Today’s post is brought to us by one my favorite commenters, a SAHM Penelope named Melinda. She’s got so many great ideas for keeping her home running smoothly and herself sane, that I asked her to give us some insight on how she handles summertime with 4 kids at home.
Melinda doesn’t have a blog – yet! Let’s hope we can convince her she needs one.
Summertime is here! For some, this means afternoons lying in the sun with an iPod and the latest issue of Real Simple. For others, namely mothers, it elicits terror as our Penelope plans fly out the window and the kids tumble in the door…for three long months.
Enter the Summertime Game Plan.
Some ideas are born out of inspiration…others out of complete desperation. I admit that my summertime plans were born out of the latter. Having 4 kids ranging in age by more than a decade, I needed a strategy…quick! Over the years we have altered it due to ages, interests and growing number of children, but the backbone remained the same. Each day has a loose schedule to it, and every morning, I communicate that schedule to the kids, so they know what’s on the agenda.
The goal: keep Mom and kids happily engaged without spending a ton of money. Here’s what we’ve done:
1.) The Calendar: Everyone has one, ages 4 and up. Print one off on-line (here’s a good one from Simple Mom) and have the kids decorate it with markers and summertime stickers. Whenever a plan comes up, have them all write it down on their own calendar. This builds anticipation and satisfies the desires of your need-to-know munchkins (the mini-Penelopes).
2.) Your Own Little Literary Society: Make reading a priority.
- Stock up on books at second-hand shops, library book sales, garage sales or neighbor-swaps and have the kids choose a new book each week. These should be fun and age-appropriate, not a chore.
- Couple this with a daily read-aloud time (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are two of our faves.) You may also work this in with a book-on-CD. This builds all-important listening skills and is a fantastic and stress-free bonding activity.
- Finally, put a weekly trip to the library on your calendar. Let the kids stock up and take part in the summertime reading program that your local branch organizes. There are free magic and puppet shows and prizes to win along the way.
3.) A Trip to the Theater: most communities host free summer movies throughout the summer. Yep, I said FREE. Showings are at 10am and feature previously-shown G and PG films. We can’t wait to see Clifford the Big Red Dog. Anyone else? Find one in your community here.
4.) Tantalizing Tickets: head to your nearest office supply store and grab a roll of raffle tickets. Then, let the kids decorate a big glass jar and place it somewhere showy. Throughout the summer, hand out the tickets when the kids are doing a fantastic job. Helping out a sibling…here’s a ticket. Emptying the dishwasher, here’s two more. Anytime I caught my kids with a great attitude or helping out the family, I’d reward the behavior with a ticket. The catch? They couldn’t ask for them. Their behavior had to be noticed. They all worked together to earn 150 tickets at which time, we headed to Sunsplash water park (or your big prize of choice). That trip was worth every ticket!
5.) Treat of the Week: Have each child write down three to four fun activities that they’d like to do over the summer that cost no more than $15 total (out for ice cream, a trip to Border’s, roller-skating on 2 for 1 Tuesday, a Slurpee at the 7-11). Then, stick all of the dreams in a jar. Each week, choose one (feel the excitement??) and schedule it into… you guessed it…the calendar.
6.) Binders: We do homework in the summer. It’s not for everyone but I’m a teacher by trade, so I can’t help it. Over the years, I’d hand my kids a binder with 4 sections (math facts, reading comprehension, puzzles like Sudoku and a silent-reading chart) and a timer. Each section took 15 minutes. Each day from 1-2pm, I went on break and the kids self-regulated their work. If they did a good job, more tickets came their way. (Note: math facts and puzzles can be found free on-line. Make use of them. Your kids’ teachers will thank you.)
7.) Cooking Class: Grab a kid’s cookbook at the library and have the kids each choose a recipe they’d like to learn to make. Summer is the perfect time to let them get their hands dirty and give cooking a try. If they are 8 or older and the recipe seems safe, leave the kitchen while the do it. We Penelopes tend to hover which drives young cooks CRAZY. Just remind them that they are on clean-up duty and slowly back away. It’ll be okay. It might even be fun.
These are just a few ideas that have kept this Penelope sane over the summers. Hopefully, you’ll find a strategy that strikes your fancy. Here’s to a stress-free summer that just might involve a moment to peruse Real Simple after all.