No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks…that’s right, school is out for summer. Less structure, more free time, and heat and humidity can lead to some cranky and bored children. So how, as parents, can you engineer a pleasant and enjoyable summer?

1. First, involve your child in an activity. Summer should be a time of leisure to regroup from the stresses of the school year but it should not be a time to lay around all day watching television or playing video games. Summer camp, art classes, baseball and such are good choices that allow your child to be active, to socialize and to have fun. Choose something that your child is interested in, even allowing them to choose. The same applies for teenagers. A summer job such as life-guarding or volunteering at a summer camp are great ways to become involved, enhance responsibility and even earn a little extra spending money.

2. Structure the day as much as possible. Children, and teens too, typically don’t fare well with too much unstructured free time. You will most likely find them under your feet repeatedly complaining about how bored they are. Remember children and teens are used to getting up at a certain time, going to school with a routine for classes and after school activities, dinner, homework, bed. So, try to mimic such a routine. Set up specific times for meals, television, reading, play, etc.

3. Schedule more family time. Between school, sports and homework, it often seems that there is not enough family time during the school year. So, take advantage of the summer. And remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. We are lucky to live on the doorstep of one of the greatest cities. Every weekend, there is a different festival, many of which have specific activities for children. Every museum has a free day. The beaches are beautiful.

4. Be prepared for vacations by car, train or plane. No parent wants to hear “are we there yet” an hour into a five hour car ride. Talk to your child or teen before, letting them know what to expect, how long it will take, etc. Pack plenty of snacks. Have lots of music on hand. And make DVDs your best friend. Technology is a savior in this area.

5. Finally, keep your children learning so that they return to school in the fall ready for the next grade. Keep it fun and interesting. Learning doesn’t have to mean doing math problems for an hour a day. It simply means reading a good book, doing a science experiment, learning about dinosaurs at the Field Museum, or playing a learning-based computer or video game.

With these summer survival strategies, hopefully you will not hear the words “I’m bored” every five minutes. Rather your family will breeze through the summer!