Last Updated June 8th, 2018

Summer Night Activities To Make Your Summer Amazing

Summer Night Activities To Make Your Summer Amazing

How difficult is it for you to get your family out and doing things during the summer? It’s just so hot out! You have to worry about sunburn or even heatstroke if the day is hot enough. That’s why I’m so fond of summer night activities.

Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the night. Summer nights are generally warm, and it’s just such a relief after the heat of the day to get outside and do something! Get away from all the devices as a family and go have some fun. But where?

Take a look and see if there are any places in your area that have special summer night activities. Most communities have something going on.

Planning fun family activities for summer nights can even help you be more productive when you work at home during the summer. The promise of something fun to do later can encourage your kids to let your work during the day.

Try The Zoo

Many zoos are open at night during the summer. The animals are very different at night. Nocturnal animals are so much more active! It’s a lot of fun, and no one complains that the sun is too hot on them at night.

We start in the late afternoon when we go to the zoo during the summer. Mostly that’s because it’s always the San Diego Zoo, and it takes so long to see everything there. But it’s also because it’s fun seeing things change as the sun goes down. We have passes, so it’s not like we have to worry about getting out money’s worth for the day.

I strongly recommend getting zoo passes when you have kids. The zoo is a great place to get out with your kids anytime. Try it on a rainy day sometime too.

Backyard Camping

Camp out in your backyard. Many nights it can be more comfortable to sleep outside in the tent than in the house, which is still retaining heat from the day.

Once your kids are old enough, you can consider allowing them to camp in the backyard without you. Kids love that little bit of independence, yet they’re close enough to get you if they need anything. So long as they aren’t noisy enough to bother the neighbors, you don’t have to worry about bedtime when they camp in the backyard.

Don’t be surprised if the kids need to sleep a little during the day after a backyard campout. You know how early the sun comes up during the summer, and they probably tried to stay up late. They’re tired.

camping

Take A Camping Trip

Alternatively, try a one night camping trip at a local campground. Roast marshmallows around the campfire, tell stories and just relax. Don’t forget to leave a little time for a family hike during the day.

Some campgrounds also offer night hikes. You don’t want to hike anywhere you might get lost at night, but clearly defined trails will usually be safe enough so long as you stay on them.

telescope

Stargazing

Go stargazing. Whether you look at the stars from your own backyard or drive out to someplace a little darker, children love to look at the stars.

Help your kids identify the constellations. SkyView is a great app that can help you identify what you’re seeing in the sky. You can also use gadgets such as the Night Sky Navigator to find different stars and constellations.

If you have a telescope, set it up and start looking for interesting objects in the sky. Jupiter and Saturn can be pretty easy to find when they’re up. The moon can be amazing, but very bright through a telescope. Depending on your telescope, you may be able to get a look at nebulas and other interesting things.

If you don’t have a telescope, you can use binoculars to look at the moon. Binoculars aren’t steady enough or strong enough for most other objects, but the moon can be interesting through them.

Another alternative if you don’t have a telescope is to head out to a local planetarium or see if a local amateur astronomers’ club has a night when they do stargazing with the public. You can talk to some very knowledgeable people that way and see things you might not have known to look for.

Don’t forget to look for shooting stars. If you want the best luck, head to a dark place on the night of a meteor shower. The Perseids are most active in August, but they start in late July.

Movies At The Park Or Your Backyard

My kids love that our community does Movies At The Park every summer. It’s a wonderful chance to go to the park, play with some friends and then watch a movie. We get there at least an hour early so we get a good spot on the grass and so the kids can play at the playground.

Movies At The Park is one of my favorite summer playdate ideas. I tell all the moms I know that we will be there most weeks and the kids would love to see their friends to play. No one has to clean their house for company or deal with their house being messed up after. If no one shows up, it’s still a pretty good time.

You can even bring dinner and have a picnic at the park. We do this some of the time, but in the early summer especially, the movies start so late that dinner at home makes as much sense as dinner at the park, and much less trouble at the end of the night.

You can also set up movies in your backyard if you have the equipment. Video projectors can be very reasonably priced, and then you need a light colored, reasonably smooth wall or a white sheet to project the image onto. Some models are less than $100. You can watch the movies of your choice from your collection or subscriptions in your backyard whenever you want this way.

summer concerts

Outdoor Concerts

Many communities not only do movie nights in their parks, they offer outdoor concerts during the summer at night as well. Take a look at your community pages to see what kind of events are available in your area, and which concerts you would like to attend.

Outdoor concerts aren’t at night everywhere, but it’s so nice when they are. It’s much more pleasant to sit and listen when the sun isn’t beating down on you.

sunset

Watch The Sunset

Head out to the best place in your area to watch the sunset. We see them pretty well even in our front yard, but there are better places to watch a sunset. There’s a park in our area that overlooks the entire town that is great for sunsets.

Change up where you watch the sunset occasionally. It can be a part of a family adventure while doing something else to catch a great view of the sunset.

Play With Glow In The Dark Toys

Glow in the dark toys offer so many possibilities for summer night activities. It can all start with those glow in the dark necklaces that kids love and you can often find in the dollar store, but you can do so much more.

Glow in the dark frisbees are fun if you have enough room to throw them. It can be frustrating to lose one on the roof, which is why I always prefer that my kids use them at the park.

