School may not end until mid to late June, but it’s best to start planning for summer as early as possible to avoid being shut out of opportunities or creating conflicts with your co-parent over vacation days or family get-togethers. The first thing you should focus on is agreeing on how you are going to divide the time spent with your children. Work out a parenting schedule that works well for you, your co-parent, and your children.
Focus on age appropriateness
As you ponder summertime programs, you’ll find that your child’s age and maturity are key in the decision-making process. Some 8-year-olds are ready for summer camp instead of childcare, and some 12-year-olds (but not all) are ready for overnight camp. Some 15- and 16-year-olds may become camp counselors, while others are ready to take on their first jobs at local businesses. To help assess the best outcome, focus on your child’s background, maturity, and decision-making abilities.
Take advantage of community resources
Even if both parents have to work most of the summer, this is a time for fun for your children. You can find ways to keep them busy without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars in camp fees or other expensive undertakings. Investigate different programs your city or town has to offer.
Also, find ways to share summer fun with your children by taking advantage of the extra hours of daylight for after-work fun. Consider picnics on the beach (remember, most beaches don’t charge for parking after 5 p.m.), an after-dinner swim in the local lake, free concerts and activities, etc.
Summer activities don’t have to be non-stop 24/7
You don’t have to fill every square on your calendar with amazing trips and activities this summer. Plan two or three things every week, focusing on the time you spend with your kids instead of what you’re buying or where you’re going. Involve children in the planning process; this, too, can be part of their learning experience. Make a master “bucket list” for the summer and don’t forget:
• Visiting your favorite ice cream shop
• Going to Boston for a ride on the Swan Boats ($2.75 for adults; $1.50 for kids)
• Taking a hike. Blue Hills Observatory in Milton is a great hike for kids of all ages — it takes less than an hour to walk to the top of the hill, where you have amazing views of Boston and surrounding communities and can tour the oldest continually operating weather observatory in the U.S. Or you could hike to the highest peak in Massachusetts (3,500 feet) at Mount Greylock State Reservation in Lanesborough. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in a beautiful setting.
• Going to a Red Sox or PawSox baseball game
Do new things this summer!
Summer is a great time to try something new. Plant a garden or grow some flowers or vegetables in pots if you don’t have a spot in your yard (or see if there’s a community garden in your city or town where you can farm your own piece of it); learn a new sport — whether Pickleball, Cornhole, or Frisbee golf (there are several Frisbee golf courses throughout the region).
This is also a great time to try some traditional summer activities, even if they are new for your family. Dig some worms and go fishing; have a watermelon seed-spitting contest; play hopscotch and four-square; or have a water balloon fight.
The most important thing: Make it a fun summer, and try to get your child’s other parent onboard, too. There’s no need to compete; instead, complement each other’s summer activities so each of you gets to do the things you and your children enjoy.