Please, raise your right hand and repeat after me.
I, insert your name, do solemnly swear to have realistic expectations of this summer vacation.
I promise to not be down on myself when all of my glorious plans turn to TV-watching and electronic-time because I am just too tired and severely outnumbered.
I promise to relax with my kids and have FUN together, even when that takes work.
I promise to adopt the phrase, “I’m glad you’re bored! Creativity is born from boredom so let’s see what comes of it!”
I promise to grant myself the grace needed to survive this summer and not to be disappointed in myself no matter what. I am awesome and I am making a difference in my kids’ lives.
You can put your hand down now.
Summer. Do you feel overwhelmed at the thought of them being home with you ALL DAY? Here are some tried-and-true summer survival tips I have gained over several summers. I included things that worked and some that didn’t.
What worked to survive summer!
CHORE BOARD: The Chore Board was a handmade job using half of a large foam board (see torn edges!) I hot glued clothes pins and colored each clothes pin. I also colored a corresponding popsicle stick to match the clothespin. Then, I set out 5 envelopes for Mon-Fri. I cut out 12 pieces of paperboard and wrote my chores on them. For example, every day there was a chore of feeding the kitties, feeding our chickens, watering my hanging baskets, etc. I interspersed things like bathroom cleanings, folding laundry, dusting, sweeping, etc. I also included Mom’s Choice and Free Pass slips. My four big kids would draw 3 popsicle sticks and those were their chores to be done whenever they were able to after breakfast and before lunch. If they wanted to trade with their sibs, they were allowed! They liked the anticipation of “ooh, I hope I get the free pass!” All of the chores were ones that all of the kids could do on their own. Mom’s choice allowed me to give an easier or more difficult chore as needed.
ELECTRONICS CONTRACT: With two summers of frustration behind me, I decided to delegate a two hour window for electronics on top of the expected daily hour of reading and chores from the Chore Board. Screen time included TV shows/movie, Wii games or handheld electronics (which you were not allowed to play for 2 solid hours). I came up with a contract that read something like this:
“Electronic time will be allowed between 1-3 p.m. when Bella and Charlie are sleeping. You can only use your electronic time if your chores are done and you have read for 1 hour. If you ask to play any electronic time before 1 p.m., you will LOSE your time. If you end up doing something else during that time, you cannot ask for electronics after 3 p.m. and the 2 hours do not roll over to a different day.”
Boy, did I LOVE it! I held fast. Any asking at all, boom! Gone was your time. It didn’t take too many times for that to sink in. It became a clear expectation and without all of the restrictions like read to earn time, it wasn’t as “exciting” after a while so they didn’t clamor for it.
UNPLUGGED DAYS: Cover the TV and give them a list of non-electronic things to do. When they know the whole day is off limits, they settle in to the other options. Don’t forget to be more lenient with what you need to “accomplish” that day and pull out the board games or read aloud.
LETTER WRITING: In this day and age, kids do not spend much time writing. I had my kids write letters last summer. We worked on spelling, spacing, etc. and the recipients were super excited! They wrote to old friends, cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. Little kids colored pictures and then I’d write what they were “showing” in the pictures. You can have them practice addressing the envelope and putting the stamp on it as well!
REPORTS: Think old school book report and have the whole family share together what they have read! It not only encourages great public speaking skills, it helps everyone learn a little more about their family member and their interests. Keep it simple or go all out!
DAY TRIPS: Another thing that’s fun is to show them a list of local things to do and the kids get to pick a field trip. Let them pick a treat to share with everyone as well. Ideas ~ Marshalltown Public Library, parks, aquatic center, YMCA to swim if rainy, park at Little League fields (S. 12th St.), and head west on the bike path to picnic and play at Grimes Farm, wooden playground “kingdoms” are in Conrad and Colo if you don’t mind a 15-20 minute drive, or church & MCC parking lots are great for open space bike riding, or look up camps at Marshalltown Parks and Rec for other fun options, etc.
FREE LUNCHES: Several elementary schools in Marshalltown offer free (TOTALLY FREE) lunches to all children under the age of 18. Lunches must be eaten in the school and parents cannot eat. Head to their playground early, play, then eat! They do publish the menu ahead of time.
These are just a few ideas. I am sure you moms have awesome ones to share! Please post a comment so we can all learn from each other! Happy Summer!
What didn’t work:
READING FOR GAME TIME: For every 30 minutes you read, you get 15 minutes of electronic time. Sounds great, right? Well the problem came when they wanted to “redeem” their time. Some would ask for 10 minutes here and there and I ended up with a scroll paper filled with additions and subtractions from each kid and it got annoying. Super annoying and it seemed like they were constantly asking to play.
CHORE STICKS: I wrote random chores on popsicle sticks and kids would draw a couple each morning after breakfast. Good idea in theory, but unless you switched out the sticks each day (I did not), you had someone drawing “dust the bookshelf” every day. When the poor chickens that needed fed was a stick that seemed to never get drawn.