You can buy glow in the dark soccer balls, golf balls, basketballs and so much more to make any sports you like more fun at night. Some will use LEDs while others will be true glow in the dark items.

You can even make your own games, such as glow in the dark bowling. It’s super easy to set up at home.

Kids may also enjoy glow in the dark body paint. Most glow in the dark body paint requires the use of a blacklight, which could make an interesting addition to flashlight tag.

Flashlight Tag

Flashlight tag is an easy game to play. It’s much like hide and go seek, as the person who is It must first count to whatever number while the other players hide. They then try to catch other players in the light of a flashlight.

Flashlight tag is best if there’s a reasonably large area for people to hide. You don’t want the space so big that people get really lost, but you also don’t want it so small that there aren’t enough interesting hiding places to make the game a challenge.

Laser Tag

Laser tag is a great game to play at night, and if your kids enjoy it enough you can save a lot of money buying your own set of laser tag equipment rather than going to the arena every time. Make sure you read the reviews to ensure that you get equipment that is worth the cost. Some of the cheap sets don’t last very long.

If you can, give the kids a large area with some hiding spots to make their laser tag game more interesting. It much more fun if you can duck behind something to catch someone else off guard.

The one problem may be that some sets are noisy. Be sure that you don’t play laser tag too late at night if other people in your neighborhood can hear you.

barbecue

Make Dinner Outside

There’s a reason why barbecuing is so popular in the summer – no one wants to heat up their house by cooking indoors if they can help it. Well, that and because most people love barbecued food.

Shishkebabs can be a lot of fun, especially if you have picky eaters. Set up the ingredients so everyone can set up their own shishkebabs with the food they like. Make sure everyone washes their hands after handling raw meats, of course.

Don’t forget dessert when you make dinner outside. Keep those coals warm, and the kids can make traditional desserts such as s’mores, or have a little extra fun making campfire cones.

Picnic Dinner

Just because you made dinner in the house doesn’t mean you have to eat dinner in the house. Grab that food and have a picnic outside. If you choose the right time, the evening breeze feels wonderful.

You don’t have to go anywhere special to have a picnic dinner. Your backyard is good enough. If you’re feeling more ambitious, however, or just need to get away from the house that badly, move the picnic to the park. Having dinner and letting your kids play on the playground is a great way to let them get out that energy at the end of the day. Pay attention to local park rules, of course. Some close at dusk.

Sit Around The Firepit

Even if you don’t cook dinner in the barbecue, you can always set up a firepit to sit around on summer nights. They’re a great place to sit and talk while enjoying the night air, the stars, and maybe some marshmallows.

Make Treats

You don’t have to go outside to have fun. Stay indoors, open all the windows to let in the breeze, and start making cookies! You can let each child pick a recipe or so, depending on how many cookies you want to make.

Ice cream is another fun treat to make, especially if the night is warm. Pick a recipe and start up your ice cream maker. Or be lazy and get ice cream at the store. Either way, make it even more fun for everyone by setting up a topping bar. You probably can’t set up the range of treats the local frozen yogurt place has, but you can make it interesting enough.

Of course, you can always make treats around a campfire too.

Tell Stories

Whether you sit around a fire or you’re sitting around however you like, summer nights are a great time to tell stories. Scary stories are traditional, but you can also read books to your kids or make up something fun.

Make sure you have your kids tell stories too, whether they read a book out loud or make something up all their own. It’s a great way to encourage their creativity over the summer.

Night Swimming

I loved going swimming at night when I was a kid, the rare occasion that I had access to a swimming pool. It’s the perfect way to handle an overly warm summer night.

If you want to make it even more fun, get some glow in the dark pool toys.  The lights look amazing in and on top of the water, and kids love anything glow in the dark.

Catch Fireflies

If you live in an area that has fireflies, odds are that your kids will love catching fireflies. They’re a lot of fun to look at as they fly around, or get a closer look while they’re in a bottle. Let them go when you’re done, of course.

fireworks

Watch Fireworks

In some areas, the only chance you’ll have all summer to watch fireworks is the Fourth of July. In other areas, there may be places that have fireworks often throughout the summer.

If you live near a theme park, for example, some of them shoot off fireworks most summer nights. It can be pretty easy to watch the fireworks from outside the park. It won’t be quite as spectacular as the view in the park, but it can be a good show regardless.

If they’re legal in your area, you can do fireworks on your own, of course. Be sure you use proper safety precautions and watch the children carefully. There’s a risk of injury with any kind of fireworks that you and your family must be aware of. You don’t want to add to the statistics on fireworks injuries or start a fire.

Take A Walk

It may be too hot to take a walk during the day, but that shouldn’t keep you from taking a walk in a safe area at night. Night is the perfect time to take your dog for a walk during the summer – no worries about burnt paws after the sun goes down.

Take appropriate safety precautions of course. Have a flashlight and your cell phone with you, and it’s generally safer and more fun to walk in a group.

Of course, not all your summer activities with your kids have to be done at night. Don’t forget to consider these free or cheap summer activities to make this a great summer for your family.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated April 2nd, 2018

25+ Basic Life Skills Parents Need To Teach Their Kids

25 Basic Life Skills Parents Need To Teach Their Kids

Have you ever met an adult who didn’t know how to do a basic life skill that you thought should have been obvious? It’s amazing sometimes what people aren’t taught when they’re kids. If you don’t want any of your kids to be that occasionally helpless adult, make sure they learn these basic life skills.

