My husband and I often joke that our kids get to spend the summer at Camp Mom and Dad since both of us are home with them, but the reality is, we can’t be camp counsellors for nine weeks. I know many parents are likely thinking the same thing. Yes, we have plenty of fun activities planned as a family, but our kids also need to make their own fun or find comfort in downtime and boredom.

Whether you’re home with your kids all summer (with limited access to child care, community camps, and travel), or simply taking a few weeks of vacation time from work, we’ve got you covered! There are ways to keep everyone happy and busy while creating beautiful summer memories, that don’t require you to be with each other every moment of every day.

Here’s how to not run the summer like ‘Camp Mom and Dad’…

Do get the kids involved

Begin by deciding as a family what your summer wish list looks like. Give everyone a chance to contribute to a list of activities, events to attend, foods to try, and so on in a summer bucket list. Encourage the kids to include items on their list that involve the entire family (outings to a favourite location, special days) but also their own independent goal list. Maybe they want to learn a new skill or finish a favourite book. Those are just as important as the other items. Siblings can even create a list of items they’d like to do together. My own kids almost always make a special movie trailer each summer using an iPad and iMovie!

Don’t overschedule the summer

It’s tempting to plan back-to-back park play dates, or museum outings followed by a trip to the farmers’ market in the hopes of keeping everyone busy and tired, but just like adults need downtime after a busy week at work, kids need the summertime to regroup from an exhausting school year.  For some families, the hectic season of sports and art classes slows down so take advantage of those lazy summer days.

Do make plans with friends, family and anyone in your village

Finding others who are also at home with their kids and hanging out (a local park is always a hot spot) means siblings get a break from each other, kids stay connected with friends their age, and parents can have an adult conversation while the kids splash in the sprinkler or kick the soccer ball around. I’ve often extended park play dates by grabbing some local pizza for our crew to enjoy and keep on playing. I also love that these get togethers often don’t require much planning or cost.

The summer is a wonderful time to bond with family – especially cousins! Let the kids of all ages hang out while you enjoy some time with your family too. The kids will love the freedom and everyone will love making memories.

With family and friends, talk to them about trading child care too.

Don’t feel guilty

Ditch the guilt you may have about not planning every moment and roll with it. Just like the recommendation to not overschedule, it goes hand-in-hand with not feeling guilty about saying no to your kids and encouraging them to be bored and make their own plans. They can create a scavenger hunt in the backyard, or set up a water obstacle course. Maybe they just need to reignite a hobby they’ve set aside during the busy school year. Let boredom reign this summer.

Do have fun as a family

One of the benefits of being home together in the summer is all the extra, unpressured time you have together. Sometimes, this means planning an outing to the local museum or taking a day trip to a part of the city you haven’t been to before. Other times, it means playing a game of bocce ball or badminton in your yard as a family. While you can’t be expected to entertain the kids every moment of every day this summer, it’s still important to spend time together and make new summer memories. They don’t need to be pre-planned or cost a lot of money, but I’ll bet those moments will be cherished by all.

Rebecca Stanisic is a freelance writer and digital content creator. She’s been blogging on her website, A Little Bit of Momsense, since 2009 and for almost as many years has helped fellow bloggers and small business owners create and curate relevant digital content for their own businesses.  She’s the proud mom of two and is fuelled by fiction and coffee.