School is finally out. And with that comes hot days, sunshine, the pool, and the kids at home full time. As a stay-at-home mom, summers never felt different to me than any other season. Kind of like the weekends. “Yay. Here we all are…together. Again.”
In general, I actually get really, really excited about summertime. I am always in a little funk in the fall when they go back to school because I miss them. They’re hilarious, fun, and full of life. However, as they get older, there is definitely a certain amount of “brace yourself” that goes into my mental space through the month of May as I prepare to parent without my school breaks.
Every year, the mamas I see every spring start to get in a tizzy around this time. How will we survive summer with all our kids home? How will we keep them occupied? Fed? Happy? And more importantly, how will we cope?
A few days ago, I was putting together morning work folders for my kids. I was simultaneously texting a best friend of mine. We were both having some attitude and discipline issues with our oldest, so I randomly started making suggestions to her (because you know…none of it worked for my kid but maybe it will work for hers? LOL). I told her about our morning work folders, our simple daily chores, our afternoon quiet time and reading hour, etc.
She then texted, “Thank you. This feels really hopeful.” I thought it might be nice to share some of my ideas on the blog, since I’ve had several moms ask me what workbook sheets we use and how we structure our day. Everyone’s different, but this is working well for us (so far).
Then again, check with me at the end of July. And I might say, “Oh yeah, that blog post. That’s funny. It’s all gone to crap.”
Here are some of our summer life-savers:
Come up with a couple simple exercises or activities you know your child enjoys. Is it reading? Drawing? Writing? Math? Both my kids love workbook sheets. Heidi loves to write, and Gavin loves practicing his letters. So their morning work includes two things each day out of the list below:
- A very simple bible verse – I pick a new one each week, and I have Heidi write it once a day. By Friday she has it memorized. Even though Gav can’t write, I may include him on this too since he did memory verses in preschool
- One or two worksheet pages – You can find workbooks for elementary age kids from anywhere: Target, Meijer, Walmart. I make them age-appropriate based on each of my kids: letter/number tracing, mazes, and matching for Gavin; and more involved writing, math, puzzle solving for Heidi. I even threw some National Geographic Kids magazines in there so she could read articles and write down a couple facts she remembers about them.
- Simple chore – My kids rarely complain about chores first thing in the morning for whatever reason. I decided to capitalize on this good attitude by having them start the day with a simple chore to get used to pitching in around the house. Not because they’re in trouble, not because they get paid, but because that’s what we do as a family: we work together. Here are some ideas:
- Load dishwasher
- Wipe down bathroom counters
- Collect laundry (Heidi does all her own, and Gavin helps me fold and puts his away)
- Pick up dog poo
- Pick up living room
- Gratitude: Have them list things for which they are thankful. – I am planning to put up a large piece of newsprint on the wall near our dining room table so we can add to this a few times a week and get in the habit of gratitude
- Good deeds: Tell them to think of one nice thing to do for someone today. Examples: pick up sticks in an elderly neighbor’s yard (or grandma and grandpa’s yard!), deliver cookies, write a nice note, gather fresh cut flowers from our yard and take them to someone, fix dad his favorite sandwich, etc.
- Write an encouraging note to someone and put in their mailbox.
- Plan a meal for the week together. Let them pick whatever they want…within reason!
- Create a board game together
- Write a book together and illustrate it.
Check out local sports, day camps, events, library programs, free kids’ movies, etc. You might be surprised how easy and fun it is to tag along with your kids to some of these events! Check local town and library websites.
On the first day of summer, have them make a bucket list of things they want to do this summer. This may help guide you as you plan! They might be looking forward to the simpler things. You can even use this as leverage throughout the summer. “If you can’t keep your room clean, we won’t be going to that amazing hog roast you were planning on.” Or something.
Pom Pom jar – A friend of mine does a variation of this at her house. One jar is filled with marbles. Each time a child puts their sibling first or does something kind and thoughtful without seeking recognition, they get a marble moved to the other jar. If someone disobeys or is unkind (or tattles!), the marble gets moved back. When the “being good” jar is filled, they decide how to celebrate as a family. I believe they did Great Wolf Lodge one year. I love this because each child’s choice affects the family. It shows them how to work together and it also impresses upon them the consequences of their actions, which affects everyone and not just themselves.
Service work – You guys, this really makes an impression on kiddos and helps them learn empathy. There are some really great ideas for young kids. Some really good ones are:
- Visit a nursing home. We have gone to sing Christmas carols each December but you can also go to just simply visit, deliver handmade cards, or even play cards! Uno, Go Fish, Crazy 8’s…anything simple enough for the kids is usually a good option. Both my kids look forward to our Christmas nursing home caroling every year.
- Goodie bags for the car. If you live someplace where you see people with cardboard signs on the side of the road, you and your kids can make up goodie bags with snacks, a water bottle, soap, clean socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, and a simple note blessing them. My kids are so brave and excited to pass these out, and have gotten some big smiles and thumbs up from people who have received them
- Handmade cards for a children’s hospital
- Help them declutter their own rooms to donate their toys to foster families or other organizations that take used toys. Encourage them to think about what it would feel like not to have anything at all. Help them think through what they can live without or what they don’t play with anymore
Outside time – My kids are a million times happier when they get tons of outside play. Help them get creative:
- Build a tent over the kiddie pool
- Put the sprinkler over the trampoline
- Do a lemonade stand
- Do a “car wash” where they wash down all their garage toys with soapy water and a hose. My kids love this. They feel so responsible and big washing their stuff in their bathing suits. They even will ask the neighbors if they have anything to wash like bikes, wagons, riding toys, etc.
- Check out every public park in your county!
- Teach yourselves a new skill, like fishing or jump rope
- Let them plan a small raised bed garden in your yard. Have them help from start to finish, even choosing the seeds and helping with the weeding.
- Mooch a pool off your friends (I’m sorry but it had to be said)
Quiet reading time together
I haven’t tried this yet, but I want to do it this summer. I want to do 45 minutes to an hour of quiet reading for all of us. I may have to begin that time by reading a book or two to Gavin, but ultimately, I want them to see me reading along with them.
Have and keep a good attitude.
The kiddos know when we are stressed, frustrated, over it, etc. They can tell when you want to spend time with them and when you’re dreading it. Remind yourself what a gift they are. Don’t take them for granted. Many women the world over, many of them friends of mine, desperately want even one child and for whatever reason, can’t. Don’t waste an entire summer dreading time with your kids. Learn to love it. List the things about them that you love and add to it all summer.
Remember, you’re the boss.
You’re the adult. You run the show. You make the structure, set the tone, and you decide what you will and won’t allow. They are kids. They do not know what is best for them. Lay out expectations and consequences early in the summer and follow through. Yes, they can drive us insane, but in the end, you’re the boss. My kids do better when I lay out expectations beforehand. It’s so simple, and yet I forget so often that they don’t always naturally know how to behave.
Those are just a few ideas that have seemed to work well for us! It gives us some structure with work and downtime built in. Good luck and enjoy this summer with your awesome kids!
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Phil. 4:13