1. Laundry

It’s amazing how many people head out on their own with no idea how to do the laundry. My husband sometimes talks about how often he would see people in tears in the college laundry room the first weekend of school. Other times he would see people hauling bags of laundry home each week for their parents to handle.

Laundry is a basic household chore kids should be helping with as soon as they’re old enough. Folding laundry can start at a pretty young age. Loading the washing machine, adding the soap and choosing the right cycle should wait until the kids are tall enough for the job. Even very young kids can help push clothes into the dryer, though. My youngest thought that was fun for the longest time.

2. Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping sounds so easy, but it’s not that easy to do right. Teach your kids how to do grocery shopping on a budget and for specific meals. Have them go through the weekly ads so they know what the best deals are that week during the planning process. If you’re out of a basic ingredient they might not notice right away, they’ll remember that lesson for the next time.

Older kids can be sent to the store to do much of the shopping themselves, but you don’t have to leave the younger kids out of it. As soon as they’re old enough, start sending kids to different parts of the store to fetch things for you. This way they’ll be more comfortable when it comes time to do the whole job.

3. Cooking

It can be truly horrifying when you realize how many people have no idea how to cook a healthy meal, something better than food from a box or a can. You can get by that way, but your kids will be better off as adults if they can handle cooking healthy meals from scratch.

Of course, even in healthy cooking, canned foods may have their place. Make sure your kids can use the can opener too.

One other important cooking skill is knowing what to do when the smoke alarm goes off because dinner is getting a little smokey. That’s the one time when it makes more sense to disconnect the smoke alarm and air out the house, rather than assume a fire has started somewhere. There’s always the standard “dinner’s ready!” comment you can make as the smoke alarm screams… so long as they also understand when it’s serious.

4. Table Manners

You may or may not eat at the kitchen table regularly as a family. No matter what, your kids should know the basics of table manners.

You don’t have to cover every place setting for a huge, fancy meal. Do make them comfortable with using the usual utensils correctly, passing food around, using napkins properly and so forth.

This may be important in their careers, depending on what they do. Some people meet with clients over meals, and lots of jobs have occasional company parties to attend. Having proper manners will keep them from making a bad impression. Not to mention how they may look on dates.

table manners

5. What To Do With Leftovers

Lots of people are bad about leftovers, or at least eating them. There’s a reason why most people have to clean them out of the refrigerator so often.

Teach your kids about how long leftovers stay good in the fridge, and what containers are safe for reheating in the microwave. Not every to go food container belongs in the microwave, nor do all dishes.

6. Taking Medication Safely

Taking medication safely isn’t that difficult in most ways, but it’s very important. Antibiotics, for example, are most effective when taken on the prescribed schedule at the correct dosage.

You can start out by teaching your older kids what dosage to take of relatively safe medications. My older kids handle it themselves if they need some ibuprofen, for example. My youngest is not yet allowed to do this on her own.

7. Expiration Dates

Food expiration dates can be a bit tricky, but it’s important to understand that they don’t always mean the food has expired. More important to know is how long foods should stay good in your refrigerator, and what it smells like as it goes bad.

Medication expiration dates can be important too. Some medications can become poisonous over time, while others will merely be a little less effective. Teach your kids to look up expired medications before use for safety.

8. Ordering At A Restaurant

Don’t always place food orders for your kids. Have them order for themselves. Do this not only at fast food places but at sit down restaurants as well. It’s not difficult once your kids are used to.

Your kids should also learn the basic etiquette around tipping. Who to tip and how much can be important in certain situations.

Teach them the easy way to calculate 10% by simply moving the decimal over on the bill total, and then going to 20% by doubling that. Rounding the numbers off makes it all easier, of course.

9. Money Management

It’s important for kids to have limited spending money from a young age so that they learn to manage their money well. This is an incredibly important yet basic life skill so that they know what they can afford to spend on things as adults and stay within their budgets.

You can start this one out with budgets for buying gifts for friends, as well as using their own spending money for things. As kids get older, give them an appropriate budget to buy their own clothes. This one can make picky kids a lot less choosy, as they realize they can’t buy everything they want.

piggy bank

10. Basic Computer/Tech Troubleshooting

I know this is a weakness of many adults, and it might be for you as well. But the more basic troubleshooting you can handle on your own technology, the less you have to call for help. Of course, depending on your kids, they may be handling the tech troubleshooting for you.

Sometimes this is as simple as restarting the device. That’s the first thing I ask my kids when they say something isn’t working. If they haven’t done a reboot, I send them to do one. This solves a ton of problems. It even works for a lot of router problems if you reboot the router.

Other problems are more serious. Make sure your kids know how to run a malware scanner so they can handle things if they suspect a computer virus or similar problem.

Many computer problems can be resolved by searching on the problem, and then following the directions you find. I always have people in awe of the things I can solve on the computer, but really it was all Google. I just followed the directions.

If you’re more ambitious, some basic troubleshooting and repairs can be done to the components of the device itself. I’ve helped my son build a computer, but even before that I had switched out RAM, replaced a power supply and a fan on various computers of mine. Much of this is not all that hard to do, and kept us from needing expensive repairs.

