School is out! The kids are thrilled but many parents feel intimidated by the idea of occupying their little ones during July and August. Some choose to enroll their kids in camps or continue daycare programs throughout the summer.
However, some lucky ones manage to arrange special leave from work, or share their leave with their spouse, allowing for full-time fun with their children. If you, like I, are one of these parents who snagged the time off, you may feel daunted by the task of entertaining without having to spend a fortune.
Having been at home full-time with my children for over three years now, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Here is a bit of insight into my go-to activities:
Use your local resources: Making the most of your local resources is one of the easiest ways to amuse your kids without having to plan extensively or spend too much. Places such as the Public Library, City-run playgroups, or drop-in centres provide endless entertainment for free. The weekly programming is often themed and engages children of many ages.
Organize playdates: Encouraging your children to invite their friends over to the house or to the park is an effective way to keep them busy, help them continue to develop important social skills, and maintain connections; thereby, allowing for an easier transition back to school in September. Other than providing a few healthy snacks, this sort of activity costs nothing and creates lasting friendships.
Explore your surroundings: Help your children discover the world around them. Take hikes through nearby ravines and forests, using these outings and discoveries in nature as a teaching opportunity. Instead of hiking, hop on your bikes and explore your neighbourhood. However, review these safety tips before you go.
Discover parks and splash pads: Children of all ages appreciate climbing up structures, building sand-castles and swinging themselves as high as they can. Parks are the best places to let your children burn energy and play without having to worry about keeping clean or breaking fragile household goods. Most parks are now equipped with splash pads to help children safely cool off on hot days. Why not make a day of it? Pack a lunch and have a picnic at the park. I guarantee that your kids will sleep well at night!
Visit museums: We have had a membership to the main museums in the city for the last two years and have managed to take full advantage of these learning centres since our registration. By purchasing an annual membership, you will save on the cost of individual visits (our membership fee was paid after only three visits) and will enjoy the benefit of skipping the line-up. The kids love visiting and the membership relieves the pressure of having to see all exhibits in one day. It is the perfect thing to do on days when it rains or when it is simply too hot to be outside.
Buy a membership at the YMCA: Consider joining your local YMCA where each family member can enjoy programming geared to them. The cost of a membership is reasonable and the centre provides a place where you can all go to unwind and have fun – all while promoting health and well-being.
Indulge your crafty side: On days when you would rather stay home, sit down at your craft table. Crafting is a great way for your children to foster their artistic side, giving them the opportunity to focus on a task and discover their individuality. Stock up on craft essentials at your local discount store at the beginning of the summer so that you have all items on hand when the artsy mood strikes you.
Create opportunities for quiet time: Allow your child (and you) to enjoy some quiet time over the summer. It is important to teach your children to embrace being alone and to self-entertain, either by quietly colouring, reading or working on a puzzle. Remember that he or she spends the entire school year being stimulated and structured so it is important to promote wind-down time.
However you decide to play with your children this summer, just remember to have fun and allow them to be children!