The End-Of-School-Year Countdown Is On, And We Are Freaking Out

by Joanna McClanahan
ElenaNichizhenova / Getty

There are a ton of things I love about summer: The sunny days by the pool; going to the beach; the camping and the bonfires; the warm evenings and the BBQs.

Some parents might even be counting the days until school gets out. Undoubtedly, our kids know how many days are left until they’re free for the summer, maybe even down to the hour.

And for most of us, those first couple of weeks of summer are great: No obligations, no worries, no lunches to be made, no getting up early, no shit-show morning routines.

But as a work-from-home mom, I’m dreading this summer. We just had spring break and I didn’t even know what to do with my children for seven days. Just the thought of having to entertain them for three months is enough to make my palms sweaty.

When I think of summer, I think of chaos, constant noise, and begging my kids to go outside and play. We ignore our typical screen time limits, because the alternative is hearing, “Mom, I’m bored,” approximately ten million times a day.

Sure, there are day camps and overnight camps. But my kids are still pretty young and our options are limited, not to mention these things are expensive as hell. It’s tough to find outlets that are both fun and interesting, and don’t cost an arm and a leg for parents. It’s even more difficult to find activities that encourage kids’ interests or provide a sense of purpose.

So here are some tips I’ve gathered for other parents on a budget, who are unsure how they’ll survive summer break:

Encourage outdoor play by making a game out of it. Ask them to use sidewalk chalk to create a mural or a racetrack in the driveway. Make a scavenger hunt for the backyard. Something fun and safe, that will ideally give you a little bit of time to get work done — or just sit back and chill for a minute.

Check with your local library. They are one of the best resources for affordable, educational opportunities for school-age children. And they typically have air conditioning and WiFi available, so they’re a great place to bring your kids while you catch up on things.

Contact your local 4-H. 4‑H is a program that provides experiences where young people learn by doing. Kids complete hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and citizenship, in a positive environment where they receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. 4‑H is available across the country and are a great resource for community clubs and affordable 4‑H camps.

Check with your local YMCA. Their childcare and activities are typically pretty affordable, but they also have financial assistance and scholarships available for lower income families.

Seek out volunteer opportunities. Depending on your child’s age, this may or may not be an activity that your child can do on their own. But I remember volunteering for Habitat for Humanity for a few hours every afternoon when I was 16. It was one of the most rewarding ways I could have spent my time and I learned a lot of skills.

Check with your child’s school. Sometimes the best resource for affordable, educational opportunities for your children is their school itself. They will have information for local camps and activities available. After all, they do this every year.

Take advantage of all your local resources. Some of these camps and activities could end up being part of your standard summer routine.

Either way, best of luck to all the working parents out there and keep in mind that it will all be over in about 90 days. And don’t forget to tell your kids’ teachers how much you’ll miss them.