My oldest child’s school bell will ring for the last time in literally hours. And I. Cannot. Wait.
No more early mornings. No more homework rush. And no more frantic discoveries that there is another piece of paper to sign, school shoes to find and or lunch to make.
I am just going to speak for all parents and say, “Thank goodness! And about darn time.”
Of course, the end of the academic year also means the end of eight-hours of organized, structured time where I don’t have to hear, “What can I do? I am bored.” If the thought of the lazy days of summer feels you with panic, you are not alone.
Here’s the plan for our family this summer. This isn’t a test, so feel free to copy it if it works for your family.
- I’m bored – Only one response to this statement, and it is one my grandma shared with me many times when I was young. “Great. Here’s a chore.”
I’ve already warned the kids ahead of time, and I’ve created a chore jar out of an old pickle jar. I am following my own advice – I saw this over at Crafting Chicks. Each of my children has their own jar with chores appropriate for their age. The chores are outside their standard weekly chores, so if they have to pick from the jar, they know they are getting extra work. I’ve also offered to let them earn a little money (very little!) if they voluntarily complete one of the to-dos.
This cuts down greatly on the whining and complaining about having nothing to do. As a bonus, because my kids are so lucky, I also offer them a five-minute speech on the importance of learning how to deal with boredom and how much of their lives will involve standing in line, paperwork and other boring tasks. Get used to it!
- Screen time – If the seven-year-old could craft his own perfect summer vacation, it would include volleying between different screens until his eyeballs fall out. Then, he would pick them up and place them so he could still see Minecraft.
I support his desire to unwind, and I want summer to be a time when he does get to play more than during the ever-so-busy school year. But I don’t want his brain or body to turn to mush in the next two-and-a-half months.
So, we’ve set some ground rules. First, outdoor time is the priority. Every day. I’d say rain or shine, but I live in Texas, so that’s not necessary.
Next, we are giving him two-to-one on screen time versus reading time. That means for every 10 minutes of reading, he can have 20 minutes of screen time. I originally proposed a one-to-one exchange, but grandma negotiated for him. Thanks, grandma! We haven’t yet put a maximum on the time he can earn, even though he asked about what would happen if he read for 12 hours, but I reserved the right to change the rules as needed.
- Kid-planned vacations – I presented each of the kids with the option of planning their own weekend stay-cations. This gives them some buy-in and helps them feel in control of what must look like a large expanse of open time to them. To that end, we now have a backyard camp out planned, complete with s’mores and spooky stories, and a trip to both the zoo and a local museum planned. I marked these events on the calendar because let’s be honest, I don’t remember if it doesn’t make it on the calendar but, also, to build a sense of anticipation.
I haven’t mentioned to them yet, but they will each get a special day with mom all to their selves as well. Since these activities will most likely take place outside of the home, I’ll guide the plans a little more to control costs.
- Crafts, Cooking and Computers – Ahh, the three C’s of summer in our family. I’ve pulled together some easy craft activities, including several that don’t require supervision and a few that do because I enjoy crafting as much as the seven-year-old. I’m aiming to break these out about once a week, depending on our schedule on any given week. Seeing as how two of my kids will mention not doing a craft as a reason for having a bad day, I am confident of success with these projects. To be honest, though, I am not pushing them or myself to create Pinterest worthy crafts. This is about engaging the kids and having fun with them – not stressing myself out with unrealistic expectations.
We also use the summer to teach the kids a few useful skills under the guise of fun. Cooking falls into this category currently. They don’t realize they are learning a valuable, money-saving life skill, only that they really enjoying breaking eggs open! Sometimes we cook dinner. Other times, we make jam or bake bread. Really, I am multi-tasking with this one because the cooking needs to be done anyway.
Currently, my oldest is obsessed with Prodigy, an online math game. Yes, I hear you that this is also screen time, but when he is answering questions two grade levels above his age, I am okay with it. So, he gets to play on the computer a little during the week as long as his chores and outdoor time is complete. ABCMouse.com runs summer specials so his little brother can have some fun learning, too!
- The great outdoors – I saved this one for last because it feels like something that is so obvious. Kick the kids outside. Let the run. Let the play and make up games. Typically, I scoot them outside with a water bottle (again, I live in Texas, so dehydration and heat stroke are real, folks), sunscreen and a warning not to come inside until I shout for them unless they are bleeding.
I want to give them time away from me so they gain independence and really get deep in their bones that they can take care of themselves. So for us, that starts by letting them walk around the block alone, play in the backyard (I peak on them occasionally) so they can figure out their own boundaries.
I know it’s not a fancy plan, but that’s my summer plan. We will try to squeeze in a camping trip, visits with family and swimming…lots and lots of swimming. My oldest will attend a week-long day camp, and all will receive swim lessons, but we aren’t trying to overschedule them. We run a pretty tight ship during the school year. Kids need breaks.
Hopefully, some of these ideas will help contain your summer panic and make your kids happy and healthy. Please, share if you have any additional parenting strategies. After all, we are all in this together!