Last Updated November 17th, 2018

Cooking When The Kids Won’t Cooperate

Cooking When The Kids Won't Cooperate

There’s an image people have of stay at home moms. A part of that image is the perfectly cooked dinner for her family, each and every day. But we stay at home moms know that it’s not always all that easy to do, especially when the kids are young and uncooperative. How do you manage cooking when the kids won’t cooperate?

There are some days when kids just don’t want to be out from underfoot. Or you just have too much going on with them that day, and despite being home it’s really hard to find a way to get dinner cooked.

No parent ever claimed that it was easy every day.

If you’re wanting to provide your family with a home-cooked meal every day you have to figure out how to make it work. If you plan ahead and have a few tricks up your sleeve, you can do it.

Plan Ahead

You don’t always know when the kids are going to be difficult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead. Knowing early on what you’re going to make for dinner or lunch can keep you from making rushed decisions and allow you to make healthier meals for your family.

If you can plan your weekly menu on a convenient day for your shopping, you ensure that you will have the ingredients you need for each meal. There are few things when you’re cooking more frustrating than to think you know what you want to make and realizing you’re out of a vital ingredient.

chopped vegetables

Chop Early, Chop Often

Think about the various fruits and vegetables you buy. How often do you need to chop them for dinner or even just for snacks? Wouldn’t your life be easier if they were ready to go when you needed them?

Don’t bother buying them chopped from the grocery store. They cost quite a bit more that way as a rule. Instead, chop them up at home. Find the time and get it done. Having fruits and vegetables ready to eat or cook with means that you’re more likely to eat them.

Of course, don’t chop too many fruits and veggies ahead of time. They go bad faster after you’ve chopped them, and you don’t want to waste food. Carrots may last a long time after being chopped, for example, but you know how fast bananas go bad. Make sure you consider how well each one lasts before you cut it up early.

Use Your Freezer

No, don’t put the kids in there. It may be tempting some days, but it just makes people talk about you.

When you can, make double recipes and put the excess in the freezer for another night. You’ll have to learn what freezes well; some vegetables really don’t do so well after being cooked then frozen. But you can make extra of just the meat part of the meal if you like and have a much easier time preparing dinner another night.

Chopping early works well with your freezer too. You can cut meats up right after buying them, and then freeze them. This works especially well if you can prep them to a point where all you have to do is defrost a meal and throw it into the crockpot, oven, or Instant Pot.

Some people will make enough meals to last a week or even a month, and freeze them for later use, all at once. I don’t get that organized as a general rule. Doubling up works much easier, in my opinion. My one exception is when we get meat at Costco – that’s too much to have in the fridge for long at all. That’s one of the ways I do my double bacon feta burgers, although it often comes out as a double recipe. If I’m making burgers, especially with bacon, my family will probably want some that night.

If you want to get serious about freezer meals, check out books about once a month cooking.

crockpot

The Crockpot Is Your Friend

I love my crockpot. I can start dinner at a time convenient to me. First thing in the morning or just 4 or so hours before we need to eat. The flexibility is wonderful when you aren’t sure how you’re going to get time to cook at dinnertime.

This is especially useful if your kids are in a lot of activities that run right up to dinnertime. You can save a lot of money if you don’t feel like you have to eat out every time just because it’s so late. The crockpot will keep dinner warm for you.

Using a crockpot isn’t the only time you can start dinner well in advance. Soups can simmer for hours and need only occasional attention. Think about the meals that have longer cooking times but aren’t all that hard to prepare.

So Is The Instant Pot

If you can’t get things cooking soon enough for the slow cooker, using the Instant Pot is another great idea. There are a lot of great recipes available for the Instant Pot, and it’s pretty fast.

One of the most important things you should understand about cooking with an Instant Pot is that the cook time doesn’t start until the pot is at pressure. If a recipe says to cook for 12 minutes, expect it to take several minutes for the pot to come to pressure before that 12 minute countdown starts on the timer.

stir-fry

Stir Frying Is Quick And Easy If You Have The Ingredients Ready

This is one of the big reasons for Rule 2. If you have your meats and vegetables chopped in advance, stir frying takes relatively little time. Throw on some rice, stir fry the meat and vegetables with a little sauce, and you have dinner.

