Summer means different things to different kids. For some, it means sleeping in until 9:30 and then heading out to play with friends. For others, it means the fun of camp. For still others, it means practicing some adult responsibilities. How you plan for these activities determines how smoothly your summer goes. Here are five tips to help you plan summer for kids from elementary aged to driving aged.

1. Balance Structure With Play The Brain Balance Centers website reminds parents that kids should have both structured and unstructured time. It is when kids are having fun that they practice some brain-building skills. However, maintaining structure is also important, especially for kids with conditions such as ADHD. It helps them to anticipate what’s coming up and even to plan for activities. These activities will not only help to keep you feeling sane and balanced, but they’ll help kids feel more in control, too. Additionally, kids need to learn how to structure their time so that they can make the most of it. 

2. Getting Ready for Camp Many kids adore going to summer camp. It’s helpful for parents to remember, however, that even if kids feel excited about going off to camp, they may also feel anxious. If your kids are attending summer camp, help them prep for summer break by prepping them for camp. The Camp Champions website suggests that it’d be good to not only take a camp tour with your child, but to meet the camp staff, too. 

3. Kids of Driving Age Not all kids who will be at home will be elementary-school aged kids. If your kids are teenagers, your challenges for getting them ready for summer will be different. Some will work, for example. If that is the case, the best way that you can help them is to guide them through the process.  Maybe they don’t know how to fill out an application for a summer job. Maybe they need cheap car insurance so that they can drive themselves to work. Whatever it is, be prepared to offer advice without doing all the work for them. Summers for kids this age are about learning to transition out of childhood and school and into adulthood.

4. Maintaining Their Academic Skills While summer means that kids have no formal schooling to attend to each day. However, that doesn’t mean that their academics should be allowed to slip completely. One way to prep for summer is to plan a few “academic maintenance” activities. Summer reading challenges, math camps, and summer science fairs are just some of the ways that kids can keep up on their studies. Plan for this by talking to them about the activities they’d like to do and then, ask them to help you plan these activities.

5. Family Time Summer also means that your family members may have more time to spend with one another. Most of the time, though not always, this is during a family vacation. If your family is taking a big vacation this year, ask each of your kids to help plan for it. This will help you look for activities that everyone can do. It’ll also ensure that the vacation, including the picture, isn’t only from your point of view. Conde Nast Traveler recommends this approach, especially with older kids. You also need to chat with them about it because all of you will have to plan around the other activities you already have going on. Ideally, this and other conversations will happen before summer commences. That will help them and you get ready for summer break.

Planning for summer with your kids really depends on the age and interests of your kids. If your kids are older, they’re gaining more independence and even driving and getting jobs. If they’re younger, they may be going away to camp. The trick is to try to find activities that all your kids like. These should be activities that they also get some say in choosing and can help you plan. This helps them mentally prepare for summer, provided that you start your planning before the summer months start.