How do I entertain my kids in the summer while I’m working?

Finding ways to keep your kids busy during summer is difficult, especially when you're a working parent. Here's how to manage summer mode.

Dear ITN,

My kids are officially out of school and completely on summer mode. Nothing wrong with that at all, but the problem is – my work doesn’t go on summer mode. I’m fortunate enough to work from home, but I still have to work! And they are expecting every day to be filled with fun summer activities or excursions. I definitely want to make my kids’ summer memorable, but how do I keep them busy while balancing my work obligations and prior commitments with their desire to have their ‘best summer ever’, everyday of the summer?!


Summertime Sadness

Dear Summertime,

I love summer. Love it, love it, love. And yet still, I am never more stressed out than I am during summer and my girls’ summer break. Because I, like you and millions of other parents, don’t get to check out and go on vacay mode as soon as summer hits, the guilt over not being able to do so and spending every day striving for awesome can be HARD to swallow. But, until we win the lottery and can tell our job to kick rocks, this is what we’re working with. And make no mistake: you CAN work with this! How to keep your kids busy during summer is a question on everyone’s mind right now. I’m here to tell you, it just takes a little creativity and a lot of planning.

One of the first things I make my girls do when summer starts is sit down and write out their summer bucket lists. Now, I don’t put any limitations on their lists, but I do require them to have equal parts dream and reality. Sure, put a trip to Paris on your list, idc. But counterbalance it with a trip to the splash pad because only one of those is likely to happen. Their bucket lists include everything: movie nights, play dates, day trips, weekend trips, even lazy days where I don’t require them to change out of their pj’s or brush their hair and they can veg all day. Once their lists are complete, we start building out the summer calendar. I try to include one thing from each list per week, and I try to balance it so it’s one daytime activity and one nighttime activity. This process requires a lot of negotiations and swapping, which is actually half the fun for them.

Once we have the bucket list calendar set, I start adding stuff I can swing with my work schedule. Zoo trips, beach trips, play dates, park picnics, etc. These are excursions and activities I’ve scheduled based on my work schedule, and these are in addition to what the girls have on their bucket lists! I try to add one or two a week, depending on my work schedule. When all is said and done, our weeks end up being pretty full, and the girls always have an amazing time.

‘But ITN, what do you do with them when you’re working and there’s nothing on the calendar?’ I plan that out too! We have a weekly summer menu and accessible snacks, plenty of art and craft supplies plus bookmarked YouTube videos and tutorials (that don’t require my help), summer reading lists (that they get a prize for completing at the end of the summer), and lots and lots of outside toys like bubbles, water toys, and the like. I’m fortunate that I’m able to work while keeping an eye on them, inside and out, and with a little direction every once in a while, they tend to be pretty self-directed and entertained.

Now, I recognize that this is not an option for parents with younger kids, and parents who work outside of the home. When the girls were young, it was a lot tougher. We relied on babysitters and play date swaps, and once they hit preschool age, I did splurge and put them in a day camp for a few weeks in the summer. Our local YMCA had a lot of great, affordable options, and we also did a couple through our city rec department. It’s a bit more structured than our current summer vibe, but my girls always had an amazing time.

However you’re planning on managing your summer, get your kids involved in the planning so help them feel included and get them excited about all the stuff they WILL get to do, as opposed to moping about the stuff they won’t be doing. The great thing about summer is that there are no rules (well, there are, but you know what I mean). And if they are part of the planning, it makes the doing that much better. 

You Got This Summer, 

Is This Normal


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