Activity Scheduling Tips for Moms: How to Easily Plan Summer Schedules and Beyond

activity scheduling tips for working momsSummer schedules are already starting to be released, so I thought it might be good today to talk about how you take care of activity scheduling for kids — what are your best activity scheduling tips for moms, dads, and other caregivers? Do you use an Excel spreadsheet to schedule your kids’ activities, like I do? In general, how do you find classes and camps for your little one? Share your best activity scheduling tips with us here, ladies, lest we all end up with brain teasers like in this McSweeney’s post on the perfect summer camp schedule

My top activity scheduling tips for working moms (or other parental units/caregivers) include:

An Excel Sheet for Scheduling Summer Activities

Last year on the web I found a great printable summer schedule on Pinterest from blogger Simply Kierste, and it was revelatory — I loved the way it laid out all the weeks of the summer, and found it super helpful to schedule different activities, classes, and vacations for my boys. I also liked that it was printable and easily shareable with family and other caregivers. It seemed easier to me than my usual Google calendar — less fussy, easier to remove things, easier to see what I wanted to see at a glance, etc. I’ve already updated the schedule for this year and started putting things on it! (I actually was going to share my 2017 schedule with you for download, but that feels a little weird since it’s obviously this other blogger’s work product — so I’ll just reference her blog, even though it doesn’t look like she’s yet updated for 2017 yet — it only takes a few minutes.)

printable summer schedule

I’ve also tried scheduling classes on a micro level, via an Excel spreadsheet I made up myself that has half-hour blocks of time from 9-6:30 as rows and the days of the week as columns — but that gets confusing when classes run different lengths of weeks… so until I find something better I’m going to be using the printable summer schedule from SimplyKierste!

A Bookmarks Folder Full of Local Classes to Find Which Classes are Offered

As for HOW I’ve found classes — when my youngest was first born I referenced a Google doc put together by a local parents listserv, which was helpful to know, for example, that a local college sometimes offered swimming lessons for kids — it hadn’t even occurred to me that there was a pool in the building near us. What I do most now, though, is simpler: I keep a bookmarks folder in my browser of all local classes, and when it’s time for a new round of scheduling classes, I open all tabs in a new window and peruse the offerings, times, and costs. These days there are newer apps like Sawyer (in NYC and LA only right now) to help find and schedule kids’ classes, but even that seems to specialize in drop-in classes — I’d love to know if you guys know of any similar apps or services..

How about you guys — what’s your system for scheduling classes? Have you already started planning  summer vacation with your family and summer camps for your kiddos? (How about school break camps for spring?) Do you know of any other apps or websites that help you schedule services — do you have a better system than I do? (One must exist, right?) 

Picture credit: Pixabay.

If trying to figure out the perfect summer camp schedule has you going cross-eyed, we GET IT -- these are our top tips for how to schedule activities for kids with as little fuss as possible.

kid activity scheduling tips for parents


  1. avocado says:

    This system seems made for SAHMs, not working moms who need full-time child care coverage. I can’t take my kid to 2-hour classes during the day.

    I have been collecting information on the various day and overnight camp options since my kid was in pre-K. In our area, most day camp registration periods begin on February 1. Some schedules are released earlier, but on the other hand some of the most desirable camps don’t release their schedules until March. It is usually pretty easy to predict which weeks a particular camp will run, so I will typically start plotting out the kid’s summer schedule week by week in December. What usually ends up happening is that we start by blocking out weeks for sleepaway camp and vacation, next for the better enrichment-type day camps, then fill in with other options. I also have to factor in weeks when we might ship the kid off to visit distant relatives, my business travel plans (summer is high season for conferences and training and her dad does not do camp pickups or drop-offs), and the schedules of friends with whom she wants to attend camp. Sometimes this means that I don’t have coverage confirmed for a particular week until mid-spring. Once in a while I have to fill in with a babysitter.

    To complicate things further, her sports team practices several mornings a week and doesn’t finalize its schedule until May. I usually schedule camps on the assumption that the practice schedule will be similar from summer to summer, but last year the team made a series of major changes to the practice schedule at the last minute. Fortunately, we were able to change the camp schedule multiple times to accommodate the team manager’s indecisiveness, which would not be possible in most cities.

    I always end up taking the last week of summer off because there are no camps offered that week and there are tons of things going on with sports and school.

    I am exhausted just writing this. I am not looking forward to another summer of camp transportation insanity.

    • Anon in NYC says:

      Just reading this gives me a little anxiety! So much work!

    • EBMom says:

      I respectfully disagree–I think this calendar could work for working moms too.

      For my family, we will be doing a combination of babysitter, camps, and vacation, and I think this calendar could help me keep track of where kiddo should be (and who is in charge of getting her there) throughout each week of summer.

  2. Linda De Jesus says:

    check out this site to find all fun kids activities in NYC area.

  3. Anon in NOVA says:

    I’m struggling a bit with what to do for this summer with kiddo.
    Last summer we did a local county’s park authority camps. However, you had to register week by week and pay at the time of registration. But things filled up so quickly! I found myself racking up a credit card bill in March while I pre-paid for all of the summer care while still paying for rather expensive before/after school care in real time. Then I had to spend the next few months paying myself back. Yuck. However, it was cheaper overall than his before/after school daycare’s camp, and I could simply just not register him for camps the 2 weeks we went on vacation, which saved additional money.

