As a child my favorite words (after ‘story time’ of course), were ‘summer vacation’. I never understood why my mother was not as enthusiastic about this phrase as I was; now as a mother of 3 I completely understand…
Of course I love my children and love spending time with them, but it feels like just when we have all gotten into the swing of things, we need to figure out a whole new routine. Plus, the idea of having to entertain them for full days for a couple of months is very intimidating. Yet, somehow we all get through it – though I am not “an expert”, having had a few years of experience with 3 very young kids I thought I would share somethings that I have done in the past that have worked for me (and still do).
Of course if you have signed up your child to a camp or activity program ahead of time, the summer months look less intimidating. And there are some great summer camps and in most places there are great summer programs in the public schools and in many community centers that won’t break the bank – but usually not many great summer programs are offered for very young children (though there are some and it’s worth looking into in your area). So for the most part if you have children under the age of 6, the bulk entertainment is left up to you. But regardless, check out what your town has to offer, even if it’s a 1-hour music class once a week, it’s worth looking into.
I am a planner, I have always been a planner, even when things do not go according to plan (which is most of the time), for me, just having a plan ready gives me peace of mind. So the first thing needed to make the summer run smoothly is… a plan. Even if you end up only do one thing on there, having it ready even one week ahead of time is really helpful.
Creating a “summer routine” is also very helpful. It should probably be less rigid than during the year, but routines really help children feel safe and stable, and not less important, keep adults from losing their sanity. So while the routine might be way more relaxed from the school routine, it’s still good to have one.
With my kids it’s always been “the morning high five”– regardless of it’s a weekend, school day or vacation – they need to: 1) use the bathroom, 2) brush their teeth 3) tidy up their room and 4) get dressed 5) Eat breakfast. This has been a very helpful habit in our house that they have developed. There are many great routine guides I found that you should check out, here is one of my favorites.
Every summer, I always try to set an objective for my child, one that is achievable. Whether it’s to learn to swim, potty train, eat independently, learn the alphabet, start doing chores, etc… Having a clear objective helps me to create activities that can help us reach this goal. For example, one summer, I wanted my daughter to feel comfortable with her ABCs and start the first steps towards reading before entering kindergarten. I looked up apps, games to play, activities, spoke to many teachers; and it set a good guideline for us for the rest of the summer. I discussed it with her, got her excited about the idea that she would be able to read stories to herself and younger brothers – and got her on board. Some days went better than others, but it made it easier to come up with a game to play or activity knowing that this was the direction and goal. Rather then playing ‘regular tag’, we played ‘Letter Tag’, I say a letter and everyone has to find it and touch it, only if you are touching the right letter are you safe. Here are some wonderful games I found useful and loved; and of course there are some great apps for story time, reading and letter recognition as well for beginners. Whether it be The Library of Miss Gadish, Interactive Alphabets ABCs, or Sesame’s ABC Kitchen, there are some really great apps out there to use as aids for almost anything you want to teach your child (including potty training) that can do wonders.
One of the great things about summer, is that usually the weather is hot and calls for outdoor activities. If you have access to a pool, that’s great, but if not, don’t fret, there are ways to work around a hot summer without a pool. A simple garden hose goes a LONG way, and a good old fashioned water fight is something that a child of almost any age can enjoy. Making ice pops together is a healthy way to keep cool, and all you need is to squeeze a few oranges or juice some apples – no sugar is necessary and they taste GREAT. When I didn’t have popsicle molds I just used ice trays.
On really hot days when I didn’t have access to a pool or a shady spot, I used to make a “homemade pool” in our apartment bathtub – my twin boys would play in there for a couple of hours and loved every minute of it. I used to blow bubble for them while they were in there, and many time their older sister would ask to join.
There are a few great ‘old school’ tools that I think every parent should always have in their bag of tricks: bubbles, balloons, and sidewalk chalk. I cannot even count how many times these items have saved me. I have used these for alphabet games, numbers games, shapes, and just plain fun. And balloons work inside and outdoors just as effectively on a sunny or rainy day.
Arts and crafts are always fun. If you are worried about the mess at home, then find a shady spot outside and bring the paint or play dough supplies there. One of our favorites is rock hunts, we have spent entire days on those. First collecting rocks to use, then painting them, then hiding them and finally finding them. This game can be refreshed non-stop, we have done this with numbers, the alphabet, shapes, memory/matching… the possibilities are endless. It is fun, it’s creative, not a lot of materials are needed and it’s a great outdoor family activity.
I play a game with my kids we call “Getting Lost”, it started during a summer we had just moved to a new country, I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I piled my kids into the car and started driving, I told them to look out the window and tell me if they saw anything interesting or a place we should stop. Honestly, the first time we did this all we discovered was an old abandoned playground and not much else – but my kids had such a great time that since then they often ask me to play “Getting Lost”. Sometimes we just need to get up and go.
Finally I want to take this opportunity to once again applaud the amazing and underappreciated teachers who entertain our children for most of the year – the summer really emphasizes how hard the job is – and a special shout out to homeschooling moms as well, I salute you.
Let’s all have an amazing summer “break”, and if you have any tips to share, please do!