Exorbitant hotel rates, $80 gas tanks and high food costs are keeping more families in the backyard and out of the not–so–friendly skies. While jaunts around the country sound like a tantalizing way to spend the warmer school–free months, your own home can be a just as thrilling oasis.

If you're vacationing at home, don't wear yourself out at the park and library every day — turn your environment into a destination for you and your kids. To see what I recommend,


  • Brainstorm: Sit down with your family for a brainstorm session where you all discuss fun things you want to accomplish this summer.
  • Name It: At the end of your meeting, come up with a name for your Summer like Camp Casa.
  • Theme: Map out a theme for each week — ocean, camping, carnival, zoo, teddy bear, gardening, book week, etc.
  • Activities: Each day, create an activity that pertains to the theme. If camping is your theme of the week, you can teach your tots how to pitch a tent in your backyard. Then you can "cook" s'mores for dessert at dinner.
  • Wrap It Up: At the end of each week, tie it all together with a field trip to a place where the youngsters can apply their new knowledge. If dinosaurs have been your focus, take them to a museum. If you have been playing with teddy bears all week, a trip to Build–A–Bear is sure to be a hit with the wee ones.

If you simply need to fill some time in your day, have your children build an obstacle course in the family room. You can kick back and observe (read a book) while they wear themselves out. When night falls, everyone will slumber well in his or her own cozy cocoons.

If you have some down home entertaining ideas, share them in the comments.