I don’t know about you, but I fall for it every year: The weather gets warmer, the days get longer, and I start thinking about the absolute best summer I’ll have with my kids. (While, admittedly, thinking about the perks of them being out of school: No more lunches to pack! No alarm clock! No homework!) Then reality sets in roughly a week after their last day and I remember that having children in the house all day, every day, can make all of us a little nutty.
If you, too, are looking at two-plus months of no school, don’t fret: There are simple, inexpensive ways to keep your kids busy—and your sanity intact—throughout the summer months.
1. Stick to a routine and follow your body clock.
While the longer days of summer may make it tempting to throw regular bedtimes to the wind, your kids (and you) may actually fare better if you follow a similar schedule as during the school year. Sure, you can have those times when watching movies make for a late night, but keeping some sort of a familiar routine most of the time may prove wise not only for your sanity but also for your health. Studies have shown that a disruption in our body’s natural circadian rhythm, also known as our internal clock, could contribute to obesity and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.1-2 Keep aligned with your body’s natural rhythm by getting enough sleep, skipping late night meals and enjoying a substantial breakfast in the morning.
2. Create a family bucket list.
Let each child contribute ideas about what they’d like to do during the summer. You may not get through the entire list (and some of the items may be wildly out of reach), but it’s fun to try.
3. Have your kids pitch in.
Having kids in and around the house every day means more mess, more dishes and more noise! To help keep the debris to a minimum, delegate age-appropriate duties to every child in the house. Even the little things add up—simply having them make their own beds and tidy the living room daily can go a long way toward keeping the madness to a minimum.
4. Venture outside the house.
Whether it’s a book or chess club at the library, activities through your parks and rec department, or free workshops for kids at the local home-improvement store, having regular activities for your children can do wonders for all involved.
5. Create a kid-watching co-op.
Line up several families and do a rotating swap: One family watches all the kids for one evening so the other parents can get some downtime, maybe even a much needed date night.
6. Plant a garden.
There’s nothing better than getting fresh produce from your own garden. Get your children in on the act by having them choose which plants to buy, and then helping to plant and tend to them. (Don’t forget sunscreen and hats!)
7. Teach them how to cook.
Take those fruits and veggies from your new garden and teach your kids how to prepare them. Little ones can get in on the act, too—have them pick and wash the veggies, peel the carrots and snap the stems off the peas. Who knows, by summer’s end, they may be helping you make dinner!
See if there are activities that you can do as a family, or that your older kids can do solo. As a volunteer horse handler, I bring my kids along once a week during the summer to help with ranch tasks and to groom the horses.
9. Keep them active.
While it may be tempting (and easy) to keep your kids occupied in front of the television, try to keep screen time to a minimum. Sign them up for swim lessons, tennis, golf—or whatever piques their interest (and fits your budget).
10. Play with your kids.
It can be hard to find time to do regular workouts with children underfoot all day long. Here’s your excuse to ride bikes, play tag, jump rope, get on the swings, play hopscotch—you’ll all get some exercise and your kids will love it as well as you!
11. Read a book.
A few years ago, I started instituting reading time every afternoon in the summer. The kids can choose what they read, and it’s only for 30 minutes to an hour, but it gives them a chance to cool their jets—and it gives me some elusive quiet time.
While these tips may not guarantee that you have the absolute best summer with your kids, we do hope that they bring some tranquil times to your household, and that they help you keep in mind what really matters: time with family.
If you’re looking for ways to get the most out of your time this summer, Jenny Craig can help. Let us do the cooking and planning so you can spend more time with the ones you love without worrying about the weight loss. Contact us for your free appointment today.
 Longo, Valter D., and Satchidananda Panda. “Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 23, no. 6, 14 June 2016, pp. 1048–1059., doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.001.