Monday, June 9, 2014

10 Little Ways to Make Summer a Big Success

Think back to your FOND summer memories - what made those memories so great?  Was it the adventures your families took?  Was it the time to yourself?  We have the benefit of having family in Florida and have taken a few summer vacations to the beach there.

Those few weeks each year have really been a pinnacle of our summer.

This year we have no such beach trip planned and have been a little more laid back with our summer vacation plans.  We got passports and do plan to take a trip (during which we will probably NOT use the passports - that is another post for another day), but that will likely only be one week out of our 10 weeks off.  So what do I do with my munchkins for those other 8 weeks?

A few years ago a dear friend (and mother of 6) told me that each summer would be a little different.  Some years I would over plan (last year) while some years I would find myself with not much scheduled (the year before).  They key is to stay flexible with everything and be forgiving of yourself as mother, because some years they (and you) need more down time than other years.    I love that advice.  Another friend (and mother of 7) has a rockstar schedule that she creates for her family for each summer.  It is complete with game time and craft time and rest time.

So last year I took a page from both their books and created a flexible summer schedule and it helped SO much!  This year we actually have a Schedule A and a Schedule B.  Here is our A schedule for the weeks when we don't have VBS and we are home "all day".  I post it on the door between our kitchen and pantry.  Out of the way but easy to reference.  So with the schedule as a guide, here are my 10 little ways to make summer a big success:

1- Mandatory quiet time. I need this just as much as the kids do! It is also really hard to get a 2 year old (or child of any age!) to nap while her siblings are having so much fun.   The kids can read, color, rest, take a nap, or work on their bridge books.

2- Brain time.  I get bridge books and other activity books for them do work through on their own pace during the quiet time or any other point in the day. If they spend 45 minutes working in their bridge books they get 45 minutes of screen time (see no 2 & 3).

3- Built in TV/Video game time.  During the witching hour while I am doing dinner prep the kids can watch a little TV or play video games.  By this point in the day I usually need a little break. Building it into the day prevents the constant nagging "can I watch TV?".

4- Easy Dinners.  When the kids were really little I would wait until my husband was home and I would make dinner while we caught up.  Because we are ridged with bedtimes, I need to have dinner made by the time he comes home - and that is a challenge with 4 grumpy and hungry little ones running around. Often I put out the raw veggies first for them to nosh on while I make the dinner.  Hungry kids are less picky.   I try to prep on the weekends, use the crockpot, and do things as simple as possible.  I save the complicated dinners for when I have someone to run interference with the kids.  Plus, when you are feeding them 3 meals a day at home it is hard to be inspired to be creative and exciting when you are tired too!

5- Swim time.  My kids have lots of energy.  It is over 110 most days in the summer here.  They will bounce off the walls if they don't get the energy out some way.  I have swim lessons for the little ones in the AM at my house and then some days we go to the gym and swim there for a change in scenery.  If we didn't have a pool I think I would run high energy games inside or just have a 'game time' for an hour or so.

6- Chores.  It is easier to have a clean house when the kids aren't home.  We are home and I don't do messy very well.  A tidy house makes this mamma that much happier.  We have daily chores (wipe counters, make beds, take trash etc) and then a weekly family AM chore to tackle a big problem area. This week's problem areas are the garage (tidy, sweep, spray for bugs), the school stuff (we just keep stacking stuff up- major organization required), the playroom (looks like a bomb went off in the corner), and the back patio (just needs a hose down).   The kids also have rotating nights that they help with dinner prep.  This gives them some 1:1 time with me in the kitchen (which is sometimes a good thing for me, other times not!) and helps them learn more about cooking.  It also takes the full responsibility of dinner off my plate.  Usually the kids all help with getting the table set, drinks on the table etc.  It can be kind of crazy though.  So having just one of them do it each night is a little easier.

7- VBS.  Some kids thrive just hanging out at the house, others thrive being out in social settings.  We are doing 2 weeks of Vacation Bible School.  One at our church and another at my sister's church.  It give the kids a different schedule two of the weeks and mixes things up a little. Anthony and I will volunteer for one week.  The other week I will just have Anna with me for the 9-12 time frame and will catch up on errands and shopping while the kids are occupied having fun, singing songs, doing crafts, and learning more about Jesus.

 8- The public library. One way to ensure a peaceful afternoon is to go to the library.  I hate being at the library because the younger 3 all need my help at the same time and usually the older ones wants a little help too.  But the reward once we leave the library is worth the frustration of being at the library for that brief time.  We return home and the kids just chill with their new books.  I think this year we may add Fort-Making to our library day…Who doesn't love reading books in a fort?  This was last summer at Great Grandmas.  She has a gift for fort-making.

9- Down time.  I want my kids to have to create their own fun. I don't want to structure them so much that they never know what do to unless being instructed.  As a kid we used to spend all day outside in our swim suits, running around the neighborhood, eating nectarines off the tree in the backyard, swimming, playing GI Joe's in the irrigation the washing off the grime in the pool.  I remember being bored from time to time but that is really not a bad thing.  Let the mind wander, make up your own boardgames, play hide a seek with your siblings, do something or nothing just don't whine about it.

10- Movies.  We have two local theaters that do summer movie passes. They are all older G or PG family movies. The theater closest to us gives us 10 movies for $5 A KID!  So I pay $20 for the whole summer for the whole family and we can go to a movie a week (Anna is still free too!).  It is at 10am and we choose the day which I love because of the added flexibility.  Plus one big bag of popcorn and no one really wants lunch that day.  I can make some smoothies and ride through to snack time.  This photo is from last year. It was hard with an 18 month old but we went with cousins and that was the only way it worked.  I am really hoping this year is much easier.  If you don't have something like this in your town then look for some weekly tradition or little field trip that you can do.  If you live where the weather is nice maybe you do a Tuesday Picnic or Friday fishing trip.  Find something that fits your life.

Good luck with your summer plans everyone! I hope it is wonderful.  Enjoy the time with your little ones and thanks for stopping by!

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