One of our lovely readers who contacted us at shared her worries about not being prepared for the long hot days ahead. We can all relate, right?! She writes:

 Dear Families of Character,

Summer vacation is here and I did NO planning ahead. It was hard enough dealing with this COVID year. But now the summer is here and I have no idea what to do with my kids! We’re trying so hard to keep them off the screens, but I know if I don’t start strategizing, we’ll fall into the TV trap. Do you have any suggestions for fun things we can do that won’t drain their brains, but also won’t require buying tickets to Disneyland? Thanks in advance for any help you can give me!

Frazzled in Phoenix


Dear Frazzled,


You have tapped into the million dollar question right now for most parents. Whether you stay home with your children, or work outside the home, kids need to have some flexible, but planned structure for the sake of everyone’s sanity! If you’re not sure what that is, no sweat. It’s not too late to seize the summer with affordable activities while cutting down on screen time. 



1. During a family meal or the weekly family huddle, gather ideas from the kids on how they want to spend their summer. They’re more likely to be excited and on board if they have some ownership of the plan. Consider posting their best ideas on a summer bucket list poster board for all to appreciate. Have fun with it and let the kids add their personal touches with stickers and doodles. This can become your big, overarching plan for the months ahead.

2. Consider scheduling certain days for specific activities. Some people do this with meals because that way everyone knows what to expect, like Taco Tuesdays, or Meatless Fridays.  Assigning mainstay activities to certain days not only lets kids know what to expect, it takes some of the pressure off parents and caregivers trying to come up with a plan on the spur of the moment. Maybe you could do park days on Friday and visit the  Library on Mondays, play date Wednesdays, or arts & crafts Thursdays. Think of the day’s main activity as the cupcake, everything else you do is the frosting. Remember, be flexible. If an opportunity for something like a special farmer’s market comes to your neighborhood, throw caution to the wind and ditch the plan for the day. Be sure to work in certain days that are designated for doing helpful household tasks and chores—you pick a space to clean and straighten and declutter for a couple hours once a week, or schedule a grocery shopping day. 

3. Set the ground rules for screen time up front and stick to them. You and your spouse make the rules regarding how much and when kids can take in TV or video games. Consider using a screen time checklist. We’ve got one for free here! It’s ok to say, there’s no screen time until 4pm (or whatever time you choose!) and until you’ve gotten this much outdoor time, have done this many daily household tasks, etc. Once kids know the parameters, they’re empowered to do what it takes. Screen time becomes a reward rather than the day’s main activity. 

4. Schedule quiet/rest time in the afternoons! You’re not the only one who needs occasional peace and quiet. Your kids will appreciate some downtime in their rooms. Obviously older kids don’t need to nap, but suggest they read, journal, draw, pray, or play quietly in one room in the house for at least a half hour, but preferably an hour at the same time every day. If you have children who still nap, this ensures that the non-nappers don’t engage in a nerf gun fight while little ones are trying to sleep. And make sure you take this to heart for yourself, parents. Spend some quiet time rejuvenating with a good book rather than doing dishes, laundry, or tech time. All work and no downtime makes for very crabby parents!

As for fun activities to add to your list, this will get your creative juices flowing:

  • Arts and crafts- make sure there are always lots of paper, crafting supplies (which can include throw away items like egg cartons, rinsed out yogurt containers, and other recyclables) colored pencils, chalk etc. for kids to use their imaginations to create.
  • Community events- check out the library for story times, planned activities, and book clubs. Keep your eyes peeled for neighborhood farmers markets, and concerts in the park for fun ways to enjoy your time together.
  • Pick a friend/family member who has similarly aged kids and plan a swap playdate- Once a week take turns hosting the kids at each other’s house. Parents get things done and the kids get a change of scenery. 
  • Picnic once a week at a park or in the backyard. Get the kids involved and have them help make fun picnic foods. Planning it is an activity itself.
  • Summer Surprise Hunts/ Backyard Clean Up- You’ve heard of Easter egg hunts, well this is a twist on that. First, have the kids gather any items strewn about in the yard. Then, you spend time hiding fun items, maybe bubbles, squirt guns, sidewalk chalk, balls, jump ropes etc., all around the yard. Make it hard because kids appreciate a good challenge. The one who collects the most gets to choose the outdoor activity to play next!
  • Musical instruments- Ukuleles, harmonicas, recorders and other inexpensive instruments are great ways to engage kids’ brains. Tap into some online resources for sheet music or instructions and  kids can start making music.
  • Book Club/ Read Aloud Time- This is so good for kids. Try to pick a book that has chapters, but it is age appropriate. Read a couple chapters a day and then engage in meaningful discussion. Spend time having kids draw what they just read about or plan an activity based on what you just read. Even older kids appreciate hearing great stories!
  • Baking Fun- Load up on kids’ baking cook books from the library and spend a day once a week making delicious desserts.
  • Homemade Outdoor Obstacle Course- Time it and you’ve got yourself a fun, heart-pumping activity. Have older kids plan and put it together.
  • Nature Journal or Paint in the cool of the morning. Pick a serene spot, bring a blanket, some watercolor supplies, pencils and a nice art notebook and capture the surroundings. 
  • Build an Escape Room- Challenge your middle schoolers to make a specially-themed room (maybe a favorite, movie, book or genre). They can plan puzzles, riddles, and word games to gain access to more clues. Check out books in the library to find step-by-step plans. This will take days, if not weeks. Then invite friends or family to give it a whirl. 
  • Volunteer Days- Pick an activity to help in the community. Maybe it’s reading to children in the neighborhood, weeding elderly people’s lawns, taking part in community fund raisers. Is there a cause your child feels strongly about? Look for productive volunteer opportunities.
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure Walks- Have your tween or teen plan a fun scavenger hunt for the rest of the family. They make a fun list of items which everyone needs to find. Offer a prize that can be enjoyed by the whole crew and you’ve got an afternoon adventure. 
  • Chef du Jour- Have your older children plan an evening’s meal from start to finish. Give them a budget, let them choose a recipe, take them shopping, and then the kitchen is theirs. Take out cookbooks from the library and enjoy their culinary creaativity.
  • Kindness Rocks- Paint uplifting messages and images for neighbors and spread cheer.

Have a great summer. As loving parents who are building character, you’re already on your way to wonderful days filled with more sunshine! 

FREE PRINTABLE! Download our Summer Adventure Guide to seize your summer!

If you have an issue you’d like our help with, drop us a line at If you’re experiencing a problem, chances are thousands of other families are in the same boat. We’re ALL in this parenting boat together! 

Remember to tap into our Thrive Community on Facebook. It’s free and our team’s very own clinical counselor offers helpful tips and encouragement to parents who are adventuring together. 

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