When the kids are home from school for the summer, parents can easily feel like a cruise ship director. But remember that you don't always need to direct their summer activities, and kids are often better off when you let them entertain themselves. Try out these ideas to see what works for them (and you).

1. Apps on the iPad.

Load it up with several educational apps, and relax while they enjoy some screen time.

2. Read books.

Reading is the ultimate quiet time activity. Have older siblings read to the younger ones who aren't yet reading on their own.

3. Books on tape (or CD).

Listening to a story is sometimes more fun than reading it, especially for beginning readers.

4. Card games.

Card games can get out of hand, but they're usually fairly subdued. Think Uno, Old Maid, or War.

5. Board games.

But only the ones they can play themselves without needing an adult to explain the directions or break up arguments.

6. Paper dolls.

Many children will quietly dress paper dolls for hours on end.

7. Puzzles.

But only those which don't cause a lot of frustration or require too much help.

8. Lacing cards.

Lacing cards require patience and concentration, and are perfect for developing fine motor skills.

9. Clay.

Even older children enjoy working with clay, usually more than they are willing to admit.

10. Imaginative play.

Keep a dress-up bin, and don't be surprised by imaginary friends.

11. Knitting.

Lots of kids are knitting these days; maybe yours will love it too?

12. Finger weaving.

Similar to knitting, finger weaving requires no needles — which means no worries about somebody poking an eye out.

13. Sensory bins.

Fill bins with sand, marbles, measuring cups, and more, and watch as your little one scoops and pours to his heart's content. Find inspiration from this Ultimate List of Sensory Bin Ideas.

14. Write a book.

Encourage older kids to check out Scribblitt, where they can write and publish their own story.

15. Write letters.

Have your kids write letters to long-distance family members, a pen pal, or troop members overseas.

16. Keep a journal.

Even preschoolers can draw pictures of how they're spending summer vacation.

17. Do chores.

Not exactly entertainment, but chores are a task they should be completing daily. Have them sweep, dust, and sort laundry while you enjoy some peace.

18. Put on a puppet show.

Maybe for their stuffed animals?

19. Make breakfast.

Again, not entirely entertaining for the kids, but insisting on self-serve summer breakfast gives you a much-needed break.

20. Play outdoors.

Let them climb on the jungle gym or dig for worms or plan a spontaneous softball game with the kids next door.

21. Invite friends over.

This may seem counter-intuitive if you're looking to make less work for yourself, but sometimes another child in the house is the best source of entertainment you can find.

How do your children entertain themselves when you need a break?