Tacos are also popular and easy if you have the veggies prechopped. It’s fun to let everyone who’s old enough assemble their own.

Keep The Kitchen Organized And Clean

With kids, it’s easy to have dishes stack up. Take a few moments and load the dishwasher or wash the dishes after every meal. It just adds to the stress when you’re trying to cook and the kitchen is an absolute mess.

As the kids get older, they can help with this or even handle most of it. Silverware and plastic containers are easy for even young kids to handle. Once your kids are responsible enough and tall enough, they can put away breakable dishes as well.

Know When To Use The Microwave

Sometimes the microwave just adds to the chaos. It’s incredibly easy to use and convenient most times, but other times it’s one more thing to do when practically everything else is ready.

Decide which is really easier for you. Throwing the potatoes in the microwave just minutes before you need them or throwing them in the oven an hour earlier. Steaming vegetables in the microwave or steaming them on the stove. The faster method sometimes is better, other times adds to the last steps of cooking a good dinner. Which works best for you?

cooking together

Let The Kids Help When Possible

Younger children in particular love to help cook. While you can’t have young children stirring a pot on the stove, they can do things such as help to make the salad if the vegetables are chopped for them.

Older children may be at the point where they should be learning to cook, chop or just set the table. Assign chores and make a routine of it. They may complain and it may be harder for a little, but if it’s a routine there will eventually be less for them to complain about. It’s just a part of how they can help keep your home running smoothly.

Best of all is when you can tell one of the kids that it’s their night to make dinner for everyone. It’s good practice for when they grow up and head out on their own. It’s also a great break for tired parents.

I assign whole weeks during the summer to each of my kids where they have to help make meals at an age appropriate level. This includes having input on meal planning and grocery shopping. The older ones have to prepare entire meals on their weeks, while the youngest only has to help with the cooking.

Kids Like Lazy

You know those nights when you just don’t have the energy to make anything, so you just let the kids have cereal or something? You may feel bad, but your kids might just love it. If your parents did that when you were a kid, did you enjoy it? It will likely be the same for your kids.

I know the thing my kids like about nights that I tell them to figure out their own dinners is that they get exactly what they want from the food available. The selection may be limited, but there’s usually something that each child is delighted to eat.

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 July 26th, 2018

Coping With Boredom As A Stay At Home Mom

Coping with Boredom as a Stay at Home Mom

One of the biggest complaints stay at home moms have is boredom. Being a mom is rewarding in many ways for most moms, but it’s not always all that stimulating. Doing the same thing day after day with little interaction with other adults can wear you down. How can you cope with boredom as a stay at home mom?

You can’t just rely on that shower alone or that first cup of coffee to get you through the day. They’re important, but you deserve more.

Most moms don’t want to live the life of the perfect homemaker and mother, and there’s no reason why you should. Especially not at the cost of yourself.

How many of us really enjoy keeping an immaculate house while entertaining an infant or toddler, or even multiple children? It may be fun for a while, but eventually, most moms want more. Deserve more.

painting

Enjoy Your Hobbies

One of the most important things to do is not give up your old interests just because you’re a stay at home mom. Keep up with your old hobbies. You may have to figure out which ones can be done in short bursts rather than sitting and working for hours undisturbed, but some of your interests should still be possible.

If you don’t have a hobby, start one. Learn to paint. Work on crafts. Learn to solder. Build things. Get some books at the library and start reading.

Find something you enjoy doing, whether you’ve done it before or have to pick up a new skill. You’ll have fun, and the kids will see you as a more interesting person.

dragon-mom

Get Out With The Kids

Get out of the house, even if it’s only for a walk. This can be particularly difficult when you have an infant who always needs a nap, but it does get better as they get older. But remember that an infant will nap just about anywhere, and that includes the car seat and stroller. While those aren’t the best places for regular naps, there is nothing wrong with the occasional nap in them.

