Fun and frugal ideas to make the most of school break

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Summer break is exciting for kids but always mildly stressful for me as a working parent with a flexible schedule. I worry that I cannot manage the schedule change and the kids will spend too much time doing nothing. I worry that by the time we start making the most of it, the summer break will be over.

Growing up, the best memories I have from my summers are from when I did something completely new and different, immersed myself in an activity, learned something completely new and spent quality time with friends and family.

First off, I sat down and forced myself to articulate the “good” things about summer break, and then came up with plenty of ways to make the most of summer break with just a few small changes.

Why A Break From School is Great


Photo by f-ilia

1. Relaxed mornings

The kids don’t have to rush off to school at a set time everyday, and this means that we can take it a bit easy in the mornings.

2. More time together

No school means more time with the kids every day.More time makes it possible to actually accomplish some longer-terms goals – especially goals involving reading, music, and art. Summer is a great time to give kids a head start on new skills.

3. Full days off

With no school, we have a whole day off to do something fun.

Ways to Make The Most Of School Break


Photo by alexragone

1. Morning reading

We always read before going to bed. With a four-and-a-half year-old who is quite obsessed with reading, I can never get enough one-on-one time with her and a book. So we added a wake up reading routine.

This is a short, simple routine where she reads two little books of her choice as soon as we wake up, right in bed. It is incredible how much my daughter looks forward to it every morning. Needless to say, she is doing really well at reading daily.

2. Volunteering

Starting to volunteer always takes some effort.  Summer is a good time to find regular volunteering opportunities close to home. With the kids on a flexible schedule, you are able to explore, see what they enjoy, and where they want to contribute.

This is the first year that we will start volunteering at the Humane Society. I look forward to taking a few afternoons off and helping there with my kids. It will be the first time we will make volunteering a “regular” thing in our household, and I am excited about that.

3. Learn a new language

It’s important for kids (and us!) to learn another language. My kids are growing up multilingual, and summer is a great time to focus a bit more on language learning. Several times a day, we pretend there are aliens and we need to speak in a foreign language.

4. Invent celebrations

Designate a few days in the summer for special, made-up celebrations. This idea came from my three-year-old when she asked me why we had no “Big Sister Day” and “Little Sister Day” celebrations, even though we had Mother’s and Father’s Day. All we need to have fun is an excuse, so why not create a great one?


Photo by Juhansonin

5. Start a journal

Give the kids their own special journal, and keep one for yourself as well. Spend five to ten minutes daily writing in the journal. I ask my girls to write about what they loved most about their day, and they’ll write a few words. I also doodle and write a few lines in my own journal everyday. Writing is a great experience to share, and it’s fun over time to read back at what they wrote.

6. Grow a garden

Growing a garden is perhaps one of the best ways to teach kids responsibility. This year, we are designating a small patch of the garden to each of our kids, and making it their responsibility to take care of that patch. They will plant flowers, water, and weed their areas.

7. Explore art and music

Summer is a great time to explore, research, and expose kids to music and dance. Last year, we watched a number of live dance and music shows at community festivals. We also spent time researching various forms of dance and musical instruments. This piqued my four-year-old daughter’s interest in taking lessons once school started again. I plan to do the same with art this summer.

My plan is to focus on three to four of these ideas that my kids and I enjoy the most. Other than that, we plan to play a lot and snuggle multiple times a day.

What are you planning to accomplish with your kids this summer?

Join the Conversation

Comments

  1. All wonderful ideas! I always try to include lots of similar activities for my kids when they are on holidays and I agree that the snuggles are a priority!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha @ 5 Minutes Just for Me

  2. Here’s one: MAKE SOMETHING GREAT.

    The thing I get excited about the most working with kids is allowing them to create something huge. For instance, this one 9 year old im working with now, I’m having him organize and hold an entire BEY BLADES tournament at the end of summer. It’s going to be a huge undertaking, and I can’t wait to see how he goes about it. I’ll be his coach, obviously… but he’ll be doing most of the heavy lifting.

    (btw, if you don’t know what beyblades are… check em out. they are FUN.)

  3. We started our Summer Map. It was inspired by the book My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I can’t take any credit for this other than reading aloud to my kids – they have done the rest – and it breathtaking to see what children can create.
    Would be honored if you came by for a visit! xoxo michele

    The original post is here:
    http://thegreatread.blogspot.com/2011/07/summer-map-update-1.html

  4. What great ideas!

    During our summers as kids, we always joined the local library’s summer reading program. I have fond memories of reading dozens of books just to get my certificate of completion at the end of the summer – it was awesome!

    I also have great memories of my mother making crafts with us. We had a book of things to do/make and we would choose various items out of the book and we would make them together.

    • Oh yes, they are loving just keeping track of their reading. So exciting to see the list grow every day. I have a “certificate” for them too :)

  5. We are just trying to get outside as much as possible this summer and soaking up that vitamin D! Once winter hits, we don’t get outside nearly enough. But, we are doing a lot of “making” too. My kids love to create, although most of the time the creating is just a big mess since they are so little, but it is fun to watch them explore with crafting supplies :-)

  6. My little readers (age 6 and 8) want to wake up and start reading–right away! But I’ve been fighting it, mostly because they love reading so much–shouldn’t they get dressed first? I’ve been loosening up a bit, but I’m glad I saw this post. I should probably loosen up a little more!

  7. I love suggestion #4 – Invent Celebrations! Skies the limit if you’ve a creative flair… I can’t imagine a little girl who wouldn’t like Midsummer Fae Day!