11. Keeping Tech Use Legal

Lots of people make mistakes in using technology. I remember when downloading music illegally was a huge thing. Then lots of people were sued by the music companies, and the illegality of the whole thing became clear. Many people learned painful and expensive lessons.

Illegal downloads are still a problem, and as parents, you should teach your kids to keep things legal. It could save you trouble, as well as help your kids down the road.

For example, I found out my oldest was watching anime on a website her high school anime club used. When I looked it up, I had to inform her that there was a problem – the site wasn’t streaming legal copies. Fortunately, it also turned out to be easy to find legal sites for her to use. It had never occurred to her that someone might use an illegal site at school.

Sexting is another thing you want to discuss with your kids. Even sending a picture of themselves could be considered child pornography when they’re underage. There’s also the risk of having pictures shared to other people without permission. This may not be a comfortable topic to discuss with your kids, but it could be an important one.

12. Following Directions

Whether it’s following the directions given by a GPS, directions on how to build something, following a recipe or following instructions from their boss, kids need to know how to follow directions.

Have your kids do these things as they grow up. Get them kits to build things. When they’re old enough to cook, have them follow recipes. You could even write out directions to a place you want them to go and have them walk or ride a bike there.

13. Mailing Things

I know, most people don’t mail a lot of things right now. Email and texting are so much easier, as is online bill pay. But there will be times in your child’s life that they have to mail something.

Setting your child up with a pen pal could be a fun way to teach this. Don’t let them just email – have them send letters or small packages back and forth. And tell them how lucky they are that they don’t have to lick stamps anymore.

14. How To Clean Everything In The House

Kids should have age appropriate chores starting at a young age. Sometimes their “help” will make the job go more slowly for you, but that’s how they learn to do things.

As kids get into their teens, make sure they know how to do everything it takes to keep a house clean. This should eventually include the jobs that are done relatively rarely, such as cleaning the refrigerator coils – an important job if you have cats or dogs who shed a lot!

If you’re comfortable opening up a computer, you may also want to include how to dust the inside of a computer. Dust gets really bad in most of them, and it’s better for your computer if it gets cleaned off sometimes.

kid cleaning

15. Household Repairs

Teach your kids how to handle basic household repairs. This can include painting walls, hanging pictures with a nail, dealing with a running toilet, dealing with minor clogs, and so forth.

Just how many household repairs you teach depends on what you can handle and what you’re comfortable learning yourself online. The more you can handle yourself, the less often you have to pay a professional to do it for you.

16. Car Maintenance

While you don’t have to teach your kids how to change a car’s oil unless you want to, they must learn how often the job needs to be done. This is also a good time to teach your kids how to talk to a professional. Confidence in dealing with the various professionals you have to deal with in life is a big help.

How to change a flat is also important. Fix A Flat is often an option, but it may not be the best one all the time.

17. Safe Sex

It doesn’t matter if you believe that sex should be reserved for marriage or if your only concern is that your kids take appropriate precautions when having sex. All teens need to know the rules for safe sex. This may help when relationships move toward the physical side of things. Many well meaning teens let things go further than they meant to in the heat of the moment.

Talk to your kids about your beliefs about sex and marriage at the same time. Just give them the tools to protect their health and decide if they want to risk a pregnancy at the same time. Teens will do what they’re going to do no matter what parents teach them.

18. Taking Public Transit

Having your own car is a wonderful thing. You may plan on your kids each having their own car as they reach appropriate ages. But they should still learn how to take public transit.

Find your local bus schedules online and help your kids figure out how to get from Point A to Point B using public transit, and head out together. Have your kids handle as much of the process as possible.

This is important because you never know when the need to take public transit may come up. In some places, it’s a major way of getting around.

19. Job Hunting & Interviewing

Looking for a job is no fun for anyone, and interviewing can be scary. Make sure your kids have some idea what to expect with each.

Remember that some of the rules for job hunting have changed in recent years. Going from business to business and asking if they’re hiring isn’t as effective as it used to be. Lots of companies only want people to apply online, and they don’t want to be called and asked about applications. That’s often seen more negatively now.

That said, if your teen sees a company hiring the old fashioned way, with a sign in the window, have them go in and apply. Those first jobs can be hard to find.

For interviews, practice keeping eye contact with your teen and help them learn how to deal with the questions that are likely to be asked. Teens spend a lot of time using technology these days, so they aren’t always good with eye contact or knowing when to shake a hand.

20. Advocate For Themselves

I know how tempting it is to be your child’s best advocate. There are lots of times when it’s appropriate. But there also comes a time with most kids when it’s better for them to learn to advocate for themselves.

You can start this when they’re at an appropriate age in school and need to go to a teacher to discuss a problem with an assignment. Don’t insist on doing this for them throughout their entire school careers. There comes a time when they should handle it.

The ability to speak up for themselves will help your kids as adults. They need to be comfortable saying something when issues come up at work or with friends. This is especially important in learning to say “no” to people, whether in a romantic relationship or a professional one.

21. Packing For A Trip

I know a lot of parents prefer to pack for their kids when going on a family trip. This ensures that the kids have everything they need. No forgotten toothbrushes or other important supplies!