As kids get older, trips to libraries and museums make a nice switch from heading out to the park, especially if the weather is too warm or too cold. Many museums have kids free days regularly, so this doesn’t have to cost a lot.

If there’s a place that charges admission you like particularly well, see what a membership will cost versus paying for each time. A membership is often worth it, especially if it also gets you free parking in a place that charges for parking.

All these activities have one huge advantage when the kids are little – they’re likely to take a nap after. Hopefully, it’s more than just in the car, but tired kids nap longer. That means a better break for mom.

When the kids are older and past the napping stage, regular outings mean they’re happier about the fun things you’ve done as a family. You’re building memories together, and probably doing things that are more fun for you as well.

grocery store

To Take Kids On Errands Or Not?

As a stay at home mom, you may often take the kids with you on errands. It’s the easiest way to get things done most days, even though it can slow things down tremendously. But is it the best idea when you’re bored and maybe even frustrated with the stay at home mom routine?

That may depend on the errand.

When my kids were small, I would joke about how getting to grocery shop without the kids was almost a vacation, and how pathetic that was. You’re keeping pretty busy, after all, if running an errand with no kids feels like any kind of a break.

Some errands can be fun to run with the kids as they get old enough. My kids always love going on a Costco run with me because we usually get lunch out, and you never know what the free samples will be. Lunch there is cheap enough to be affordable on many budgets. Order a pizza before heading down, and there are even leftovers.

If you need a break – ANY break – from the kids, running an errand without them may be a great idea, at least until you can take a real break. It is a chance to catch your break and clear your mind for a little while.

date

Get Out Without The Kids

When I say to get out without the kids, I don’t just mean run errands. Doing that can feel like a break, but you deserve more.

Getting out without the kids should be about doing something you want to do.

Maybe you head out on your own. Maybe you go on a date with your spouse.

Whatever it is, the time is about you being you, or maybe you and your spouse. Try not to spend the entire time talking about the kids. Have fun just being you for a while. You’ll think about the kids some, and talk about them (I think we all do that), but do other things too.

It can be hard sometimes to figure out what to do when you’ve spent too much time being “Mom.” You’ll figure it out. You’re in there somewhere.

If you can’t afford a babysitter, get a family member or friend to agree to do babysitting trades. You watch their kids, they watch yours. Grandparents are also willing in many families. This can allow date nights with your husband or just time to get something done without interference.

mom friends

Make Friends With Other Parents

Take the time to meet up with other moms. Even if you only have an infant it’s good to get out and socialize. As your children get older this can get easier, especially if you get along with their friends’ parents.

My favorite parents to meet when my kids were younger were the ones whose kids’ age differences were similar to the age differences for my kids. It made getting the kids together so nice since each child had a friend their own age without having to make arrangements with a lot of parents.

Of course, having children of similar ages is not the only reason to make friends with other parents. It’s better yet if you have common interests. You’ll all have more fun then.

You do not have to be friends with every parent you meet, of course. There are some you simply will not get along with. The friendships your kids have may still make it worthwhile to be in contact, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be friends with that set of parents.

Your friendship with other parents doesn’t have to be just about the kids, of course. Get out together without them. Get coffee together, go to a paint and sip class together, exercise together, just do things together that aren’t all about the kids.

online friends

Make Friends Online

Get online! The internet makes it easy for even the most homebound stay at home mom to make friends.

Facebook has a lot of groups for parents to join, for just about any interest. You can be a nerdy mom, homeschooling mom, single mom, sports mom, or just about any other interest. Having something in common makes the groups more fun to be a part of.

Don’t feel bad about joining a group for a little while, then leaving if it’s not the group for you. No one will notice in most groups. It takes time to find the right group, and sometimes you’ll find that a group that sounded good from the outside is absolutely not a match for you once you’re in. No need to announce your departure in that case – just go.

