Summer break is really getting close for schoolchildren. It starts June 2 for my son, June 14 for my daughter. That means all too soon the kids will have many extra hours in which to express their boredom. As all work at home moms know, it pays to be prepared for summertime so you can still get some decent work hours in.
Not all of my ideas are about making things fun for the kids. Fun is good, and children need plenty of it, but you have to expect them to help around the house too. They don’t have school over the summer, and that means they have more time to help you, like it or not. And so…
1. Add new chores to the kids’ to do lists.
Children are quite capable of helping around the house, and they should do it often. How many people have stories about the college freshman they knew who had never done his or her own laundry and was at a complete loss, or the friend who didn’t know how to cook even the most basic of foods?
This summer is when my oldest is going to get more involved in helping with meal preparation. She can already make a few basic foods such as scrambled eggs; now it’s time for her to learn more and to get more comfortable with the whole process.
Think about what your kids are capable of cleaning, even if they won’t immediately do it to your standards. Dusting, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, laundry, all that fun stuff. Surely some of it can be made at least partially a chore for the kids.
2. Keep their school skills fresh.
One big problem with such a long summer break is that children forget what they learned in school. Then their teachers have to go over all over it again at the start of the new school year.
There are plenty of websites which can help you help them retain the things they learned at school. You can find printable math worksheets and more online. The Khan Academy has only a little suitable for elementary school aged kids, but it gets better as they get more advanced.
You can also make up your own assignments for them. I prefer to keep summer work within the interests of each child when I can. My oldest, for example, loves fairies and is intensely creative, and so her writing practice will be to write about fairies, and typing practice will be to type up what she has written onto her own website. She wants to have a business like mine, so this is a way to help her get started.
I don’t suggest hours of schoolwork a day or even necessarily doing schoolwork every day. Even a half hour once or twice a week may be plenty, depending on the skills you’re working with.
3. Summer camps and classes.
You don’t have to do all the educational stuff on your own, and it doesn’t all have to be educational anyhow. Look into summer camps and classes for your kids that fit into your budget and their interests. I insist on swimming lessons for my kids each year, for example, because they have regular access to a pool at a friend’s house and at their grandparents’ house.
4. Go to the park.
Getting out to the park regularly gets the kids away from the electronic forms of entertainment, and if you have one young enough to nap yet, encourages naptime later on. If your kids are old enough to only be lightly watched as they play, you may even be able to bring your laptop and work while they play.
I suggest going either early in the day or in the evenings after dinner, as those are the cooler times of day. You’ll also have to worry less about sunburn.
5. Trade time with other at home parents.
You usually can’t just send your kids over to play with a friend and not have to reciprocate. That’s okay, as the right friends will keep your kids out of your hair almost as much when they’re playing at your house as when they’re elsewhere. Most parents really appreciate getting the time for a break.
6. Get a mother’s helper.
I loved it when I had a mother’s helper when my oldest was a baby. It made life much easier. My helper was too young to be a babysitter, but quite aware of how her older sisters made money with babysitting. Of course she cost less to hire, as I was right there, able to change diapers and so forth. She just had to keep the baby entertained.
If you have a toddler and an older child, you can also pay the older child to have more specific duties toward the younger, beyond what you expect simply for the fact that you’re all family. It’s a good way to teach them responsibility and the value of earning money.
7. Go to the library.
My kids love library days. We’ve been going nuts waiting for the local library to reopen after a remodel, but it’s going to be nice having it open again. New computers, WiFi, new paint and new carpets should make it a pretty nice place to visit this summer. It’s so much cheaper than getting new books for them at the bookstore all the time.
8. Have arts and crafts supplies available.
Just how available you make the arts and crafts supplies be depends on how much you can trust your kids to use them properly. My two year old means that all supplies must be kept out of her reach, but the older two are mostly good about how they use things. Mostly. They’re still kids after all, and sometimes whim takes the place of thinking.
9. Have a dedicated play area.
Just as you are better off working in a dedicated home office space in most cases, kids are often better off in an at least somewhat dedicated play area. It might be their bedrooms, but at least they’re playing someplace where they’re out of your hair. Just be sure to check out that suspicious silence. They’re either up to something or being so cute you’ll need a camera. Maybe both.