in hindsight go very fast. If you can just hang out this one year what a treat that might end up being!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

My kids do an activity if they want. Otherwise we just kinda hang out.

Last summer one child took an art class while the other did kids college. This summer it is going to be kids college and swimming for one kid and gymnastics and swimming for the other. We also hit up the library and do some of the programs offered there. We do a family vacation for a week and then little trips like the zoo or camping.

We have a trampoline, a pool, a big yard so if that doesn't keep them entertained for the summer, nothing will.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from New York on

My kids were home all summer just having fun! Worked for everyone. All year is structured. Summertime not.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I usually sent my kids to two or three different day camps (one week each) during the summer. They did all kinds of things, sports, gymnastics/dance, art/music, cooking, carpentry, etc. When they were around 10 they started going to a week of sleepaway camp as well.
In between camps we hung out, had friends over, went to the beach, museums and on other adventures. We usually went to the county fair and an amusement park too.
We also belong to a swim and tennis club and that was HUGE when they were little. I could sit back and relax, read and chat with other moms while they ran around and swam and played with each other and their friends. We easily went to the pool two or three times a week and one of my kids even did swim team for a few years.
I found going places and having the kids gone for a week here and there really kept the summer fun and interesting and helped break up the monotony of long, hot unstructured days. Yet will still had plenty of time to just kick back and relax. It's all about balance!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I have one child and do have to say, as someone who grew up in a bigger family of 5 kids, I wouldn't choose camps solely to get them away from each other. Instead, choose camps they are actually interested in.

We are doing one camp this year (build-a-bot, my son loves this stort of stuff) and will continue with his rock-climbing class as well. He's eight and loves to have down time. It's easy to check in with other parents if I want to 'borrow' their kid for the afternoon. Sure, sometimes he's bored, but that never stays that way for long-- he's always got another something to do or book to read.

Since I'm a SAHM, I figure part of my job is making sure that I come up with enough general 'stuff to do' (getting out for little excursions, trips to the park, activities around the house) but I don't go out of my way to entertain, if that makes sense. My own folks had 5 kids around in the summer and basically expected us to keep our own selves busy, or we could help with chores. I think parents these days fall into the trap of thinking that our kids must be happy and entertained at all times, or else. Boredom should not be avoided-- it is often instructive and pushes our kids to think and act for themselves. I keep our summer costs low (biggest is bus tickets and the one camp) because I don't work outside of the home and am aware that staying home is a privilege I'm lucky to have.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My kids usually go to a sleepaway camp for a week and a day camp for another week. The rest of the summer we stay very busy with camping trips, day trips and activities close to home. My kids will also invite friends over or go to their friends homes as much as possible. We also invite friends to join us for various day trios and activities. Our city offers free drop in programs that I would use for those days when I just had to do housework/errands.

ETA: We also do a two week session of swim lessons.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

I was in education for a long time and enjoyed summers off with the kids....we belong to a church and always did a week of vbs....public library once a week on errand running days...maybe one meet up with fiends play date per week and three days at home. .but we were doing crafts and gardening and cooking together... I thought that was a nice balance....I'm back to year round working now and my kiddos are signed up for camps and will be working grandma in between but I wish things were different and we could just hang out together.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

My boys have very different personalities, so that does factor in. My oldest is finishing 2nd grade. He is more my "on the go" kid. He will be attending several half day camps this summer. Our YMCA offers all day camps and half day camps with various topics, so those are often good for him. He is going to a couple of all day camps also.

My youngest is finishing kindergarten, and he tends to e happiest hanging out ant home, riding his bike, etc. He's going to do to half day camps and hopefully swim lessons.

They will be do Vacation Bible School. They will probably do 3 of those this summer, and those are usually free or very cheep - maybe $10 or $20 per person.

There is a local movie theater that has children's movies every Tuesday and Saturday for free if you pick up tickets ahead of time or $3 at the door. They show movies that were in theaters last year, but it's still fun.