Kids need to learn to do this themselves. Once they’re old enough, start by telling them how many days to pack for, and then check what they’ve packed. Talk about where they packed too much or too little. Eventually, they’ll know how to do the job right.

When visiting family, I also extend this to packing up stuff to return home. My kids have gone weeks without a beloved toy because they left it at Grandma’s. They don’t forget things often now, because they know I won’t let Grandma mail anything forgotten to us without very good reason. Most items can wait for us until the next visit.

22. Doing Things On Time

How good are your kids at getting up on time for school? Turning in assignments on time? What about handling chores in a reasonable timeframe?

All these things are basic life skills. Lots of people lose jobs because they’re chronically late or frequently take too long to complete assigned tasks.

For school assignments, my kids’ middle school has them keep an agenda with assignments and due dates. I love that the school teaches them to track assignments.

Teach your kids to start work early on long term assignments. I’ve had the occasional run-in with my kids with the old “this huge assignment is due tomorrow and I need books for it right now!” thing. I’ve snoozed on the couch so they could ask for help late at night… our printer can be really fussy at inconvenient times, and it took a while to teach the kids how to handle the various issues.

As we’ve worked through these issues, my kids have greatly improved their time management abilities. Late nights are a rare thing for my high schooler, when they used to be common. My middle schooler has always been the organized sort. We’ll see what happens with the youngest.

23. Helping Others

Have your kids do volunteer work. What they can do will depend on your area and what’s permitted for their ages.

We’re lucky that a local animal shelter lets us volunteer, right down to my youngest child. We’re kind of grandfathered in, as they changed their volunteer minimum age a year or two ago. But since they know my youngest is not only good with animals but wants to be a vet, they’re willing to let her keep volunteering.

kid volunteering

24. Talking To Strangers

You’ve heard of the old “Stranger Danger” thing no doubt, but I believe there are better rules than that to teach your kids to be safer around strangers. The big one is that there are appropriate times to talk to a stranger, but it’s not safe to go places with a stranger.

Many people feel that it is better to teach kids about “tricky people” rather than stranger danger. This takes more judgment on the part of your kids, but good judgment is something you want them to learn.

Just think about how likely it is that a child may have to ask a stranger for help. Being mildly lost is an even more scary thing if you aren’t supposed to talk to strangers who might help you.

Teach your kids that it’s okay to yell for help if there’s a problem, fight back if attacked, and so forth. Teach them which adults are the best to approach if they are lost, such as a parent with kids, or an employee of the place that they’re at.

As they get older, help them get comfortable with the everyday conversations adults have with strangers. Even little kids can chat with the cashier or the friendly person you’re talking to when you’re out and about. So long as they know what the limits should be and what to do when there’s a problem, it’s pretty safe. It’s also necessary if your kids are going to function as adults later.

25. Swimming

You may not have a swimming pool. I don’t have a swimming pool. But you better believe my kids know how to swim.

Swimming may not be vital for day to day life, but most people will have an opportunity to go swimming at some point. Maybe a friend will have a pool, or the apartment complex will have one. Maybe they go to the beach, lake or river. Knowing how to swim makes people much safer when they’re around the water. It’s also fun.

26?? Can You Think Of More Basic Life Skills?

What other basic life skills can you think of that should be shared with kids as they grow up? I must have missed some. Tell me about them.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 14th, 2018

How To Encourage Your Kids To Be More Independent

How To Encourage Your Kids To Be More Independent

What do you think about when you think about your childhood? Odds are, you don’t think about the television you watched, at least not as much as you think about the fun things you did, especially without your parents. Many kids now don’t do nearly so much on their own. Wouldn’t you like to encourage your kids to be more independent?

It can be difficult to encourage your kids to be more independent these days. There are a lot of things encouraging them to stay inside, from the delights of online games to the fears many parents have of allowing even their teens to do things on their own.

Being comfortable doing things on their own is vital for your kids, both now and later in life. You don’t want them to be completely dependent on you as adults, do you? Now is the time to teach your kids to enjoy age appropriate independence, so they can do more and more on their own as they grow up.

This is not just something to do when the kids are small, although you can start then. It’s something to do throughout their lives.

Books To Read

With all the highly protective parents around, it can be very difficult to let your kids be more independent. Many have very few friends who can meet up with them on their own. Mine have this problem, even my teens. Everyone is in too many activities. They don’t have time to run around and just be kids.

Worse, some people will report kids for being outside if they think they’re too young to be out alone, even when the kids are a perfectly reasonable age. It’s reasonable to be concerned if a two or three year old is wandering the neighborhood alone; it’s quite another when the child is ten or more.

Reading some of these books may help you get more comfortable.

Free Range Kids – I received a free copy of this to review years ago. It’s still worth a read. Kids are capable of so much if you just let them try.

Last Child In The Woods – Another book I received a copy of long ago. It makes excellent arguments for why kids need to get out in nature.

Balanced and Barefoot – I haven’t read this one, but it strikes me as another good choice. The author is a pediatric occupational therapist, and the book explains why kids need to play independently outside. Developmentally, it’s a big deal.

Playborhood – One of the big reasons many parents don’t let their kids play outside is because there’s nobody out there for them to play with. You can change that.