    I also love to discover old fashioned traditions or the customs of other cultures and bring them into my home on occasion. For example there is an old Gaelic festival called Lammas on August first that celebrates the beginning of harvest season and is also a sort of farewell to summer and hello to autumn. Things like that are wildly fun, especially if you have kids you can make it special and memorable for.

  8. Great post – I love the idea of making up special days! Summer is also a great time to get in more family fitness time. Even though I work at home, we have more time for bike rides, hikes, pickup games of soccer, swimming games and water fights. (When do I get work done? I wonder that too!)

    Here’s a post that helps you on this with some frugal ideas for family fitness (8 tips): http://fitfamilytogether.com/frugal-family-fitness

  9. Totally agree with the gardening idea! We started gardening when my oldest was 18 months old. I have a picture of her digging her hands in the soil and putting weeds in a bucket. Now she’s almost six and she shows everyone our garden, shows where everything is planted, and helps water it. We also planted raspberry and marion berry bushes in the side yard three years ago. They are finally to the point where we get new berries daily. All three of my kids (even my 1 year old) will pick berries for an hour.

  10. It’s interesting to read this post since my children have yet to go to school. Every day is a “summer break” day around here. :0) My daughter will go to preschool this fall, so our time is coming!

    Thanks for the idea of creating special holidays- sounds like fun and something I’d like to do. One thing I do with my kids to break things up a bit is to have theme days occasionally. We try to eat things, create things, play things, etc, related to a theme. Some ideas: hands, things that pop, bubbles, a color, a letter, an animal, snow/rain/sun…

  11. A couple of years ago my boys, then ages 3 & 5, were having a conversation about Father’s Day and Mother’s Day when the younger one asked, “When is Brother’s Day?” What a perfect idea! So we created an annual Brother’s Day which we celebrate in August (a month woefully lacking in holidays). On Brother’s Day we focus on the gift of having a brother and being a brother. Out of all the people on the planet, God created these two boys to be brothers for one another and it’s such a wonderful thing to celebrate! On that day, our family does a special activity, something we don’t normally do. Last year we went up to a local mountain resort and spent the day innertubing, playing minigolf, and riding an alpine slide. This year they’d like to go to a new waterpark that has recently opened at a nearby air & space museum. We love having Brother’s Day and our hope is that the boys will continue celebrating this holiday and the gift of their relationship with one another throughout their lives.

    • Jen – this has to be one of the most fabulous ideas ever. Do you mind if I steal it? My boys are 10 and 7 – love one another, but fight. a lot. And we are going to have to create a sister day as well – she is right in the middle. Thank you so much for sharing. xoxo michele

      http://www.thegreatread.blogspot.com

  12. My sweet baby is only 5 months old, but I love reading about summer fun ideas. Thanks!

  13. I *love* these ideas. Thanks for sharing them.

    Some of my best memories from my childhood summers are the hours we spent in outdoor play. We spent day-after-day playing in dirt piles, making up our own games, running around, playing hide-and-seek and capture-the-flag. We played hard and made great memories. I think summer is one of the best times for just getting outdoors and running around like crazy.

  14. I definitely love all the ideas! Getting dirty and messy with my kids are the things I love to accomplish with them this summer . I want them to play with sand, mud and clay. I know it’s a crazy idea, but I’m sure kids will totally love it. :)

  15. I love all your ideas! Thank you for sharing this with us! Summer camp and fishing is one of my kids favorite summer fun. :)

  16. So, quick question… what resources are you using to learn a language as a family? That’s definitely something that Sarah (my wildly hot wife) and I plan to do with our 2 yr old and 5 mo. old.

    Thanks again – and super post!

    - Josh
    (@nonconformistpa)

  17. These are some great ideas! It’s fun going to a theme park or zoo once in a awhile, but the costs can quickly add up.

  18. We are currently visiting grandparents overseas. You have so many great ideas that we could use after we go back home in a few days. I especially like 4 and 6:

    Celebrating older and younger brothers would be great opportunity for my boys to have their own special day and also to learn to appreciate each other.

    Having separate areas for them to work in the garden is also good for easing some tension between them from seeing each other too much :) I am sure my garden would appreciate it after being unattended for more than 6-week :D

    One other thing that I would like to try is cooking with them. School days could be so rushed sometimes, it is difficult to truly involve them. I wanted to make some dumpling with them for a long long time but always worried that we do not have enough time to finish. I hope we could at least do that, it should be fun.

  19. So many awesome ideas!

    Yeah, the approach of summer is always daunting for me too, as I worry that I’m not going to make the most of it, and find enough stuff for my kids to do, and that it’s just going to pass by without really feeling like we DID anything good.

    We made lists of stuff we each wanted to do this summer and we’re working on making our way through. And we’re big into projects this year. My 6 yo son is loving our garden, and also the summer reading club at the library.

    It’s funny you mentioned the “create new celebrations” idea…we just instituted a “Big Brother Day” and “Little Brother Day”, after my oldest noticed the same thing your daughter did! So fun.

  20. Really great ideas,
    But it is hard work to handle with children in their summer vacation.

  21. I love number 4! We are totally going to do that one.

  22. These are all fantastic ideas! I will be a WAHM starting in a couple weeks and I can’t wait to do some of these with my kids in their last couple weeks of summer. I especially like writing in the journals. This is a great way to be able to go back and see all the fun things we did during summer break.

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