I plan to sign up for "Kids Bowl Free." We only did that a couple of times last summer, but even going once or twice is fun! Here's their website:

The park district has a lot of free events (movies in the park) and some half day camps. Sometimes our school district sends home fliers.

There are lots of free and cheep options out there. Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Ages would help. Or did you say and I missed it?

Anyhoo...My 12 yo son goes to Boys and Girls Club but it's over $100 per week so we have to budget for it. He has ADHD and needs to be busy every second. It's worth the me. lol

My 15 yo daughter will be home with me. We live in AZ so we will be spending the mornings swimming at friends houses and after that it's too hot to be outside so we stay inside almost all summer. After swimming I am going to have a schedule for the rest of the day or she will be on her phone/tablet/playstation all day for every second. It will be flexible but will be an hour of reading for sure and I have a teens devotion book I'm going to go through with her. I also recently took up painting and we will be having fun with that.

I have been on a mission to downsize, declutter and organize. I told my daughter I want her to help me with that so she is. I'm also not great at meal planning so I'm going to work on that and her and I are going to organize recipes and then pick breakfast/lunch/dinner for the week, go shopping, and then have her help cook.

There are public pools that are only about $1-2 to get in and you can usually take your own food and drinks. Most churches have Vacation Bible School (VBS) that is usually free or a very small amount and is for a week for a couple hours per day. If you plan it right, they can go to a different one each week. I believe they go thru 6th grade. And some movie theaters have a morning special where you see an older kid movie for a buck or 2 per ticket. You pick a day of the week and time and you prepay and go. That is fun and we do that sometimes to get out of the house and stay out of the heat for a couple hours but you have to deal with the noisy kids. lol Hope you find some things that work for you. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

my situation was a little different, as i worked full-time when they were young, and they HAD to be at camps. it was okay. they didn't hate their daycare camps, but they weren't fizzing with excitement over 'em either.
when they were old enough to stay home alone (the homeschool years) they only did a camp if it was something they were dying to do, like basketball camp or the science school was going on a field trip to assateague or something like that.
if i were fortunate enough to set up an ideal summer, it would be a mixture. completely unstructured time is a precious commodity that far too many modern children are denied. even if they bicker, it's good. kids need to flop around like sea lions, encounter intense boredom, and figure out constructive ways to handle it (and each other.)
but summer is also a great time for adventures, so we'd have fun planning sessions setting those up. and there would have to be a judicious mix of allowable spontaneity (although i know it seems like an oxymoron!) to satisfy my older boy's enjoyment of a wide-open schedule, and structure to help my must-have-everything-planned-to-a-T younger.
we live out in the sticks so all playtime had to be planned. it took some adjustment as we came from a neighborhood with an endless mix of built-in friends (and partners in crime) but once we had it in our heads that we had to actually call and set up opportunities to farm our kids out and ship other kids in, it was very do-able.
fortunately summer has so much free stuff that can be done, or for moderate costs. a season state park pass would allow us lots of hiking, swimming in lakes and picnics. the library always had things going on. a bike or pony ride down the canal. go into the cities for museums or exhibitions (usually free but gas, food and parking had to be factored into those.) backyard camping.
flashlight tag.
oh, how i love summer. i miss having kids at home to share in it. :)
and yeah, more than one marathon session with friends of movie watching and video games.
:) khairete

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think camps are great as long as you also have some unstructured time. We have a great summer camp here where you can pick and choose any days you want to attend. I usually send my son 2-3 times per week (depending on the theme of the week). He also usually has a 2-3 weeks out of the summer where he attends a different camp for a full week (mornings only).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

When my kids were young, they always went to daycamp in the summer, even when I didn't work. They preferred the structured activities and socialization. I didn't have the money to do fun outings all the time, and I had the kind of kids who wanted to do something and be with other kids. It was just one of the town daycamps, not too costly.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

My kids are home with a sitter for the summer. I don't do any camps, but I give them things to do so they aren't bored - mostly free stuff at the library. Our library has a lot of fun activities, everything from a kids book club to a pokemon day to lego building day, etc. I piece those things together so that they have something specific to go to at least once a week, and the other days they just go to the pool.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

When we first moved to our new community in the beginning of June (20+ years ago), I enrolled my kids in several different Vacation Bible Schools that were being sponsored by various churches throughout the community.

