Summer Fun with the Kids & Summer Camp Guide

Tips for summer fun with kids

Written by Dr. John Carosso

Go ahead, you can admit it; it’s kinda scary…

On one hand you’re excited for the start of summer and to have far more access to your kids. If you’re a stay-at-home Mom, then you’re home all day with the little darlings and the sky is the limit in terms of the potential for fun-in-the-sun!! Even if you work, it’s most likely you’ll be seeing your kids quite a bit more over the next few months. Of course, you’re thrilled; they’re your kids and you want nothing more than to be around them and enjoy their company. However, deep down, you’re also a little scared because you’ll be, well, trapped, all day, with the little stinkers; they’ll all be together tag-teaming against you, not to mention tag-teaming against each other. You’ll have to play referee, teacher, cop, and playmate possibly all within any given 5-minute period.

By the way…

Not to get off-topic, but what’s the deal anyway with this three-months-off-thing over the summer? Are we all still farmers and need our kids help to work the family farm? I like a little vegetable garden as much as the next person, but three months seems a bit extreme. But I digress…

Okay, so what’s the game-plan?

Well, that’s just it, ya gotta have a game-plan. I suppose you could just wing-it, and many do, and they seem to do okay. However, especially if you have kids with special needs, the more routine, structured, planned, and predictable you can make the summer, oftentimes the better it will go. Not that every minute will be planned (summer is about spontaneity, freedom, and fun) but for some kiddos going from a highly regimented daily school routine, to a free-for-all, can be rather unsettling. Many parents find a nice balance between the two, some structure for part of the day, and some planned activities and trips, and a more relaxed and free-flowing part of the day (and even this “free-flowing” portion of the day can be planned).

Some things to help the summer go smoother

You go to Hawaii and hire a full-time nanny to watch the kids (just joking, sort of). First, get a Family Calendar with daily and monthly activities and events planned in advance. This gives the kids things to look forward to, lets them know what is planned for any given day or week, and reduces the pestering about ‘what are we doing today…’? You may want to use lots of visuals and pictures to convey information about the activity or event(s).

Lay back a bit on the chores

You may want to be a bit more accommodating and less rigid with chores and expecting a super clean house. Having everyone home, all day, is going to result in more messes and whatnot, and your frustration likely will skyrocket if you’re expecting complete order and a pristine environment. However, by the same token, clearly defining rules (maybe even posting summer-time rules on the wall) that include not getting out other toys or items until the first are put-away, will be helpful.

You may need a break (swap a kid or two)

Since other parents have their kids home too, take advantage of them and give them your kids for an afternoon (or a few days?). Of course, you’ll have to return the favor, but the kids can enjoy playing together (or not) and you get a break every so often.

Get some ideas

Set out a bucket for suggestions, and get a ‘bucket list’ from your kiddos to find out things they want to do over the summer. They likely will have some good ideas for local trips and activities you can do at home or in the local neighborhood.

Change-of-pace for the day?

Many of you have arranged day and/or week-long camps for your kids. Your kiddo usually has a great time, and it also gives you a break. However, keep the family fun going; remember, you only have so many summers with your kids, while they’re still kids, so don’t forget to savor these moments in time (that reminds me; take lots and lots of pictures and you’ll have them for your scrolling home-screen the rest of the year).

Speaking of summer camps

Here are some local summer camps you may find interesting. These are divided into special needs camps, regular day camps, and art, theater, and dance-camps.

2019 Special Needs Camps (pdf)

2019 Summer Day Camps (pdf)

2019 Sports, Arts, Theater, and Dance Camps (pdf)

Academics?

Your kids are going to hate me for suggesting this, but it’s important to set-aside some time, weekly if not daily, to keep-up on academics. Take advantage of Extended School Year (ESY) if your child is eligible, or simply crack some books at home for 30 minutes to an hour a day. Or, even better, introduce your child to child-friendly short stories and novels where they can get ‘lost’ in their imagination and experience far-away adventures without even leaving the home. Reading together is even better. Experiential trips are also fun, such as to the library or museum, art show, aviary, and don’t forget about VBS.

Before the school year is over…

Get the names and phone numbers of kids with whom your child will want to visit and play over the summer. Otherwise, you may not have a way to contact them, and many opportunities for fun play-dates will be lost.

Prepare for whatever may happen

Role-play with your child what to do if they get lost, or need help in some way. Keep medications and first-aid kits handy. Always have an epi-pen handy as well!! You never know who may be allergic to insect bites and stings.

Be prepared to ‘divide and conquer’

When the kids get to bickering and carrying-on, prepare places for them to go to play separately. Separate rooms or areas of the house, or one plays outside while the other inside; whatever it takes. Prepare activities for them to do separately to keep them busy and to at least temporarily end the fussiness. The more structured and planned the activities and play-areas, the more likely such diversionary tactics will work.

Other ideas…

If your child has challenges with catching a ball, the Velcro-ball and Velcro catching pad is a wonderful option; frankly, even if your kiddo catches just fine, it’s still a fun activity, as is a trampoline, bicycle riding (or tricycle ride), taking the dog for a walk, having a picnic in the back yard, family hike, catching lightning bugs (we used to use wiffle bats when I was a kid…), going for a swim, stargazing, zoo, kennywood, board games, making a bird feeder and watching the birds, listening to an audiobook, going fishing, jumping rope, blowing bubbles, playing miniature golf, flying a kite, playing badminton, climbing a tree (not too tall), or watching a good movie. Whatever you do together is meaningful and makes a memory.

Have a wonderful summer

I hope you found this post to be informative and that it inspired some ideas. Here’s wishing you and yours a relaxing, safe, and memory-filled summer of fun. God bless.

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).