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Surviving Summer without Camp
Mom with a View

Surviving Summer without Camp

11 ways to spend the time and create a positive family experience.


What to do if you can't send your kids to camp this summer? Should you

a) tear out your hair?
b) rob a bank?
or c) think of creative ways to spend the time and reframe it as a positive family experience?

I'm personally leaning towards option b – if I can just convince my husband! But option c isn't as hard as you think. Well the "being creative" isn't too difficult, but sometimes the "positive family experience" aspect can be a challenge.

Here are a few tips and suggestions:

1. Do things that you enjoy (Yes, you, the mother or father, count too!). If you really don't like hiking (I don't mind if it's down Fifth Avenue), then don't plan a bunch of mountain walks. No matter how good it may be for your kids, you'll be miserable. Which in the end actually won't be good for them!

2. Don't sweat the mess. Cooking -- with kids of all ages and genders -- can be fun, and productive. They may actually learn some useful skills. But the part they will probably enjoy the most is the decorating. This involves cookie cutters where the dough gets stuck in every crevice, multi-colored icing that adheres to all surfaces, and sprinkles that continue to reappear long after the cookies or cupcakes have been eaten. Never mind: it's a fun activity that can last for many hours.

3. Find a friend with a pool. Bring snacks -- for your friend's children too -- and plan to spend the afternoon in and out of the water. Bring games for poolside play and perhaps some light reading for you, depending upon the age of the kids and the degree of supervision warranted.

4. Hire a mother's helper. You can either use the younger girls who can't be left alone with your children but whose extra arms and energy will free you for other things -- like cleaning up sprinkles! Or you can hire an older girl who, usually at a relatively low rate, will watch your little darlings for a few hours. She will play with (exhaust?!) them and you will get a break.

5. My children don't like the "m" word but many museums have special summer programs for children, frequently involving an art project. In this case, someone on the museum staff is available to clean up the mess.

6. And speaking of mess, a giant house cleaning project, indoors or out, can get everyone involved. As my son said the other day, "You feel a real sense of satisfaction after some hard and productive physical labor." Or words to that effect! He was initially unenthusiastic but eventually got absorbed in the project. For the highly motivated nature-oriented child, there is the prospect of planting and nurturing a vegetable garden.

7. On those really hot and slow days when nothing else will do, don't discount the power of sprinklers and Popsicles. I ran through my neighbor's sprinkler the other day and I can now speak from experience – it hasn't lost its thrill!

8. Depending upon you and your children, there is always the public library. It is air-conditioned and you can to read to your small ones there while the older children can collect books to bring home.

9. Here in southern California, we have that fantastic option not available everywhere -- sun, sand, and the Pacific Ocean. There are some wonderful children's beaches with options for water activities, sand play, swings, slides and bike riding.

10. Don't discount your local park. If you're lucky you might even run into some other mothers there and not just their nannies. On second thought, call a friend ahead of time to meet you there.

11. Do not say the word "educational." Kids do not want to hear anything remotely related to learning for at least the first two weeks of vacation. But a really great science center can be a lot That's the word to use.

Miriam Levi wrote in her book "Effective Jewish Parenting" that our attitude towards our children is frequently based on what we tell ourselves. If we tell ourselves "we can't stand it," we won't be able to. But what do we mean by talking like that? "Being boiled in hot oil" she suggests is something we really can't stand. Spending summer days with our children is just not in the same category (usually). Think of all the hours they spend in school, under someone else's influence. And welcome the opportunity.

There are many more ideas. Let's share them using the comment section below. Have a great summer!



June 25, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Anonymous, July 8, 2013 8:56 AM

another idea or two

for a really hot day...
1. prepare 2 buckets for a race that kids have to use their bare feet and toes to fish marbles out of the buckets of water. Put in ice and don't tell the kids so that when they put their feet in, it will be really cold!
2.prepare a day or 2 in advance- 2 old t-shirts in 2 bags full of water. freeze until solid. Then 2 teams can race to see who can melt the block of ice enough to put the t-shirt on first

(10) Anonymous, July 16, 2009 12:44 AM

for RACHEL - what to do if you are both working

long shot. it maybe too late now but maybe not. advertise that you are running a camp for kids in your home. (wait...) AND advertise that you are hiring a camp counselor for your camp, at home. even just 3 kids paying and your kid not paying will be enough to pay the counselor, and keep some cash for art supplies snacks etc. each parent also has to send food and basic supplies. you may have to manage, make sure there are plans every day, clean up some. part of the counselors job should be to clean up, make itinerary every weekend, call mommies for stuff they need. younger kids? daycare style. older kids? escort to various free activities and chesed projects throughout town. pizza once a week on fridays so mommies dont have to pack lunch on erev shabbos. i know its optimistic, but maybe possible. we had a playgroup in our apartment and it came out super cheap. and because her job was to clean, my apt was actually clean at end of day. hatzlocho.

(9) Orah, July 2, 2009 5:27 PM

Buy cheap plants

Another idea- buy some cheap plants and let the kids plant them. Supply shovels and let them loose (just don't be surprised if the plants shrivel up and die from maltreatment and/or faulty planting)!

(8) yehudit levy, July 1, 2009 6:53 AM

just be authentic

I really like the tone of your article: some of these "suggestive" articles can make a normal irritable mother like me feel pretty inadequate... I have learned that most importantly we need to be authentic with our children and not try to fit ourselves into the mould of others. If you are not the type of mother to sit and play board games for hours, don't do it just because you feel you "should" & "other mothers do". Do with your children what you enjoy doing, and let them know that "Mummy doesn't feel like going to the park right now, would you like to go with a sitter or do something with me here at home?" etc... Offering valid choices works wonders and leaves things open to discussion and creative solutions that are good for everyone. When we are authentic, children also learn this value, and, more importantly, learn to respect other's feelings and express their own. One word of caution: we also need to show the virtue of compromise and vatranut and there is no need to do it with martyrdom: a simple "well, I was really hoping to stay home today but since everyone else is so keen to go to the beach, let's go later when it's not so hot" etc etc. This lets them know your feelings, and also that you were prepared to "do for others": Everyone wins! They use to call it "selfish", now I think they call it self-expression!

(7) Anonymous, June 30, 2009 10:21 PM

Sometimes I wish Emuna Braverman was my next door neighbor! These are great suggestions. I'm doing a "round robin" camp with two other moms this summer. I'm "on" for next week and was wondering exactly what we'll do every day. These suggestions may sound simple, but they're also very valuable. Thanks, Emuna!

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