It helped keep my kids busy, and it helped them get to know some kids throughout the community.

I realize that some people are not interested in church activities, but it worked for us. They are usually held for a minimal cost, and at least take up the morning.

You might also look to see what free or low cost activities (classes, summer reading program at the library, etc.) may be offered in your area.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I know plenty of families that send the kids to summer camp or play camp with the park district during the summer. The kids have fun, learn lots of stuff, make things, and above all ARE BUSY. If my 7 yr old was not going to summer school for a month, I would enroll her in summer camp during the day just so she is kept busy. She is going to summer school for extra help with her math and reading so camp is out. She and my 3 1/2 yr old fight like crazy, and then there are times my 16 yr olds get cross with her as well. Signing up with the park district gives flexibility for a week or so of family vacation also.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If they want to go and you can afford the time and money, I'd send them. It's a great way to explore activities and hobbies that you can't always get at home. We don't own a horse, but my DD (when she is older) can do summer day camp at a local stable. I think that a week each might be nice, maybe different weeks. Or the same week so you can get your own down time. I'm totally sending my DD to a half day program her school offers, for both our sakes. It won't be the full summer or the full day, but it will get her out of the house with friends while I get boring grown up stuff done.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Depends.. Our daughter liked structure so during the summer we had some structured things and times when she could just hang out.

Right after school let out, the neighborhood elementary school held 1 week summer, day camps, for 3 weeks. Even incoming Kinder kids could pay to attend the Kinder camp.. The older grades were in mixed camps that focused on different fun things..(clown school, Camping, class, Baking class, Book club, Movie Camp, All sorts of things) these were run by actual teachers from that school..

I used to have a calendar that I filled with opportunities around our city or in our area, that were free or very low cost.. Usually published in a special edition of our news paper and the local Parents newspaper.

This was more for me so I could come up with some things I wanted to do, but also I could refer to, if she became antsy..

I also always had a list of options.
Remember it is boiling hot here mid day, so heat advisory's are taken seriously..

Roller Rink
Swimming at the neighborhood pool, usually after nap..
Park and a picnic prepared at home
Book Store
We would go on day trips to small towns, again, we would visit their parks, swimming holes.. etc..
Walk around the University Grounds.. again a picnic

Kids movies
We would close all of the drapes and watch DVD's with popcorn in our darkened house and act like we were at the movies.

Craft projects
Some art classes
Visit museums for special exhibits.
Children's museum


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

We do a couple of camps - older ones go to a sleep away camp - very old school, swimming in lake, canoeing etc. That's the highlight of their summer. Love that there are no electronics.

Plus one other - where they pick the theme - girl ones include zumba, dance, swimming lesson, crafts, etc. or you can do all sports, or you can do a hockey one. That's a full day camp for a week. It's at our local rec centre and very affordable.

We camp some weekends in a tent. Old school. Kids love it. Or just set up in backyard if we can't get away.

We have pool so usually invite kids over at some point. But you could go to a pool. Meet up with friends or your kids will see some there.

Same with parks. I would take mine early morning (to avoid heat) and even if we didn't know the kids, they'd end up sliding together, etc.

Library, etc. kids always around.

Mostly unstructured. I am not big on structure with kids because in this day and age, with activities starting in Kindergarten (whereas when we were young we mostly started sports etc. later) OUR time as family is unstructured.

Some days we just take a walk and I'll give them a list of things to look for (the younger ones). Come home they glue it on paper. It's not structured but I guess they are doing something art-like and it keeps their printing up over summer.

Lots of biking (again kids run into other kids on bikes), and if husband can be flexible we'll head to beach on nice day.

I like camps. It breaks it up.

We also have done sports throughout summer - just recreational - not competitive. This year kids want to do drop in hockey - ice hockey and a bunch of them are doing road hockey at local park. Older kids scooter - so will drop off at skate park. Some summers we did soccer two evenings a week. Mostly they don't want to do sports in summer though unless it's just drop in. They like the break - busy through rest of year.