Know Your Local Laws

Laws regarding kids can vary quite a bit from state to state. Make sure you know what your local laws say about things such as leaving kids home alone or leaving them in the car.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have excessively concerned neighbors, knowing the laws won’t always protect you from CPS. Some CPS agents will have their own ideas as to what is safe for kids. But for the most part, knowing the laws in your area should be enough.

On the plus side, some states such as Utah, are looking at making laws that state parents can let their kids play outside safely. It’s too bad that it takes a law to allow something that used to be assumed, but that’s where we’re at.

Get Your Kids Outside

Encourage your kids to be more independent by getting them to play outside, both on their own and with you. If you don’t have a yard, this may mean finding a park or playground where they can play, and will take more of your time.

Taking your kids for a hike is another good way to get them outside. Give them room to roam ahead or behind you as appropriate to the situation. Don’t make them stick right by your side without a good reason.

As kids get older, find more ways for them to go outside without you. If your neighborhood is safe, as many are, just encourage them to go play outside. Make sure they have toys that are fun for them to use outside.

My son, for example, loves remote control anything. Remote control toys are best used outdoors for the most part, unless they’re just too small for that.

Bikes, skates, balls and so forth are classics that are always good for kids to play with outside. Give them a good supply of outdoor toys, and playing out there becomes much more appealing.

Help Your Kids Build Skills

Independence isn’t just about playing outside. You should also give your kids the skills they need to do interesting things without you.

What that means depends on what your kids want to do. Your child might be artistic or they might enjoy building things. They may be into electronics.

Do things with your kids that help them build up the skills they need to take their interests farther. While you don’t want to overdo scheduled activities, the occasional class in their interests is a good thing.

Learn with your kids also. Make things with them. Teach them some of your skills, or pick up a new one with them.

I helped my son build a computer, for example. He did as much of the work as possible, and did online research as necessary. I helped with the build and with troubleshooting. We had lots of fun together. It was a huge boost to his confidence.

Set Appropriate Limits

Some people badmouth kids who are allowed to go out and about on their own because they assume they’re troublemakers. Don’t assume that encouraging your kids to be more independent means you don’t have to enforce limits. Of course you do.

The big ones, of course, are to respect other people and to respect their property. If your kids are doing something that might injure someone or damage someone else’s property, there’s a problem.

There’s a difference between letting your kids run wild and encouraging them to be independent, after all. That difference is in your expectations for their behavior. Set your expectations high.

Give your kids solid rules for how to deal with playing in the street. The old cry of “car!” when a car is approaching is great when there’s a group of kids playing and a car comes along. Make sure they know that they have to clear the street when a car comes along. Lots of games are far more fun for kids if they can play in the street, but they need to respect the primary use of the street. It’s safer for your kids and much less frustrating for neighbors.

Don’t let your kids play in the street unless you know they can handle it. If the kids are too young or don’t pay enough attention to traffic, it’s not safe. And of course, if the cars go too fast through your area, it’s probably not a good idea to include the street in their play. Use your judgment.

How far you let your kids wander will depend on their ages and the general safety of the area you live in. My kids love going to the store for ice cream, which is about a mile away. The older two can do this on their own if they like. The youngest must have one of the older ones with her.

Further along is a park they can go to, but they must use the crosswalks at the lights. I’ve seen too many close calls by that park to want to cross at the crosswalk that doesn’t have so much as a stop sign myself, never mind letting my kids do it. Too many drivers fail to stop for pedestrians in that crosswalk. The stoplights make it a little safer.

Teach Them To Be Safe

Beyond setting appropriate rules comes teaching your kids to be safe in general.

This is not “stranger danger.” There are times when talking to a stranger is entirely appropriate.

Teach them to be aware of their surroundings. Teach them how to deal with problems they may encounter. You can’t teach them everything, but when you talk about the more likely situations they’ll face, they have a better chance of dealing with other situations as well.

Teach Your Kids That You Trust Them

If you want your kids to be trustworthy, you have to trust them. This takes years of building up so that they’re confident in themselves and in your trust.

This starts as soon as they’re old enough to play alone, especially outside. Don’t insist upon being a part of everything they do.

When they’re playing in the yard or in the park, watch from a distance. Don’t be right there to help them climb. If they ask for help, that’s fine. That’s trust.

As they get older, set up rules that are based on trust, both when they’re out and about and at home. Do what needs to be done to keep your kids safe online, but trust them as well.

This means don’t check up on everything they do. You don’t have to check their texts daily when they get to that age, not unless you have a reason to mistrust them or if there’s a known problem you’re helping with.

I’ve had occasion to check my kids’ texts due to a suspected problem. I explained clearly what the situation was, so they knew I wasn’t being arbitrary.

At the same time, you want them to trust you. If your kids come to you with a problem, talk it out reasonably with them. Don’t get mad right away. Listen to the whole story. Discuss where things went wrong, and discipline appropriately. Done right, you’ll increase trust by not going overboard.

I’ve had to help my oldest with problems where she had to share texts with me to help with a situation she did not know how to deal with. We even had to consider whether to get the school involved. I was very glad that she trusted us enough that she could come to me with such a problem.

Give Them Responsibilities

Having responsibilities helps kids to be more independent. From helping to load the dishwasher when they’re small, to helping prepare dishes and keep the house and yard up as they get older, responsibilities help kids become more independent.

You should also make them responsible for their own homework as much as possible. Help them build the habit of starting on time. Don’t help them unless they need it, and even they don’t just hand the answer to them.

