Planning activities for a busy summer

School officially ended here in San Antonio last Thursday. Now we have eleven weeks of summer vacation to fill with fun activities. I am quite the planner so our days – at least for June and July – are going to be packed. I like to keep the kids busy as it allows me to keep my sanity. If I let them stay home all the time, the bickering would soon start when the novelty of no school wore off.

Free activities

Let’s start with my favorite thing – free activities. There are many free activities you and your kids can do this summer. alexa snorkelingIn our case, we have our neighborhood pool. Though while nothing exciting, we love to go in the morning and have the whole place to ourselves. Of course going in the evening with friends is a blast too.

The library is another great place for free activities. Even though my kids have grown out of story time, they have activities for the older kids that include crafts, and they have a summer reading program where the kids can earn a free book. Our library also usually shows a few movies, brings in a magician and has at least one play from our local children’s theater each summer – all for free.

Several of our local movie theaters offer either free or discounted movies in the summer. While the movies are never new releases, it does offer a chance to get out of the heat. My kids love going to the theater, even if they have already seen the movie. Unfortunately, most of this year’s selections aren’t appealing to the kids, so we may only make it once or twice this summer.

bowling 2I know we have received many flyers from Jase’s school about summer activities and while some of them do cost, we received one for our local AMF bowling alley where registered children receive two free games per day as long as you pay for shoe rentals. All I had to do was sign them up online.

Another activity that is often free is vacation bible school. I know the church where Lexie attended preschool has one that is free, though they do expect you to volunteer at least one day. We have a neighbor who hosts a Backyard Bible Club for kids (Kinder through 5th).  Jase went last year and loved it. We have already signed him up for this summer.

Summer Camps

There is a summer camp out there to cover all interests. Every gymnastics and dance place seems to offer a camp as does other places – the Lego center, Sea World, the Cooking Academy, the Zoo, and the list goes on and on. So whether your child likes science, magic, basketball, playing an instrument or whatever – there is a camp out there for them. Most range from three to six hours a day and run anywhere from one day to all week.

This is the first year Jase and Lexie will attend any camps. Together they are going to camp at The Little Gym.  I bought a 10-day camp pass, and they are going to pop-in to various camps. This will allow them to try out five different themes, including superheros, karate/hip hop and extreme sports. And the best thing is since this camp is for 3-8 year olds is they can go to this camp together.

We are also sending Jase to Mad Science camp for a week in July. He really enjoys science, so we signed him up for a camp called “Moving with Science” where he will build bridges, make his own chalk and more.

Other activities

McKenna Children's Museum

McKenna Children’s Museum

We will also be busy with discounted admissions to local attractions. Over the past two months, I have been buying deals off Groupon – the daily deal website. I have discounted admission to Kiddie Park, McKenna Children’s museum, Monster Golf, Amazing Jump and Pump It Up. All bought with at least a 50% discount.

We also have memberships to the zoo, Sea World and Six Flag so I figure we will hit these – especially the water parks at the latter two.  As you can see, all these activities along with our two quick trips – one to South Padre that we just completed and another to Corpus Christi – we will certainly be active this summer.  And hopefully I will keep the kids so busy that bickering won’t even enter the picture.

Allowing kids to just be kids: Limiting their extracurricular activities

School, homework and just normal play time takes up a great amount of time but I still like for the kids to have an organized activity such as a sport or music class to join.

I try to keep their extra activities to just one each for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t want to spend my time chauffeuring them around every day. Second, I don’t believe in over scheduling their time. No one needs an extra activity every day of the week. I want them to be able to just play with their friends too or read a book or just do nothing. They don’t need every minute of their day scheduled.

I don’t dictate what activities they join but the only stipulation is that once they start something, they must continue through that season/session. If after that they don’t want to continue, then they are free to stop and pick a new activity. And of course, they don’t have to do an activity, but I want to encourage them to try new things.

Lexie has had way fewer opportunities to do organized activities. I think that is because we found out many of them didn’t work for Jase at such a young age. But now that she is about to turn 5 (in just two months) we signed her up for dance class last week. Lexie has always liked to jump and twirl around the room. She also likes to tumble so we debated between dance or gymnastics. Then I found the perfect class – it is a combination ballet, tap and gymnastics class. They spend 30 minutes on dance and 30 minutes on gymnastics. I also like that the class is centered around having fun rather than preparing for a recital at the end of the session.  (No expensive outfit that she will only wear once.)

IMG_0481Lexie has also expressed an interest in karate and soccer – two sports that Jase has already done. In fact, tomorrow Jase will resume karate where he currently is a green belt.

Jase at age 4 did basketball, which consisted of him mainly standing around looking lost. That summer he started swimming lessons but after a year of lessons I didn’t feel he had advanced as much as he should and discontinued them. Lexie would like swimming lessons but after all the money spent on Jase, it has soured me to using that swim studio, and I have yet to find another one that I like.

Jase also took a sports trial class at age 5 where they spent each class on a different sport. That Fall he began a two-year music program which Lexie has expressed a desire to take too. (You have to be 5 to start so she would start in August if she is still interested.) Jase also did soccer that Spring along with the music class. It is the only time he has had two activities.

I have noticed that Jase does best with individual sports like karate, which he began last January. With both soccer and basketball, he seemed lost and a little timid. I get the feeling that he really isn’t into sports but last year he asked for karate and seems to enjoy it.

So for this semester we have our activities. I will strive to keep their activities to just one each but definitely no more than two and that is something I know I will be able to enforce because after all kids need time to just be kids.