Enjoy your summer :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We do two camps, and one session of swim. So 4 weeks of with some structure.



answers from Minneapolis on

In past years, my kids have done a lot of "community education" classes in the summer right through the school. Some of them lasted a couple of weeks, and some were just for a couple of hours on one day. They were inexpensive and allowed for some structured time. We usually did one bible camp (sleep away) a summer, and one sport camp or boy scout camp (also sleep away) a summer. We did one week family vacation, and my husband and I did one vacation just the two of us for one week. I utilized part time day care until the kids aged out as well. Both my husband and I work full time, but my office is in my home so I am "home but not home." My kids are older now and the 17 and 18 yr old work two jobs all summer and the rest of the time is spent with friends. My two youngest are special needs and so that creates a different kind of issue than most people deal with.

Good luck and enjoy your summer!



answers from Oklahoma City on

It's not structured time. Kids need a break too and they get to play and run around outside and play in water and make mud and play in mud and eat and play.

Find out what your kids friends are doing for summer. Do they have school friends? Then they can meet up at the splash pad or local pool, go to the same park at the same time and play. The mom's can organize a set time for everyone to show up at the park and if they want to go they can. I'd always let the kids go and ground them from something else though. This is a fun thing to do that fosters many skills and they need it.

Also you can find out what your local library is doing for kids this summer. Ours has movies one set time per week and they invite all school age kids to come. They also have reading clubs and craft activities for the kids, all at no cost.

We have local movie theaters that have kids movies in the daytime and they are very low cost. We also do some things that are just fun like going to the museum and stuff.

I'd say if you want down time and the ability to just have the house to yourself, which I need to have too, then contact the local YMCA and see if they have any day camp information. Our YMCA camps are the best ever. One week they have the head chef for the school district come out and it's chef week. All the kids get to cook something and they do a lot of kitchen safety and it's just fun. They do a cheer week and they often combine that with another topic so kids can choose which they want to do. It's a blast.

If you can afford it you can always just add them all week to your child care facility too. IF they have a good school kids program. Most child care centers don't, they do smaller simple things.



answers from Rochester on

I'm a teacher so I'm home all summer. But, my kids always went to daycare three days a week so that I had some time for errands. Last summer my daughter had aged out of day care and was worried she would be bored. She signed up for several camps, most of which were just M-Th and just in the mornings. She had a ball, but between camps and vacations she only had two weeks of down time. A week into August she was sad about how fast the summer went. This year we are cutting back drastically! But our days at home will have some structure to them so the kids don't drive me crazy!!



answers from Miami on

I always had structured time during the summer. That included time with me and camps.

For instance - up every morning, same time. Breakfast and then swim team practice at our pool. Back home, lunch. Summer academic bridge activities that I had mapped out for the entire summer. Back to the pool for fun time with their friends. There was a park and play equipment there, so they did that too.

Back home, or to other kinds of activities like gymnastics, bowling, etc.

Yeah, I was busy, but it was fun stuff. Our summer swim team had swim meets at night time during part of the summer. That was fun.

If it was raining, we stayed home in the afternoons (they swam in the rain for swim practice) and did in-home activities. Yes, they got to do stuff in the house without me directing it, but I really felt that they need SOME structure.

The camps provided all kinds of things that my boys enjoyed. I did some academic camps, some Y camps, even a K'nex Camp. When they were older, they attended overnight stay camps. It was good for my kids. They needed that kind of experience. Neither of my kids ended up being homesick when they went to college.

While they were gone to camp, it gave me time to enjoy some solitude at home, get some stuff done in the house, and go out with my friends. Hope you get a little of that!


answers from Boston on

I'm a SAHM, so my son is able to be home in the summer. It also helps that we have my hubby's family nearby. I usually have the summer filled up with family visits, and activities for him. I also ensure he reads during the summer and works on some school things like math, spelling, and reading comprehension. just to keep things fresh.

It also helps that his best friend lives on the same street , so they hang out quite a bit.

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