Many parents dread that countdown to summer vacation and the whining and boredom that ensues. One summer, I devised a schedule and went over it with the kids, got their input, and it worked beautifully. They knew what was going to happen each day and so they had something to look forward to.

We sat down and I asked them what sort of activities they wanted on the schedule. I also gave them input into what time was wake-up so that they knew they weren't going to spend the entire day sleeping, but still, they had some say.

The beauty of this is that it not only gives your children structure and something to look forward to, but it also allows you to connect as a family and (don't tell them) teaches them valuable skills in the process.

There is work and advanced planning involved in setting up a summer schedule, but in the long run, your weeks will run so much smoother.

Our schedule was something like this:

Make-a-meal Monday

This requires a lot of planning, but involve everyone and give them cooking skills by letting them participate in the preparation of the week's meals. Set up an assembly line and assign someone to cut or chop, someone to mix or blend and someone to fetch. Even the little ones can measure ingredients. Then allow everyone to participate in the clean-up. Stand back and smile at your week's dinners already done and ready to go.

Road trip Tuesday

Day trip to someplace interesting. This requires advanced planning on your part, but there are generally enough places close enough to home that you can visit in a day: zoos, aquariums, factory tours, parks, hiking trails, nursing homes, botanical gardens, farms, orchards, dairies or museums.

Literary Wednesday

Spend a few hours at the library. This not only allows them to take their time to find the books they want, but there are so many other resources there to take advantage of. Participate in a summer reading program if they have one. Just allow them quiet space to sit and read. Give them the rest of the day to lose themselves in their books.

Grow-a-talent Thursday

Choose a different type of artistic endeavor to teach them each Thursday. Skills such as knitting, beading looms, embroidery, scrapbooking, photography, watercolor, music, dance, singing, make a movie, jewelry-making, etc. If you don't know how to do a certain project, exchange with other moms who have those particular talents.

Movie Friday

To celebrate the end of a successful week, spend the day in your pajamas and watch wholesome movies. Eat popcorn. Make blanket tents. Just chill.

Gardening Saturday

Give each child a "crop" to grow. Supply everyone with a container, some soil, seeds, and teach them about germination, cultivation, soil pH, etc. Make sure to incorporate their crops into your menu when the time comes.

Adapt this kind of schedule to your own family and what they are interested in. The key here is that if you take the time to plan and schedule, everyone will be happier. Maybe include a day when your kids visit other friends and you actually have a day off. You can even make Saturday a chore day and a time to prepare for the week ahead of them.

Most of all, enjoy your time with these little creatures. You only have so many summers with them. Make them count!

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