Kids frequently start their summer breaks with great enthusiasm, only to tire of the freedom sometime around early August. Playing all day is fine to a point—but too much purposeless activity, too many unstructured days, too many days when it seems you’ve done everything a hundred times over, and the dullest school classroom can look good by comparison.

Long unstructured summer vacations aren’t great for parents either, as you know if you’ve ever had someone hanging on each leg whining about “nothing to do” or demanding snacks/movie money/a ride somewhere. Here are a few ideas for helping your whole family enjoy the whole summer vacation:

1. Take a Trip

Saving family trips for August, rather than going while your kids’ clothes still smell of the classroom, helps distribute the excitement of new activities throughout the season. If you’ve already used up your own vacation time, spend a family weekend at a nearby campground or bed-and-breakfast.

take a trip

2. Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Your Chamber of Commerce or visitors’ bureau can direct you to local museums, parks, and farmers’ markets you haven’t discovered. Pick up a few brochures and plan a series of outings.

3. Make Some New Friends

Check Meetup.com, local religious congregations, your nearest library, or your friendly Chamber of Commerce for upcoming events your whole family will enjoy. Strike up conversations with fellow attendees. Find someone you’d like to know better, and suggest a coffee outing or play date.

4. Read a Few Good Books

read a few good books

If your neighborhood library is tiny and your kids have “read everything” there, visit the central library in the nearest good-sized town (many issue checkout cards to anyone who lives within reasonable distance). After you get your books, add some novelty by reading outdoors, reading out loud to each other, or inventing creative projects based on a story.

5. Do Something Creative

Build a bookcase, plant a garden, paint a group mural for your living room, invite friends over for a dinner you cook yourselves.

6. Volunteer for Something

What are you and your kids passionate about? Finding homes for abandoned cats, fixing up apartments in inner-city neighborhoods, raising money to build schools overseas? Find a religious congregation or nonprofit that’s holding a fundraiser or needs more everyday help, and volunteer as a family (even little kids can fold napkins or pick up trash). Take the opportunity to personally meet some of the people (or animals) your work benefits; chances are they’ll have much to give back!

7. Plan for the Future

Working for your passions needn’t stop with brief volunteer stints. Let your kids brainstorm ideas for future projects—and eventual careers—doing similar work. Then make “vision board” collages for everyone in the family. Yes, that includes you. There’s nothing like parental example for encouraging kids to enjoy life year round, and to keep learning and growing indefinitely!

plan for the future