How are you doing with that transition from school year to summer? Some people absolutely love it. Activities slow down a little. Mornings are more relaxed and sleepy. If you’re like me, you get a little out of sorts at the beginning of summer. I find comfort in routine. Open, unscheduled time can be a little unnerving. However, I have some ideas to help add a little structure to those lazy summer days so we can make the most of them.
If my kids don’t have anything to do, they usually sit around watching TV and fighting. If I’m not careful, this can be the norm during summer days. Today, my kids got up early and switched on the TV. I reminded them to do their chores first. They didn’t really complain because it’s the beginning of the summer and they kind of like our chore charts (for now). I made this chart based off the chores I’d like them to take care of on their own.
I used this handy website to print out the pictures of each of the chores. They’re also great for ideas. For instance, my youngest was with me when I was looking at them and he noticed one of a little boy praying and he said, “We could have a prayer leader!” He was the prayer leader for the first week and it was so sweet hearing him pray before meals and at bedtime. Cute story: on his first day as prayer leader, he came into the room and asked, “Does anyone need any prayers?” Of course, we did because we had the cutest prayer leader around.
Anyway, we structured it that everyone has their own things to do (practice piano, practice dance, etc.) that don’t change from week to week. Then we have three chores each that they pull out of a coffee cup each week. Some are daily and some are as needed. I laminated the little squares and used sticky-back velcro to attach them to the chart. The kids can turn on the TV once everyone has moved the chores into the completed column. But here’s something interesting. Often, the very act of doing the chores distracts them enough that they forget to turn on the TV after all. Nora was cleaning her room and found something she wanted to play with and Hudson (after dusting the coffee table) picked up his book that was sitting there and began reading once he was finished. I recommend you choose chores they are able to do without much help and encourage them to do them first thing in the morning. Today, I came down to a floor that had already been mopped and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
I wrote an entire blog post about summer learning. Click here if you missed it. So, I won’t go into much detail except to say, summer learning is so important. I made a simple laminated chart and the kids do some kind of learning each weekday and mark it in the squares. We are choosing to be more flexible this summer because they’re aren’t standard summer bridge books for all my kids’ ages. They all have some sort of workbook they can do but I’m also including learning apps, flash cards, reading, as well as “experiences". For instance, yesterday we went to see butterflies at the Franklin Park Conservatory. My youngest wrote “butterflies” in his blank because he learned about them there. And yes, on Monday Hudson "read a crap ton". The key is about 20 minutes of brain time each weekday. They may not thank you now, but they probably will when they start the school year sharp instead of left behind.
When my youngest was a newborn, I made this can of summer activities. It was mostly a way of helping them entertain themselves while I was with the baby. The categories are marked with a different kinds of washi tape at the top so they don't know what they'll pull when they choose one. Over the past seven years, we’ve used it less and less -mainly because they have outgrown the activities on the popsicle sticks. This year, Anna (a rising freshman) took it upon herself to update them. It was cute watching her do this project. These are great for those “I’m bored” moments.
The categories we use are:
Rainy Day/Indoor Activities
Check out this PDF for all the ideas she came up with for the sticks. She’s so creative.
I recommend pulling the “snack time” sticks right before going to the grocery since you may have to buy something.
Remember, one of the blessings of summer is that it’s more relaxed, so, don’t go crazy scheduling every minute. But a little structure is helpful to keep kids active and excited. I promise these are the things they’ll remember about summer. And I think they’ll remember them fondly. They'll think, “My parents made summers great. They made sure I did some learning and we worked together to keep the house clean and we did some awesome activities.” Those things (when done together) make family time fun and special. I hope this is the start of a wonderful summer for all of you!