School’s out! Five great early summer activities for kids

photo credit: getty imagesphoto credit: getty imagesDoes the start of your child's summer vacation take you by surprise?

Sure, you know your kids are spending oh, about 12 weeks without school. And you also know it takes time to get into that summer vacation groove. (You can expect this "getting into the groove" time to occur during the wait for the start of summer camp. Naturally.)

And yet? The last day of school arrives and you're wondering how your kids will pass the time over the next few months.

Fear not, anxious parent. We have five activities you'll want to pursue during the early stages of summer vacation.

  • Plan a Do Nothing Day. Maybe it's the first day of summer vacation or a few days into the break, but pick a weekday where the kids can wake up and just hang out in their PJs all day (if they so choose). You have nothing on the schedule but time to just chill out. Let the kids decide what they want to do with two rules: the activity has to be relaxing and not involve spending money!
  • Make the kids take swimming lessons. Once the weather finally starts to feel like summer (seriously, snow in May?), the kids will likely want to spend time in the pool or at the beach. Make the kids brush up on their swim strokes and water safety so they'll be in prime form once pool season goes into high gear.
  • Discover a new park/playground! After all of the time spent indoors during the school year, sometimes it's just nice to spend all day outside. If your kids are familiar with all the parks and playgrounds in your area, go on a little adventure and find one that's completely new to your family. Pack a picnic and spend the morning or afternoon exploring your discovery. And watch it become a new favorite!
  • Have your kids join a summer reading club at the local library. It sounds crazy to even think about school-related activities when the kids are just starting vacation. But studies show that kids experience "learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer." An easy way to keep your child's mind moving all summer long is to encourage him or her to read during vacation. Local libraries typically have a summer reading program where kids can win prizes for reaching reading milestones, like completing a certain number of books. You may also want to check out the Scholastic Summer Challenge: kids can log their reading minutes online and enter different contests based on how many minutes they've read.
  • Celebrate the start of summer vacation! Have your kids help you pick out the menu, shop for ingredients and participate in the making of a summer vacation feast. Clink your glasses (or plastic tumblers, BPA free, of course) to the beginning of the fun summer ahead. During dinner, have your kids help you make a list of all the things they'd like to do over the break and see how many they actually complete.

What's on your list of summer activities for the kids?