Surviving summer break without sending the kids to day camp

If you haven't been paying attention to your kid's school calendar, I'll break it to you gently. You're either at or approaching a single digit when it comes to how much time is left is before summer vacation.

Breath. Take an Om Moment if you must.

So it's not going away, this "school's out" thing. But this other thing called summer camp? It's pricey. Even YMCA camps, the typically affordable solution, can cost upwards of $250 per week. That adds up, especially when you have several children.

And sometimes when you've finally convinced yourself to pony up the cash for eight full weeks of day camp you decide too late and they're all full. (I call that one "The Summer Never to Be Repeated.")

You're in a pickle. You want to make the most of having your child at home but you also need a little personal space. If sending your kids to summer day camp isn't an option, here are some tips that helped me (during that summer never to be repeated).

  • Create a daily schedule. It sounds simple, right? Have a routine. But don't just have it in your head. Put it on paper and break it down buy the hour or thirty-minute mark if your kids are in the under-5 crowd. I know it seems odd to have a schedule during summer break, being off school and all. But think about it -- most kids thrive on continuity. Last summer my son (then 5) and I created his daily schedule together and he loved that he could just walk to the refrigerator to see what he should be doing next. If you needs some inspiration, check out crafty mom and artist Donna Downey's blog -- I copied her format, building in time with mom and chores.
  • Find a mother's helper. Maybe you don't need a full babysitter, but just someone can hang out with your kids and play with them while you work, pick up around the house, whatevs. Find a nice, fun, responsible high school student or late 'tweener to help you out for way less that what summer camp would have cost you. Remember, they're on vacation, too, and their moms and dads are probably just as eager to keep them busy. Summer job? Voila.
  • Have a home-camp share among 5 friends. Okay, this suggestion takes a little planning but if you have a good group of mom friends who are in the same situation as you, it could really work well. For one week, each friend has a 3-hour camp at her home. So Monday, one friend has a baseball camp. Tuesday, another friend has a cooking camp. Wednesday, an art camp. And so on. These home camps can be super simple, just filled with fun activities that the kids can play on their own and/or with minimal supervision. Think of it as one week of rotating playdates where each each of you is guaranteed four days with some free time. Just keep it to five kids so that it's manageable and set a price limit on what each of you can spend so that no one goes overboard. And if that first week is a success, why not do it again? For more ideas on home camp, check out this post.

I'll confess that my boys are all signed up for day camp this summer. However, we do have a few weeks where I'll be doing the working mom juggle while my oldest is home with me and I'm eager to have a home-camp share with a few friends.

For those of you that don't send your kids to day camp over the summer, how do you keep them busy over vacation? Working moms -- what do you do when you don't send your kids to camp?