    His before/after school daycare does a summer camp and they seem to do a lot of field trips etc. It’s $450/week though, but I’m thinking it would be worth it just to get to pay a week at a time as the care is occurring, and to not stress about trying to figure out camps/schedules one week at a time. I do need to find out if I have the option of not paying for weeks we’re on vacation, though.

    • avocado says:

      Have you tried the YMCA? Ours lets you put down a deposit of something like $15 per week and pay the rest week by week, only charges for weeks you use, is less expensive than day care, and offers more of a real “camp” experience including daily swim lessons.

      Our local parks and rec camp is so inexpensive that it would be cheaper to pay credit card interest on the tuition than to pay by the week for day care. Kids who have been also report that it is more fun than day care. (We can’t try it because the hours are not long enough–the brochure even explicitly states that “camp is not intended to serve as a substitute for full-time child care”!)

      • Anon in NOVA says:

        Oh man that’s a bummer! The YMCA isn’t close enough to home/our jobs (we both reverse commute a bit). Parks and rec was still cheaper over all, it just felt so much more stressful! I had to find an interesting camp, make sure it was an all-day one, make sure that location offered before/ after care, make sure there was room in the camp AND before care AND after care… then repeat that for every week.

        Our new daycare has a pool (crazy, right?!) so I’m thinking that will make a difference for him. I was hoping for more outside time with the parks and rec camps last year, but it largely ended up with them playing games in indoor gymnasiums and swimming in an indoor pool. At least that was the case for the camps that covered a full work day. Sigh.

        It’s always so disappointing to find something perfect/cheap and realize it only covers 9-4 or something crazy!!

        • avocado says:

          Too bad about the Y. I hear you on the stress–sounds like the extra expense of day care will be worth it for the peace of mind, especially with the pool!

  4. This will be me in one year’s time. I’m hoping to opt out of all the camps and hire some local responsible high schooler for the summer. I figure they can spend most of the day playing in the backyard and/or walking to the park. There’s only one major road to cross to get to a pool, so once a week they can ride bikes/pull a wagon to the pool and hang out there. I’m actually hoping I can hire one of the older kids in a family with a sahm, so I know there’s a responsible adult in the neighborhood he/she can call if S really hits the fan.

    I did this when I was in high school and it was the easiest money. I think I made $150/week to watch three kids for 10-ish hours a day. And I just spent the day watching them play and making them snacks. They were potty trained, so I didn’t even have to wipe their butts.

    Maybe this is a pipe dream, but I’m holding on to it for as long as I can.

    • Anon in NOVA says:

      I hope that works out for you! That sounds like a great plan, especially having the peace of mind that there’s a SAHM around! Going through neighborhood networks is the way to go.
      I did a nanny share with someone a couple of summers ago, and we were looking for someone to watch our 2 kids (both 4 or 5 at the time) for $600/week cash (yes I know I know shouldn’t have been cash). It was really difficult to find someone in our area to do it for that money. I got a lot of really rude messages about how that worked out to less than $15/hr and how insulting it was to even offer that etc. I think it would have been more successful if we had gone through a known network ie. the neighborhood.

  5. October says:

    Honest question: how do introvert kids handle the camp-on-camp-on-camp schedules? I have an 18-month-old so we aren’t there, but as a kid that would’ve sounded like TORTURE for me. I pretty much read and played with my sisters and swam at my grandma’s house all summer. I love the idea above about hiring a babysitter to just stay home with the kids. I feel like summer should be a break for kids (if at all possible), you know?

    • In my ideal world, that’s how it would be. However, I can’t even find a high school student to babysit on a Friday evening, let alone the whole summer. So off to daycare my kid goes. I go back-and-forth between guilt and no guilt. Field trips are part of the program and he gets to do a lot of cool stuff (more than if I were at home with him), but I wish his summers felt a little more free-range.

    • My introverted 8 year old boy does not handle different camps well at all. We tried one year and it caused him way too much stress. He is fine if he goes to the same camp or center all summer long, but the constant change was too much for him. My 6 year old girl couldn’t care less and happily adjusts fine, but we like to keep them together.

    • marketingchic says:

      My introvert son prefers to stay in one camp all summer. He has stuck with the summer program at his school. Seems boring to me, but they have plenty of unstructured time for reading, board games, legos, etc, and he needs the “down” time. I tried to put in week-long programs to mix things up, but he likes staying in a familiar environment with kids he konws.

  6. What is with all the day camps that don’t actually run a full day? I have no idea how any family with two parents who work full time outside the home are supposed to logistically manage that.

    Our youngest kiddo’s daycare offers a summer program for school-age kids that includes lots of fun and field trips. We supplement the daycare program with a special one-week camp at our local zoo or children’s museum. Around here, the day camps are pricey. Cobbling together a full summer of camps would cost us more, by far, than full-time daycare.

    In another year, I know we’ll need to figure out something else because our oldest will be aging out of the daycare program. I would love to find a summer nanny, but I have no idea if it’s feasible or affordable, or even how to find one in my small city.

  7. KateMiddletown says:

    When do you start planning Summer Camps? For me, trying to think about this in February would just be a rockig chair of worry. There are so many other schedules I need to make these decisions (aka spouse, older kids, grandparents) that I would be silly to try to set all this up right now.

    I think last year I just printed out an Outlook 3 months and we color coded our way towards chaos. I’m definitely on Team There’s Gotta Be a Better Way.

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