Facebook isn’t the only place to meet other parents online, of course. You can find forums or use other social media sites. Just look around until you find the right group of parents to socialize with online.

exercise

Get Exercise

Taking time to exercise regularly is a great idea. You’ll be healthier. It gives your brain a break from focusing on the usual household stuff.

Join a gym or the local YMCA if you can and take classes. This can help you build a regular routine. It’s too easy to skip out on fitness if you don’t have a schedule.

If you can’t afford a gym membership, you can still exercise. There are lots of free exercise videos on YouTube, or you can walk or ride a bike around the neighborhood.

online learning

Improve Your Education

When you’re a stay at home mom, it’s a great time to update your education. Maybe you plan on being a SAHM until your kids are grown, maybe you plan on it for only a few years. Either way, make the most of this time to get a better education.

There are lots of legitimate online courses you can take. Many good schools now offer online degrees. You need to be careful, of course, to ensure that you are getting a quality education. There are too many schools that are essentially scams. Read up on any online schools you attend to ensure that you will get your money’s worth.

You don’t have to improve your education only in ways that will help your future career, of course. You can also learn things just because they’re interesting. Education can be fun. Try courses through sites such as Udemy. You can learn to do lots of things online.

wahm

Find A Way To Work At Home

You may have decided to become a stay at home mom so you’d always be there for your kids, 100%. It probably didn’t take that long to realize that you want more out of life.

I strongly encourage all stay at home moms to have some way to earn money from home, whether it’s a work at home job or a home business of your own. It’s a vital safety net, in my opinion.

Let’s start with the big reasons: divorce, death, disability, and unemployment. Any of these can impact your life when you least expect it. If you don’t have money of your own coming in, these reasons can spell disaster for your family. And they’re mostly out of your control.

But those aren’t the only reasons.

Working at home can be fun. I especially like working for myself on this site, but I started out as a medical transcriptionist at home. Working at home is a way to do something as an adult.

Succeeding as a work at home mom is an accomplishment. Being a mom is too, but it’s not the same.

Working at home can be especially important if you want to go back to your career someday. It removes that break in your resume due to being a stay at home mom. Given how difficult it can be for a stay at home mom to find work later, that’s pretty important.

If you want to start simple, start a blog. It’s not difficult or expensive to get started. Maybe you earn money from your blog, maybe it’s just a hobby. But it’s a good introduction to working at home if you set yourself a schedule and try to keep a good routine going.

depression

Be Aware Of Depression

Sometimes being bored as a stay at home mom is more than just boredom. Depression is a very real issue for people in all walks of life.

Depression in moms doesn’t always start with postpartum depression, although that should be considered if relevant. Sometimes it comes years later.

If you’re concerned that you’re becoming clinically depressed, get help. It’s not easy to ask for help, I know, but find a way to get help.

Clinical depression means you need more help than just getting out of the house. It’s best if you can talk to a psychiatrist about medications that might help, and a therapist to talk things out.

Your network of friends may be able to help to a degree, but not in the ways a professional can. Clinical depression is not something to mess with. Check sites such as psychiatry.org to find help if you need it.

Stay At Home Motherhood Isn’t Always Fun

You’re going to get bored occasionally as a stay at home mom. Sometimes you simply will not be able to do the things you would rather be doing. But that’s true even if you work outside the home.

Taking care of children is hard, repetitive work. Young children, in particular, have a love of repetition that can be very hard on a mother. But if you can look at how your children are growing and changing you may be able to appreciate even the parts of your life that are otherwise quite “boring.”

Find ways to keep on being you, not just “Mom.” It’s a great title, but it doesn’t have to come at the loss of the rest of yourself.

And don’t forget to complain sometimes. Babies and toddlers can be exhausting and boring to care for, no matter how much you love them. They aren’t great conversationalists. They’re messy. The fact that they’re also utterly adorable isn’t enough every day, and it doesn’t have to be.

