School is out, and summer is here!
What are you going to do all summer? How do you keep your kids from getting bored? Where can you find things to do that will occupy your time and the time of your kids? How do you teach your kids that life goes on, that summer isn’t all about them, and that they can make their own memories without constantly needing to have something to do?
I have some ideas, and they’re based on my experiences as a stay-at-home mom of six. You are welcome to take my suggestions and use them to fit your own family. Many of the decisions you make about your summer will depend on the number and the ages of your children, your income, and where you live. So while my suggestions worked for our family, you’ll want to tweak them to fit yours. Remember that these are ideas, and you certainly shouldn’t try to do them all.
Go ahead. Pick and choose. I really won’t mind.
At the end of summer, what do you hope to have accomplished?
Do you want a relaxing summer, a busy summer, or a combination of both? Do you want to find things to do that your kids will enjoy or find things to do that you think they should enjoy?
Granted, sometimes a child just needs to try something before becoming hooked. But don’t make the summer all about your agenda for your kids. What are their interests?
Set your goals.
Summer goals. Do you have goals? What are they? Make sure those goals are realistic. It’s better to have a few goals and reach them than to plan too much and not accomplish anything.
Once you have written down your goals, map out your plan on how you’re going to reach those goals by the end of summer. What do your kids want to do? Do you have a budding artist, a photographer in the making, a longing-to-be-a seamstress child? Let each child choose one thing they’d like to accomplish this summer, or a place they’d like to visit. Make a calendar for what you will do each week. Then check it off when it happens.
Start local and small.
For summer fun (or any fun),you don’t have to spend a bunch of money. What is there to do in your neighborhood/county? Is there a museum? Have you been to the Library or experienced story time at the Library? Have they visited a fire station, a rescue squad, a police department, a train station, or an airport? Schedule a visit to one or two of these and then top it off with a stop at the Dairy Queen to reward good behavior.
How many parks are there with picnic areas? Pack a picnic lunch after a visit to the library. By the time you get home, they will be ready for some quiet, relaxing time. You might even get to take a nap!
Arrange play dates. Swap days with other moms; you entertain yours and hers for a day (or part of a day) and then let her return the favor.
Use summer to broaden your horizons.
Are there cultural events you can attend? Choose one to key in on for the summer. You could plan a trip out of town for an afternoon or evening. Let Google be your friend! Most of us spend more time and money visiting sites away from home. Often there are treasures in our own hometown if we but look around or ask.
Structure is important – for you and for your kids. If there’s never a set time for breakfast, then there won’t be a set time for lunch. You can spend the whole day in the kitchen cleaning up after the last kid or meal. If your family doesn’t eat breakfast together, then set a time when the kitchen closes for breakfast. A child can opt to sleep in if he is willing to forgo breakfast (yes, I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day; he’ll figure that out if he goes hungry for a morning).
When my kids were young, we called Tuesday our Project Day. We chose one project we could do together. Sometimes it was a crazy recipe; sometimes it was a craft. Other days we went on walks and collected leaves or acorns or flowers. Tuesday afternoon was my time to do my project (write). My kids respected that time because I had invested in them the entire morning.
Use your “away days” as an incentive to get things done at home the day before. Tell your kids, “Just think how nice it will be to come home tomorrow after our day at the park and not have to do any laundry or clean any bathrooms because we have gotten it all done today!”
Learning doesn’t stop in summer
If you have a child who struggles with a particular subject in school, find ways to incorporate that subject during the summer. If it’s math, then have him help you mix a batch of brownies and double the recipe. Let him do the math. Go on a walk and map out the steps, adding the numbers for each turn you made. Let him shell out the cash for the ice cream cones and then count the change to see if it was correct.
If your child struggles in reading, have him/her read to a younger sibling every day to “help” you. Help him find an age-appropriate book at the library that will be easy to read. “Assign” him so many pages a day. Take turns reading the book with him, making it a cuddle time.
I think it’s a great idea to read to your kids every day. When my kids were in upper elementary school, I read books to them after lunch nearly every day. It helped the younger ones go to sleep and the older ones relax. It was good for me, too. Choosing books that are long enough to take a week or two to read will help them anticipate the next chapter, especially if you stop where there’s a lot of suspense. My kids still talk about the summer I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.
A tidy house is a peaceful house. When there is disorder in the house, it affects our attitudes and cooperativeness. Figure out a schedule by which child is responsible for which room or job/chore. When you call, “All hands on deck!” it means everybody hustles to his/her room and whips it into shape in ten minutes or less. Set the timer and see how they do. When it’s all done in ten minutes or less, hand out some rewards (a pack of sugarless gum never hurt any kid). Finding hidden coins under sofas and beds gives children incentive to do a good job in cleaning up.
There’s no place like home.
While it can be exciting to visit different places and have things to do, I think kids need days when they can just be at home, playing with their toys and creating with whatever is in the house. Help your kids learn to have fun at home. My philosophy is that you should spend more time at home than away from home.
One day when my boys didn’t want to play with each other and they couldn’t think of anything to do, I had them clean out the toy closet. I used reverse psychology and told them that when they were done, they could play with any toys they wanted to except the blocks. Guess what they begged to play with the entire time they were cleaning out the closet? That’s right. They wanted to play with the blocks. Finally, I “relented”. When they were bored and couldn’t think of anything to play, suddenly they had a myriad of ideas of what they could do with those blocks if only they were allowed to play with them!
Your summer will be gone before you know it. Plan ahead and then be flexible. Don’t sweat the small stuff, read to them daily, love on them, and you will experience one of your best summers ever!
I posted this blog first over six years ago. Our days of kiddos in the house on a daily basis are gone, but I still use these ideas when kiddos come here to visit.