Unless there were a lot of snow days during the school year, many parents are faced with a dilemma: how to fill the unavoidable gap of time between the last day of school and the first day of summer camp. Oh, yeah, and there are also the days between the last day of camp and the first day of school, too.

When you see those big blank spots on your calendar, don’t worry — here are a few things you can try.

Temporary care

For single parent households or households where both adults work and can’t spend time at home during the day, temporary babysitters are an excellent option to explore. College students and teachers are often looking for temporary jobs over the summer, so it’s a great time to meet someone new! Post a job to find a great “camp gap” sitter.

If hiring a temporary babysitter is something that you already know you want to do, the earlier you start looking for one, the better. Most temporary babysitters looking for summer work finalize their plans by the time summer starts.

Quality kid-parent time

Planning on being home with the kids on those in-between weeks? There are plenty of things that you can do to keep your kids active and happy.

Set up a scavenger hunt while the kids take a nap. The prize can be their snack or a small treat, and the clues don’t have to be fancy. You can just write down instructions on small pieces of paper and hide them around the house. Add a layer of education to the scavenger hunt and make it a scavenger hunt in nature. Quick Hunts is a great place to find free, printable scavenger and treasure hunts for kids — and adults — of all ages.

At-home learning projects are a great way to have educational fun with your child. Bright Horizons offers a bunch of different, free learning projects, games and activities to try out with your kids including treasure hunts, beach ball math, musical drinking glasses and more. Want help picking a lesson plan? Education World has a library of lesson plans (many of which are submitted by teachers) you can use.

Have a camp out, even if it’s in your own backyard. You can hunt for lightning bugs together, stargaze, tell spooky stories, and of course, make s’mores. No campout is complete without s’mores. This awesome blog post over at My Kids Adventures will walk you through the hows and how-tos of hosting a backyard campout.

Start a business! Summer time is the right time for lemonade stands, bake sales, and yard sales to name just a few home business options. Kidpreneurs are responsible for some big brands — think Zappos! Brick Stix and Jenny Craig — so why not start teaching yours about entrepreneurship? Follow these five steps from Entrepreneur.com to get started.

Who says book clubs are just for grown ups? Have a mini-book club with your kids where you read a book together or separately, and then talk about it. Or you can start a neighborhood book club by inviting your children’s friends and their parents too. Need help coming up with a good book list? Children’s Book Club of the Month is a great place to start.

Subscription boxes are all the rage, so why not take some pressure off yourself and subscribe to one or two for your kids? BabbaBox is one such box that caters to children between the ages of 3 and 6, offering crafts and activities based on a varying monthly theme. Each box comes with enough materials to complete 2-3 projects, ships for free, and is only $29.99/month. KiwiCrate is another kid-centric subscription box service, offering crates for kids ranging in age from 3 to 9+ that encourage creativity and curiosity. You can start creating and learning with KiwiCrate for as little as $16.95/month.

Encourage your kids to start a summer journal and help them to write in it every day.

What to do between shorter summer sessions

Some day camps and summer camps are session-based, meaning they last for a week or two weeks and then break for a week or two before continuing again. A lot of times these camps are designed to give first-timers an introduction to the full sleep-away summer camp experience.

While these types of gaps may seem harder to handle, they actually provide a great opportunity to reinforce lessons that were just learned. After all, summer learning loss is a real problem. Look at the different activities your summer camp offers and think of ways to continue the learning once the session’s over.

Various at-home learning activities and MOOCs (massive open online courses) have been steadily growing in popularity. There are even MOOCs for kids on all kinds of subjects including engineering, coding, science and more! Don’t limit the learning to home — take the break between summer sessions to visit local museums, historic places and cultural hotspots.

Plan for summer vacation

When all else fails, one option is to use the spare time to plan your upcoming summer vacation. But don’t do it on your own — let your kids participate. Take the time and ask them what kind of things they’d like to do, or where they’d like to go, and then explore your different travel options together as a family. Check out Google Maps to see what else is around that you can check out with your family when on vacation. Planning upcoming vacations with your kids will make them feel more invested and give them something to look forward to. 

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