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 June 22nd, 2018

Keeping The Kids Busy When It’s Miserably Hot

Keeping The Kids Busy When It's Miserably Hot

Summer is a great time for children. School is out for most of them and it’s time to play. Running, climbing, building sand castles, swimming…

Sweating, sunburns, complaining.

It’s not easy keeping the kids busy all summer long, especially on those miserably hot days when no one wants to go outside. And while you can take advantage of summer nights to have a little more fun while it’s cool outside, that doesn’t entirely take care of those long, hot summer days. What can you do to keep them busy, short of turning the AC on full blast, driving up your electrical bill and letting them watch television or play video games all day? Plenty!

Make Cool Treats

First of all, have some cheap, cool treats on hand. Otter Pops or homemade popsicles don’t cost much. You may need to enforce a rule that they are eaten outside to limit the mess. If it’s really hot, these may only keep the kids out for a short time. Then again, they might find something fun to do outside. Sometimes getting the kids outside is half the battle.

I like to make homemade popsicles from fruit and vegetable smoothies. This way they’re a healthy snack, but the kids still adore them. They’ve even been known to have smoothie popsicles for breakfast, a fact which sometimes astonishes their friends. I wouldn’t hesitate to give a healthy smoothie for breakfast, so why not the same smoothie in popsicle form?smoothie before mixing

There are tons of smoothie recipes out there. Here’s my basic starter recipe. It varies depending on what I have available, and I really don’t measure quantities. Everything just gets thrown in.

Handful of spinach
One carrot
One banana
Celery
Single serving container plain Greek yogurt
Assorted frozen fruits to top the whole thing off
Fruit juice or preferred milk to make enough liquid for blending
Honey if needed for sweetness (to taste)
Squeeze of lemon juice to bring out flavors (to taste)

Mix the whole thing together. You can add cacao nibs, chia seeds and so forth to boost the nutritional content if you want.

If cherry season has been good, this chocolate cherry smoothie is really good as well. I have my kids pit and freeze lots of cherries whenever the price gets low enough.

Get The Kids Outside Early Or Late

Try getting the kids outside to play in the earlier and later parts of the day, when it’s cooler outside. Then you won’t feel so bad if they’re watching television in the hottest part of the day. Try to keep television watching/video game playing under two hours a day total.

If you can get your kids playing outside until about 10 a.m., the day won’t be too hot for some fun, unless it’s going to be one of those miserably hot days. If it’s already hot out, there’s nothing wrong with some early water play.

Encourage your kids to do things like ride bikes, roller skate, play tag, and so forth before the day gets too hot or after it cools down a little. Physical activity is so important, but it can be hard to get enough of it when they weather is so hot. These are also good for encouraging independence in your children.

If you all want to get out, first thing in the morning or in the evening is the perfect time for a family hike. We have hills in our area that have some very nice hikes… so long as it isn’t too hot out. Some of those trails have very little shade. Pick the right time, and it’s a pleasant way to get some exercise as a family.

water balloons

Have Lots Of Water Toys

If there’s one thing that gets kids outside even on hot days, it’s water. And while we can’t all have swimming pools, there are plenty of ways for kids to have fun with water on hot days. Be sure to remember the sunscreen!

For very young children, a water table is a lot of fun. Add in a few toys to move the water around, and they’ll be happy for a while. Some sandbox toys work great with water as well as sand.

If you have a big enough yard, a Slip n’ Slide is a lot of fun. Sprinklers are another great option, plus you get to water your lawn a little that way. You don’t have to buy the ones made for kids to play with – just about any sprinkler you own will do just fine.

Squirt guns and water balloons can be a lot of fun too. My kids have found Bunch O Balloons to be both fun and frustrating. They’re fun because they fill up so fast, but frustrating because the balloons don’t always seal up well, and tend to leak. And like most water balloons, they often bounce rather than break.

Squirt guns are a lot of fun so long as you get the right kind for your child’s age. Little kids find the larger ones too heavy, and the need to pump them up makes them too difficult. Big kids, on the other hand, rarely enjoy smaller squirt guns. They’d rather have a Super Soaker type, and the greater the range, the more fun.

