How to Plan Your Child’s Summer Schedule Efficiently… and Playfully
By Karen Thurm Safran, author of Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It
While children look forward to the summer, we parents have a nagging thought in the forefront of our brain…
Yeeks! What am I going to do with my kids during all of these months?
Don’t fret, here are tips to simplify the summer vacation planning with children process… AND make it more fun.
Since summer planning is like one big puzzle… let’s turn it into a game!
Playfulness is a terrific way to deal with everyday parenting challenges. Like kids complaining while waiting in long lines. Or the overwhelming daily task of getting kids ready on time. And even making the kids (and you!) do chores. My parents used a playful approach, so this is how I raised my two kids.
I wrote Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It to share this simple family trick and make parenting less stressful for others. Through light-hearted stories, you’ll learn playful ways to stop struggling with your child and start having more fun. You can order this book at a special price, which has been a #1 New Release in 7 Amazon categories.
Let’s get back to implementing our Summer Puzzle Planning game!
Planning for summer printable
Plan your entire summer with my newest Summer Fun Planning Printable
How to Plan Your Child’s Summer Schedule Efficiently and Playfully
Let’s get into the details for vacation planning with kids!
1. Collect Ideas
It’s important to create a “home” for all the summer items which will accumulate.
Find a folder and write “SUMMER.” Now you have a place to store anything related to summer activities. This includes brochures you receive in the mail and from school, stuff you pick up, and ads you rip out of magazines.
If you search for info online, you’ll also need a digital folder. I create one on my desktop and another one in my Office OneNote.
Get into the habit of placing all summer-related items into these folders. You don’t need to do anything other than keep it organized for later. But I suggest noting any early-bird specials in your calendar.
2. Gather Info
It’s a good idea to allocate at least an hour. Don’t panic. It’s a fun team activity you’ll do with your kids.
Don’t forget the info you’ve stored in the digital folders. I recommend sitting near your computer or having your laptop/tablet handy. I don’t advise using your phone since it’s easier to look at a larger screen.
If you’re starting to hyperventilate because you haven’t collected anything, no big deal. You’ll want to spend time gathering possibilities. Ask friends for suggestions. Talk to a Camp Advisor like The Camp Experts (it’s free!). Search online camp directories. If you have young kids, look at daycare centers that offer fun summer activities.
3. Involve Your Kids
Game On! When it’s time to plan, I highly encourage you to include your kids. Yes, it may take longer, but it’s much better to involve them.
First, you’ll get their buy-in for the activity, camp, or whatever you’re planning.
Second, you’ll empower them by including them in the process. Even if you’re not a natural planner, you’ll teach them planning skills. And this is a real-world skill that will help them succeed in life.
Third, this post will show you a playful approach, which can be a fun family activity.
4. Get Excited
This may sound like a silly step, but it’s an important one.
Having a “can-do!” attitude sets the tone and can turn an overwhelming, annoying task into something more fun.
Get your kids pumped up. “Woo-hoo! It’s time to play the Summer Planning Puzzle game.”
5. Create a Calendar
You’ll need two sets of calendars for planning summer months. One calendar to build your summer plans and the other for the final version.
I find it easier to work with paper because I place the months on the table for everyone to see. You can find templates on the internet, or you can use an extra printed calendar. Note- this will become messy, so don’t use anything you want to keep.
If you prefer to do this electronically, sit by the computer and do everything online.
6. Define the Rules and Delegate Tasks
All games start with rules, so the Summer Planning Puzzle game is no different. Ask questions like:
How should we decide which item to review? Should we take turns picking from the pile?
Who wants to be responsible for the “Yes,” “Maybe,” and “No” piles?
Let’s celebrate each time we schedule a week. What should we do? Dance? Sing? Say something silly?
And what’s the final reward when our schedule is complete? Eat out? Plan a movie? Go to the park?
By asking these questions, you’re setting a playful mood and getting your kids involved.
7. Include Any Firm Plans
Mark on the calendar all vacations and family plans. Bam! These weeks are done. Time for your celebration dance, song, or whatever.
8. Review the Info
Take turns choosing one flyer or brochure from the pile, based on how you determined the rules.
Read the info and then as a group give thumbs up, thumbs down, or wave your hand back and forth for “Maybe.” Depending upon the vote, give the info to the appropriate person who’s in charge of that response.
