Surviving the Summer: How to Keep Children Occupied

How to Keep Children Occupied during Summer

Don’t you just love it? I mean, there’s nothing quite like those precious hours of sunlight breaking through at the unholy hour of 5 AM and children running rampant with seemingly endless energy reserves. What more could you possibly wish for?

Well, maybe a moment’s peace, a coffee that’s actually hot when you drink it, or the chance to read a book without the word ‘pop-up’ in the title. But hey, who are we kidding? Parenting in summer isn’t about luxury, it’s about survival, right?

So let’s get straight to the matter at hand: how to keep the little energy bombs we call our children occupied throughout the season that never seems to end. Buckle up, dear folks, because this journey through summer is going to be as bumpy as a ride on a unicorn-themed inflatable bouncy castle.

The first and most obvious answer is to simply kick them outside and lock the door. After all, that’s what our parents did, right? But we all know that isn’t going to fly in the era of helicopter parenting and Instagram-perfect picnics. Besides, you’re only about five minutes away from someone deciding they’re too hot, too cold, too hungry, too full, too itchy, too sticky, or too bored. And, of course, all these complaints will come at you like a series of firecrackers with zero regard for your sanity. So, what’s the alternative?

Well, you could take the educational route. Have you ever noticed how all those homeschooling blogs suggest you make everything a “learning experience?” It’s summer. Why not take this glorious time to learn the Fibonacci sequence, or maybe the periodic table, or the entire plot of “War and Peace?” You’ll find those educational moments every time your child asks “Why?” And trust me, they will ask. Many, many times. “Why is the sky blue?”, “Why does the ice cream melt?”, “Why do you look tired all the time, Mommy?” But hey, every “why” is a doorway to wisdom! Isn’t summer fun?

Now, what about those summer camps? Oh, those glorious institutions that promise to take your kids off your hands for a full day or even (if you’re lucky enough) an entire week. It sounds fantastic, until you realize it’s more like trading one problem for another. For every week they’re at camp, there’s a mountain of forms to fill out, a mile-long packing list, and let’s not forget the absurd cost. You’ll probably need to take out a second mortgage just to afford the pony riding, pottery painting, and nature rambling. All this, and your kid still has a good chance of coming home with poison ivy or a broken arm. Brilliant, right?

Let’s not forget about arts and crafts! Because nothing says summer like getting glitter, glue, and tiny beads lodged in every conceivable gap of your home. In the pursuit of an hour of peace, you’ll let them paint, right? Of course, it will be therapeutic, until you see your youngest has decided to reenact a scene from the movie ‘Carrie’ but with neon pink paint instead of blood. A tip? Stock up on stain remover. You’re going to need it.

Another popular suggestion is the playdate. Who doesn’t love a good playdate? A couple of hours where you can trade your wild child for someone else’s. It’s all fun and games until you realize that you’ll have to return the favor. And suddenly, your home is transformed into a mini zoo, with monkeys swinging from curtain rails, and squawking parrots mimicking every bad word you accidentally let slip. Then there are the dietary requirements, allergies, and aversions. Nothing quite like realizing mid-pancake flip that little Billy is gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and apparently fun-free. As a side note, you may want to consider investing in a good liability insurance policy before embarking on the playdate path.

Speaking of allergies, ever consider Mother Nature as your free babysitter? “Go and play in the garden,” you’ll say, smiling innocently. Birds are singing, the sun is shining, and life is good…for all of fifteen minutes. Then you have to deal with a bee sting, or worse, a series of unidentifiable rashes due to the adventurous exploration of local flora. Also, what about those fearsome creatures lurking in the grass? Oh, don’t worry, those aren’t wolves, just mosquitoes out for a buffet lunch. Who knew nature could be so…interactive?

Of course, we can’t forget the crown jewel of summer — the family vacation. Ah, the open road, the beach, the possibility of building memories that last a lifetime. Memories like the epic tantrum on the airplane, the urgent roadside bathroom breaks, and the delightful experience of applying sunscreen to a child who behaves as if they are being attacked by a swarm of bees. Just think about all the stress and tension of your daily life, packed neatly into suitcases, and amplified by unfamiliar surroundings. Paradise, indeed!

In the face of these daunting prospects, you may be tempted to go for the holy grail of parenting hacks: unlimited screen time. But beware! While it seems like the perfect solution to your summer woes, remember, this isn’t just a temporary fix, it’s a pact with the devil. Sure, your kids will be silent and entranced by the glowing tablet for hours, but it’s a small victory, and a Pyrrhic one at that. Just wait until they turn into screen zombies with square eyes, and start talking in Roblox language or insisting they can only eat food seen on their favorite YouTube channel. And let’s not even talk about the parental guilt associated with this one — that’s a whole different summer saga.

So, dear parents, we’ve journeyed through the wild and sometimes terrifying landscape of summer together, and you may find yourself wondering: “What’s the secret then?” And to that, I’ll share the real golden rule of summer parenting: there isn’t one.

Every summer, every child, every parent is different. What works one day might be a disaster the next. And as much as we joke about the chaos and calamity, there’s also magic in these long, light-filled days. There’s ice cream that’s sweet and sticky on smiling faces, water fights in the backyard, barefoot days and star-filled nights. There’s the magic of childhood itself, unfolding right before our eyes.

So this summer, embrace the chaos, laugh at the disasters, and remember, it’s just a season. Like all seasons, it’ll pass — sometimes it might feel like it’s passing in geologic time, but it will pass. And who knows? You might even miss it when it’s gone.

In the meantime, for all our sakes, remember to stock up on coffee and wine. It’s going to be a long, fun ride. Summer, here we come!