Of course, if you do have a swimming pool, make sure you and your family follow all the water safety rules. So many accidents can be avoided with a little caution.

water table

Find Fun Ways To Keep The Kids Busy Indoors

Have fun things ready for them to do indoors that have nothing to do with electronics. Screen time has its place, but you don’t want it to be the only thing your kids do.

Board games work very well, depending on the ages of your kids. Choosing a board game can cause a lot of arguments, as do some games, but overall they’re a great choice. You may need to help your kids negotiate if there’s a big age or interest range, so they learn to balance these things out.

Subscription boxes for kids can be a great idea for the summer. My kids have had fun with Groovy Lab In A Box. You can do a subscription or choose single boxes to ensure you get something your kids will enjoy. Subscriptions are cheaper than single boxes, but you don’t know what you’re going to get. They’re pretty good, in my experience.

If you’re more creative, you can buy things locally or on Amazon to make your own versions of subscription boxes. Think of a theme and go for it!

I encourage my kids to pick up a new skill or improve an old one each summer. My artistically inclined kids draw or paint a lot. Using a computer drawing tablet doesn’t count as screen time since they’re working on a skill. Just about any skill will do, and it’s fun for kids to work on their own interests, rather than do whatever their school requires of them.

And of course, encourage your kids to just play with their toys. They don’t need to spend every minute doing something educational.

Sign The Kids Up For Activities

Many parents choose to enroll their kids in activities for the summer. This is good if not taken to extremes – kids need time to just be kids.

My kids do swimming lessons every summer until they hit the top level of the available classes. While they no longer have the regular pool access they had when they were younger, we never know when a friend will turn out to have a pool. It’s just safer to have all kids learn to swim, even if they won’t use that skill at home.

Check with your local community center for more activities you can sign your kids up for. Art, drama, martial arts, gymnastics, dance… the list goes on, most places. Make sure it’s something your kids want to do, so they enjoy the class.

There are a lot of free and cheap activities you can do as a family as well. Many of them don’t require any kind of signup, just show up and participate or do completely on your own.

Reading Time

Encourage your kids to spend some time each day reading for pleasure. You can take them to your local library for books, head to the bookstore, or get more books on Amazon, depending on what your kids want to read.

My youngest loves the Warrior Cats series, for example. She will run out of books in that series eventually, but for now, it has gotten my very reluctant reader to enjoy reading.

Your local library may have a summer reading challenge as well as summer activities your kids will enjoy. Earning a prize for reading is just one more incentive.

Don’t force your kids to read something they don’t want to read over the summer. Help them find something they will enjoy, whether it’s novels or comic books. They’ll have plenty of assigned reading from their schools as they grow. Of course, if your child’s school assigns summer reading, make sure they take care of that too.

Be Ready For Grumbles

Of course, just because the kids are complaining that it’s too hot outside doesn’t mean you have to give in and let them play inside. In many cases, it isn’t that it’s too hot to play outside, it’s that your kids are bored.

That’s why you need to have a lot of things for your kids to do. Don’t give your kids ideas for what to do every time… it’s better for them to learn to figure that out on their own as they get older. If they have options available, they will figure it out. Or you can always assign them chores. Whatever works.

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 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 January 4th, 2018

The Financial Hazards Of Being A Stay At Home Mom Or Dad

The Financial Hazards of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad

I’ve gone over the financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad. They can sound pretty good, but they are not the full picture. There are also a number of financial hazards of being a stay at home mom or dad. It’s vital that you know them as well.

Loss Of Income

Obviously, you’re losing a lot of income when you stay at home and don’t work at home. While that loss may be offset by not having to spend money on childcare and such, this is not the complete picture.

There are also lost career opportunities when you’re a stay at home parent. Staying home with the kids for five years means you’re missing out on five years of raises and chances for promotions. It’s five years that you might not be keeping up with your industry well enough to return to the same position as you had before.