Keep going through everything until you finish the pile. Don’t forget any information stored on your computer in a digital file. You want to do the first pass.
And remember to keep up the energy level by taking quick breaks when necessary. Should you dance, hop, grab a snack, or just run to the bathroom? Let your kids decide.
9. Fill in Tentative Info
Now that you’ve narrowed down the selection, review the “Yes” pile first and then the “Maybe” one. If the “Maybe” choices change to a “No,” toss the info aside. You want to stay focused on the possibilities.
First, check the program’s dates to see if it works with your schedule. If so, write the activity name on the calendar. To save time, write it once, like on Monday, instead of each day. If you have more than one child, let your kids choose a color pen and then color coordinate everything.
Some activities may repeat since they’re offered multiple times throughout the summer. That’s okay because it provides flexibility, and you also may choose to attend more than once.
Here’s a tip: plan days off with your kids and don’t overschedule. Summer is a great opportunity to spend time together. It’s also good to have breaks and downtime. One time, I planned a jam-packed summer. Oops, big mistake! My kids started the new school year thoroughly exhausted.
10. Piece Together the Puzzle
By now, your calendar should be busy… and colorful (if you have more than one kid).
Here comes the puzzle part!
Start planning the week with the fewest options. Once you decide, circle or highlight the winning selection.
Another tip: if you have more than one child, try scheduling activities at the same location or near each other. You can also sign up with a friend and coordinate carpooling when you’re available to drive.
Woo-hoo! Don’t forget to cheer, dance, or do whatever you decided during the Define the Rules step.
Keep going through the options, focusing on the week with fewer choices. Remember the activities in your digital folder. You’ll be amazed how the weeks fill up and the pile keeps shrinking.
11. Create the Final Summer Plan
Congratulations, you finished your planning! By now your calendar is super busy. There are items highlighted, crossed off, checked, and whatever else you did during the decision-making process.
Now it’s time to transfer the schedule to the second calendar, which you created in Step 5. Even if you enter the info into your phone, I highly recommend creating a printed summer calendar. This way you can adhere it to the fridge and your kids know what to expect.
Congratulations! You managed to plan your summer puzzle while also empowering your kids. By going through this process, your children learned how to tackle a large project with multiple decisions. They also saw how a positive attitude and playful game make an unpleasant task fun.
13. Invite Friends
Tell friends about your plans, so they can send their kids. Not only will your child have an instant camp friend, but you can also arrange for carpools.
Many camps have a Refer-a-Friend program. You and your friend save money… and those dollars add up!
14. Enter Due Dates
The planning is done, but there are more things you’ll need to do, like registering and paying. Before you file everything in the SUMMER folder, note in your calendar deadlines to avoid paying late fees. You’ll also want to add this task a few weeks before the due date.
To keep you organized, read the 19 Expert Tips to Prepare For Summer Camp blog. This advice is from The Camp Experts, the premier camp advisory service worldwide.
Other Parenting Playfully Examples
To spark your playfulness and make parenting more fun, check out the parenting book, Parenting—Let’s Make a Game of It. It’s been a #1 New Release in 7 Amazon categories. Through light-hearted stories, learn playful ways to stop struggling with your child and start having more fun. You’ll read other game ideas, like this Summer Puzzle Planning game, Order it at a special price.
Like many parents, the mom in this book faces everyday challenges during her children’s toddler through elementary school years. When she changes her approach and uses games, things quickly improve. Tension turns to quality time. And life becomes more playful.
Wouldn’t You Like to Make Parenting More Fun?
If you’re interested, you can buy the book on Amazon.
About the Author, Karen Thurm Safran
Karen Thurm Safran works as a marketing executive in K-12 education technology, making learning fun for kids. She has a BA degree in psychology from Mount Holyoke College and an MBA from Santa Clara University. Even though she works in an exciting industry, being a mom is by far her favorite job. As a parent, she gets to apply her problem-solving, organizational, and leadership skills to empower those she loves most–her two children.
When Karen’s children were young, she found that parenting became more enjoyable, rewarding, and empowering when she used a positive and playful style, innovatively creating games to deal with everyday challenges. She wrote Parenting–Let’s Make a Game of It in memory of her parents, and to spark playful parenting, encourage out-of-the-box thinking, and ease frustrating moments.
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