If you’ll be keeping your kids home this summer, you can look forward to lots of memorable days (even if they’re not perfect!).


By Yael Blumenthal


Whether you just need to entertain your children between camp and school, or whether you’ve decided to keep them home for an entire half of summer like I do, there’s one important thing to remember. It’s not about, “Oh, this is my dream and it’s going to be a blast.” Rather, “This is going to work.” There will be days where your kids are kvetchy or fighting like crazy. Tomorrow, though, will be better. It’s not about perfect, idealistic days. Rather, it’s about having fun times that they’ll remember. They’ll remember their fun times with you, but they won’t remember the fights with their brother.

In my family, the oldest two boys go away to sleepaway camp for the second half of summer, but all the rest of the kids, age 11 and under, are home with me. My kids love having a time of year when there’s less structure and they’re more relaxed and not running to catch buses.

I don’t work during the summer, so this works for me. But in order for be to have the energy to keep my kids entertained all day, I must start the day with 90 minutes of swim time without the kids. That time is therapeutic for me. During this time, there will be help at home to watch the baby and my oldest daughter is in charge of doing an activity with the kids. Then, once I come home, we’re on the go. We’ll usually go out to one place each day.

Note that if the oldest child is old enough, appoint her/him as the “counselor.” She’s in charge of planning some of the activities and helping you out (it doesn’t have to always be with a smile). Most preteens will love the privilege and responsibility of being “in charge.”


Here’s some of the things we do:

(Note that I live in Lakewood, NJ, but you can find similar ideas and activities in your own hometown.)


*One morning, we go to the beach for sunrise. The kids don’t even need to get dressed, they go in their pajamas. The girls just throw on a skirt over. Then, they enjoy hot cocoa and cereal bars. If you can’t get out early, sunset time also works. It’s beautiful and the beach is empty at those times.


*Overcast day? That’s the perfect time to visit a sprinkler park (most people don’t go when it’s cloudy so you’ll have the park to yourself). I like to visit the Jackson Sprinkler Park and go the the Jackson library on the same day. They’re right next to each other.  


*I’m not such an arts and craftsy type of mom, but we will do a lot of food projects. One day is pizza day, and the kids make their own dough, assemble their pies, and then eat them for dinner. My oldest daughter is mostly in charge of doing the food projects with the younger kids.


*A visit to the fire station is a great outing for younger kids. Call ahead to see when it’s a good time to visit.


*On one day we visit iScream Kids and play games, climb in the jungle gym, and enjoy ice cream.


What to take to the pool. Here are some tips to make pooltime easier. Swimming Made Easy: 4 Ways to Make Pool Time (and Laundry Time) Easier for Mom. Pool time is lots of fun. Collecting lots of wet stuff afterwards? Not as much.*We’ll rent a pool sometimes and go swimming. This is most fun when planned with neighbors.


*One afternoon, we’ll have a pajama party at home. The kids will get into pajamas and we’ll roast marshmallows, cuddle up with blankets, and read stories.


*One day is school supply day! The kids actually love this outing.


*You can do lots of fun things with shaving cream and sidewalk chalk.


*If you’ll be doing Mommy camp for an extended period of time, it’s nice to get away for a few days for your “grand trip.” We go upstate to the Catskills for a few days.


*If I see good deals on new toys or games, I’ll put them away and save them for the second half of summer.


*When we have a picnic in the park in the evening for dinner, my husband will join us.


*There’s lots of parks we like to visit. Here’s our personal favorites in the Lakewood area. If you live in New York or Northern New Jersey, you can find more recommendations in this post.


Turkey Swamp Park

Manasquan Reservoir

Jackson Jungle

Dorbrook Recreation Area

Atlantic Farms (when it’s not too hot)

Lake Carasaljo


What are your favorite mommy camp activities?



  1. Thanks! Great ideas!
    1.Tie dye, we do it outside in bathing suits.
    2.My kids have made a “restaurant” for supper. They plane the menu. Type it or draw it up. Take orders and execute. Paninis, pizza, eggs, ice coffee, chocolate milk… things they can prepare themselves.
    3. I buy blank canvases at Walmart and a bunch of the 50 cent acrylic paints, definitely a fave!
    4. And a 1000 count puzzle is great to have out for tweens and teens, I love how much comraderie it brings.

  2. Wow love some of those ideas! Here are some things we’ve been doing: swimming (have a kiddie pool) once a week well go to a big outdoor pool which is a big treat. Other water activities outside like painting with water, coloring with chalk and then spraying water on it, ice cubes. Today we painted outside and then washed down with the hose (in pajamas!) Sand is fun, before water time like that it washes right off. Lots of cheap amazing savings type of crafts and puzzles and coloring books keep them very busy. Also take them out every day, even the grocery is a trip.

  3. wow!!! I’m so impressed!!! Usually, I send my kids to camp and go back to sleep!!!! I think I’m going to try this next year!!! When my kids are home in between school and camp I usually tell them to go to a friend or play outside for fifteen minutes with them!! I know I sound like a lazy mom but I do make supper lunch and breakfast, go shopping with my kids etc!!! maybe I need to hang out with them more!!! thanks a ton!!! you really helped, me!!!


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