This is why it is important for stay at home moms and dads to keep up with their industries or work to improve their educations. Another option is to work at home, whether you telecommute from your old job, find something else that can be done from home or start your own online business, such as a blog.

It can be more difficult to find a job as you get older too, especially if you haven’t worked for a while. Age discrimination is a thing, and it’s very hard to prove.

Working at home part time doesn’t entirely resolve these issues, but it’s a start. Some moms will be fortunate enough to find something that brings in enough money to replace a full time outside the home job, but many others will not. It’s something to consider.

Decreased Savings For Retirement

Few stay at home parents save for retirement, yet it’s just important for them as it is for a parent who works outside the home. It’s hard to save the money when things may be tight already. But the younger you start saving for retirement, the more benefit you will gain from each dollar saved. Vanguard has a great chart on this on their site.

Loss Of Network

Your network of friends and professional contacts can make a huge difference in your career path. When you take a break from working to raise a family, your professional network usually shrinks dramatically. It’s hard to keep in contact with people on a professional level when your lives are in such different places. Plus, you aren’t showing yourself to them as a professional; when they see you, it’s as a parent.

Financial Dependence On Someone Else

You love and trust your spouse, or so I assume. You believe that they will be able to provide for you and your family. That’s a part of why you’re at home with the kids and they’re working.

I touched upon this in the work at home section of the financial advantages of staying at home post yesterday. I reiterate this today – there is a lot of risk in being financially dependent on someone else.

Not because they’re unreliable. Not because they’re untrustworthy. But because you never know what life is going to bring you. Unemployment, disability, divorce and death can all happen, and you won’t always see it coming.

You need to have a plan in place to handle a financial crisis, whatever the cause may be. Shit happens. Take some time with your spouse and make sure that you and your family will be taken care of, no matter what happens.

That includes if something happens to you. Stay at home moms and dads provide a valuable service to their families. What would your family do without you? Your financial emergency plans should include something for if you can’t continue to care for your family for whatever reason. Life insurance for both parents is a good start. It doesn’t hurt to have small policies for the kids too. You know you would both be wrecks if something happened to one of your kids, right?

Get into the “what ifs.” They aren’t fun… in fact, they can be downright scary to consider. But they are important. Plan for them before you have a problem. They shouldn’t rule your lives, but they should be acknowledged.

Having One Parent Manage All The Finances

Even when both parents work, it’s not that uncommon for one to handle most or all of the finances. One usually has more interest in the subject or more time for it. That doesn’t make this an ideal situation.

Make sure both parents know what your financial situation is. The parent who works outside the home should not be the only one to know how your finances are doing. The same goes for the stay at home parent.

Both parents need to know what the bills are, when and how they get paid, what your income is, and what’s in savings. Take some time and talk about these things regularly, regardless of who handles the finances for the most part.

Offsetting The Financial Hazards Of Being A Stay At Home Mom Or Dad

There are some things you can do to offset the hazards of being a stay at home mom or dad. You need a safety net, for your own sake and the sake of your family. I mentioned working at home and improving your education in the benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad article. Those are the two big things you can do to minimize the risks.

Finding the right work at home opportunity is quite challenging. The scams are numerous and much easier to find than the legitimate opportunities. The skills you already have may or may not be suited to working at home and you may have to pick up an entirely new skill set. If you can make it happen, however, it can be well worth it.

Many parents plan on going back to working outside the home, at least part time, once the kids are in school. These jobs are generally easier to find than work at home jobs, but a part time job that makes the most of your skills can be very hard to find.

Taking classes at night at a college or online when the kids make it possible is always an option. Improving your education is a great choice if your career wasn’t where you wanted it to be before you became a stay at home parent. There are so many options now, although paying for it can be a challenge if your budget is tight.

Whatever you do as a stay at home parent, consider your financial future. Don’t leave it as some vague thing to be handled when the kids get older. Plan now so that you can make the most of your time as a stay at home parent and still have a good career later. You will thank yourself later for thinking of your financial future now.

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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