It’s often difficult to give your kids responsibilities. Teaching them to do chores is harder than doing it yourself during the learning curve. Some kids want you right there when they have homework to do or have a difficult time learning to manage their time. Give it time, and it will get easier for all of you.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 22nd, 2018

Beating Stay at Home Mom Isolation

Beating Stay at Home Mom Isolation

It’s been one of those days. The kids are screaming. You were lucky to get a shower this morning – if you did at all. The laundry is piling up, as are the bills. You’re always surrounded by your beloved children, yet you’ve never felt so alone. Stay at home mom isolation has you in its grip. There has to be a way to beat this thing.

The feeling of isolation is often the price to be paid for the privilege of being a stay at home mom. It goes along with the loss of income and privacy. Many a stay at home mom quickly notices a feeling of isolation, not only when she first starts out at home, but also when circumstances cause her to lose touch with the outside world.

Isolation is painful. It doesn’t matter that you adore your children or that all the other stay at home moms you know are counting their blessings and seem to be having a blast. Sometimes the personal sacrifice of less time with other adults really stings.

It’s even harder when you run into people who tell you that you should just be grateful for the time you have with your children. You can be grateful for that yet still feel isolated. There is nothing that says those two things can only be felt separately. Being told to be grateful doesn’t solve the problem – it only makes the SAHM feel guilty for her own feelings.

You don’t have to feel completely alone. No matter how young your children are there are things you can do to get some time with other adults and beat those lonely feelings.

Run Errands

Something as simple as running errands can help. It’s not much time with other people, and you probably won’t have a real conversation with anyone other than the cashier as you check out, but it can relieve some of that isolated feeling.

Running errands won’t solve your isolation – it’s just not enough. It’s better than nothing, especially if you know when friends run errands. A lot of parents in my area, for example, run errands after dropping the kids at school. Chatting with the ones I encounter makes my errands take longer than necessary, but it’s so nice to talk to other adults!

Go Fun Places

If the children are old enough, heading to the park or to a museum can help with stay at home mom isolation. The park is particularly enjoyable if you can arrange for another mom to be there, ideally with kids for yours to play with. The children get exercise; you get time to talk with another grownup who knows what you’re dealing with.

You don’t have to take the kids along for all your fun outings if someone else can take care of them. Your spouse can handle them for a little if you want to go out on your own, maybe meet up with friends, or you can get a sitter so you can go out together. Time away from your kids really helps refresh you for later.

Join A Mom Group

There are also various moms groups you can sign up for if you don’t know any other stay at home moms in your area. Stay at home moms can be hard to spot, but you might be surprised at how many are in your area.

You can find groups online or form your own as you meet other stay at home moms. It can take some time to find a group that’s a good match, but it’s worth the effort.

Socialize Online

Going online really can help. Join a forum on a topic that interests you. Read blogs. Start one of your own. It’s all a chance to express yourself and at least virtually interact with people who share your interests.

There are mom groups all over the place online. You can probably find one with parents you’ll enjoy chatting with. Search for them on Facebook and BabyCenter (it’s not all about babies) for starters.

There will be drama in most groups from time to time. It happens. Friends disagree in person too, right? It may be a bit rougher in a large group with more people to argue, but it’s normal. Sometimes it will be bad enough that you decide to leave the group, or others will decide to leave. Other times you can agree to disagree and move on.

Volunteer

Find a place to volunteer, with or without the kids, depending on what’s available in your area.

My kids and I have volunteered at a local animal shelter for several years now. The employees and other regular volunteers all know us. While most of our time is spent with the animals, we get to chat a little with customers and the others who work there. It’s a lot of fun.

Work At Home

Starting a work at home job or a home business can help you feel less isolated. This can be challenging when the kids are tiny and need a lot of attention. Doing something super flexible is easiest, even if it doesn’t bring in as much money as it might otherwise.

This is why I like blogging. You can write when the kids are sleeping, playing peacefully, or when your spouse is around to be the main parent. Starting a blog is easy… making it profitable is more challenging. I consider it worthwhile.

Don’t Feel Bad About Feeling Isolated

Some stay at home moms will insist to you that they never feel isolated, as though you shouldn’t either. But if you ask them about it, you will find out that these are the moms who already have a good network of friends and family they can talk to and do things with regularly. They aren’t lonely because they don’t allow it to happen.

Don’t Feel Bad About Being Frustrated

We all have bad days. When the kids are acting up and making life difficult, any parent will get frustrated. Sometimes you just have one of those days where it all goes wrong.

As you get used to being a stay at home mom and develop friendships with people who can be there when you need someone other than a child to talk to, you can get control over stay at home mom isolation. It doesn’t have to be a problem forever.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 15th, 2018

When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone?

When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone?

Letting kids stay home alone for the first time is a big deal. It’s a mark of maturity and parental trust. The hard part for the parents is deciding when it’s appropriate and for how long. Your idea of when to let your kids stay home alone may not match what they want.

But it isn’t all about what you think, or even what an individual child thinks. You have to consider a few things before you can let your kids stay home alone, for their safety and protection.

State Law

The laws on when kids can stay home alone vary from state to state, but most states decline to give an actual age requirement. Many give recommended ages, which can range from age 8 to 14. Considering that most places kids can start babysitting at age 12, I consider older than that to be overly strict on the state’s part. That’s something you have to consider when you’re making this decision.

