I both look forward to and somewhat dread the start of summer. While it's my favorite season of the year, and I'm excited to get more time with my children, I work at home. Summer break always puts a big dent in my productivity. Ultimately, it's a great "dent" to have, because the reason I work at home is to hang out with the family in the first place.
I've gotten pretty good at keeping my kids busy while I have to work. Of course, the older they get, the less they want to hang out with me. So I've broken down my suggestions into age-appropriate categories:
Activities for Children Age 1-4
If your kids are in this age bracket - I feel for you! Really, I had a hard time getting anything done without a part time sitter or a "mother's helper". But for the days that you have to work and the little ones are right there with you, here's a few ideas:
Buy age appropriate computer games - my kids started at the age of 2
Set up easy to find bookmarks for kid-friendly sites - I have my kids' sites set up with the rest of my shortcuts right on my Firefox toolbars:
Stock up on workbooks and coloring books, along with crayons, markers, stencils, etc. and plenty of plain paper
Create an activity 'station' where the kids can go to make a mess whenever they want
Create a baby-proofed room and barricade yourselves in - baby plays while you answer emails!
Rotate toys - kids get bored quickly, so once or twice a month, hide the old and bring in the new!
Get a baby sling or baby backpack - my kids never made a peep when they could sit in their backpack and watch what mom or dad was doing
Activities for Children Age 4-7
Keep the kids moving and active (in my house, I have a harder time keeping them still!!)
Take trips to the Library - and do business research while you're there if you need to!
Download fun worksheets and sneak in some learning.
Make or buy a flower press and let the kids weed the garden for you.
Get a sandbox - just make sure you also get a lid so that it doesn't turn into the neighborhood litter box!
Order cheap craft project kits from Oriental Trading (they have great stuff for older kids too)
Teach your kids how to make a fortune teller.
Buy a cheap digital camera for your budding photographer
Let them create their own scrapbooks
Teach them to create their own PowerPoint presentations
Download a free screen saver maker and let them create their own slideshows
Throw the images into Photoshop or any image editing software and create ink jet t-shirt transfers
Keep on hand at ALL TIMES:
Board games (with all the pieces!!)
Working sprinkler or kiddie pool (preferably both)
Bookmark these activity web sites:
Lest I miss stating the obvious:
Activities for Children Age 8-13
Here's more general family-friendly project links and Summer Activities for Children Age 8-13 to round out the list. The article became so popular on our site that we created a whole section of Sparkplugging dedicated to kids crafts, project ideas and easy recipes.