A part of the rules effective in your state will depend on how safe the situation is. Being home alone for a while during the day is very different from being home alone all night.

Contacting CPS is an option if you aren’t certain about the rules in your area. Some of you will think this is a great idea. Some will consider it terrible. They may or may not give you good information. Sometimes you’ll get someone with very different ideas of what is safe versus what the law says. You don’t have to talk to them about it if you don’t want to. If other parents in your area have had problems, it may be a good idea. Facing legal issues over what you considered to be a good parenting decision would be hard.

Where Do You Live?

In asking where you live in this case, I don’t mean which state. We’ve looked at state laws already.

What we’re looking at here is the kind of neighborhood you live in. Do you feel safe letting your kids be home alone in your neighborhood?

There are neighborhoods where it’s a higher risk to have your kids home alone there than it would be elsewhere. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your kids home alone due to your neighborhood. You have to consider it, but it’s not something you can easily change. It’s not like “move” is a realistic answer for most families.

Maturity of Your Child

The simple truth of the matter is that some kids are ready to stay home alone sooner than others. You know your children best. You can decide when they’re ready to stay home alone for short periods and when you can be gone longer.

Your kids may be ready to stay home alone when you’re confident that your child won’t break too many of the rules you set for when you’re gone, such as having friends over, answering the door, cooking, and so forth. They should also know how to deal with minor problems and what to do in case of an emergency. They should know how to reach you at need. Cell phones are wonderful in this regard, as it makes it much easier for a child to reach a parent who is out and about.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if the kids don’t follow all the rules you set every time. Do you really think they’ll be perfect about screen time limits when you’re not around? Keep them reasonable. If your kids are like mine, you’ll come home to kids rushing to get assigned chores done. It’s normal. So long as the rules aren’t broken too badly, it’s rarely a big deal. But if the infraction is serious, deal with it appropriately.

Most of these rules should loosen up as your kids get older. They’re going to move out someday, and you want them comfortable doing normal adult things by then.

My son, for example, is about to have his first day alone without even siblings home. It’s his choice. I have to be an appraiser for his younger sister’s Destination Imagination tournament, and my husband has to be there with her. My oldest daughter has an archery tournament. I gave my middle child the choice of which to attend or to stay home, and home is what he chose. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. We’ll all be gone a significant chunk of the day. He knows he can call us if he needs help, and he has the phone numbers of various friends he could call if he needed an adult sooner than we could get back.

Siblings

A child with older siblings able to watch him or her can stay home without a parent younger than one without older siblings present. A child who has to watch younger siblings will need to be older before being allowed to watch them without parents home. Taking care of yourself and siblings is a much bigger deal than taking care of yourself.

I think about how old I was when I started babysitting, which included watching actual babies. I was 12.

That’s probably a pretty good age, state laws permitting, so long as your older kids are familiar with what the younger needs. They should also be fairly patient with the younger.

How Long?

How long are you going to leave your kids alone matters too. You can trust kids while you run a quick errand younger than you might trust them to be alone for a few hours.

For example, I’m willing to let my youngest stay home for a short time while I pick up her older siblings from school. Longer than that she’s not ready for.

They should also be a bit older if food preparation is required. Snacks may not be so difficult to deal with once rules are agreed upon. If a meal needs to be prepared, there’s more responsibility required of your child. This is true even if it’s just popping something in the microwave. It’s all too easy for an accidental burn to happen while taking food out of the microwave. Your child should know how to handle that without panicking.

Can Someone Come Help If Needed?

It’s a huge help if your kids know which neighbors or nearby family friends they can call upon at need. Most times, no one will be needed. On rare occasions, things happen. They need a trusted adult faster than you can come home. Plan for it so it’s not a bigger problem than it has to be.

Don’t make letting your kids stay home alone be a burden on neighbors or friends. If your kids need help from them often, they’re too young to be alone.

How Will They Contact You?

Make sure your kids know how to contact you in an emergency, even if it will take you a while to get home.

Most times, this is easy. Most of us have cell phones. If you don’t have a landline phone in your home, make sure your kids still have a way to contact you, of course.

There is an extra challenge if you’re somewhere that you cannot use your cell phone. Some jobs won’t let you carry one, for example. It’s rude, of course, to have your phone ringing at the movie theater or at a performance. Other times, there isn’t cell coverage where you’re going.

At these times, you need to have a backup plan for your kids. If they can’t reach you, who should they call?

What Options Do You Have?

Sometimes you aren’t entirely happy about leaving your child home alone, but you don’t have other options. If your child isn’t ready to be home alone, you will need to find a way to deal with that. You may need to talk to a family member, friend or neighbor about helping you out, or hire a babysitter. Sometimes you can arrange a playdate with one of your child’s friends when you need to get out without your child. If leaving your child alone isn’t the right choice, you have to pick an alternative and make it work.

When it comes right down to it, guidelines or no guidelines, and even state law, you know best when your child is ready to stay home alone and for how long. If you don’t feel your child is ready when the law or guidelines say they can do it, you don’t have to push the matter.

Allowing your kids to stay home alone is an important step in developing their independence. Keep the rules reasonable and they’ll have a lot of fun.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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