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 August 3rd, 2018

Murphy’s Laws of Parenting You Can’t Escape

Murphy's Laws of Parenting You Can't Escape

Raising a family is a lot of work. Fun, but lots and lots of work. So many things go wrong no matter how carefully you try to make them go right. With the right attitude, it can be funny at times. You can certainly argue that there are Murphy’s laws of parenting.

These are the things that make your day to day life as a parent more difficult. Some of them also make for great stories when talking to other parents, because they all get it. They’ve been there too. And so…

Murphy’s Laws of Parenting

1. Never claim to be done with the laundry. Your children will generate more dirty clothes spontaneously.

2. Your child will outgrow that perfect outfit right before you want them to wear it. This is one of the few rules that applies as well to infants as to teens.

3. You will find that box of handmedown clothes after your child has outgrown that size.

4. Teaching your child to help around the house is harder than doing it yourself. It will pay off eventually, but not as soon as you would like.

5. No, your child doesn’t like their favorite food today. Unless you’re eating it. Then they’ll snag all of it from your plate.

6. That food they tried for the first time off your plate and loved it? They’re never eating that one again.

legos

7. A clean floor will spontaneously generate Legos or other small toys to step on.

8. Your child will discover the magic that is scissors and hair the day before school or family pictures are taken.

9. The length of your child’s nap is inversely proportional to how long you need them to nap.

10. Glitter is forever…. forever in your hair, forever on the floor, the counters….

11. The more important the phone call, the less important the thing your child insists on telling you in the middle of the call will be.

painting

12. Messy crafts are more appealing than ones that are easy to clean up after. Some kids can make any craft messy.

13. Silence is suspicious. They ARE up to something.

14. Your bathroom is no longer a private place. It doesn’t matter who else is around, your kids will want YOU when you’re in the bathroom.

15. The messier your clothes are, the more likely you are to run into someone you know when running errands.

16. That thing you swore your kids would never do back before you had kids? Yeah. They’re going to do it.

17. If you throw away toys they no longer play with, they will want them the next day.

18. The cuter the outfit, the bigger the diaper blowout.

19. Babies will always soil a fresh diaper. Especially when you’re in a hurry.

20. The more diapers you pack for an outing, the more changes your child will need. Usually at least one more change than you brought diapers.

21. The thing you forget to pack will be the thing your child needs most.

22. A diaper will always leak on freshly washed bedding.

23. The box is more interesting than the toy that came in it.

24. The more your child wanted the toy, the faster it will break or lose a piece.

sleeping child

25. A  child who naps in the car will not continue that nap at home, no matter how badly needed.

26. The sicker the child, the more they will want to snuggle with you.

27. A clean floor attracts spilled food and drink.

28. The more tired you are, the less tired they are.

29. A sick child will appear healthy at the pediatrician’s office, then be sick again at home.

30. Your child will tell people exactly what you don’t want them to say. Even if that person is a stranger.

Most of these relate to when your kids are small, no doubt because that’s when they have the least control over themselves. Many of these challenges go away as kids get older.

That doesn’t mean you get a break. Older kids mean new challenges.

frustration

Teens, in particular, can catch you off guard. They’re testing limits and getting ready for adulthood, but they still need you so much. And the more they need you, the less some of them want to admit it. Which is why they have their own, separate section here. It’s harder to come up with generalized laws for parenting teens because they vary so much!

1. The more supplies a school project needs, the closer to the due date they will inform you.

2. They will make the same mistakes you did, even if you try to help them avoid the mistakes.

3. Plus new mistakes that weren’t even possible when you were young.

4. Their biggest problems come when you are busiest.

5. Even more than when they were little, they notice when you do things you told them not to do.

6. Teens can sleep better than babies.

7. All that time you spent teaching your kids to dress appropriately for the weather when they were younger won’t matter when they’re teens. They’ll wear shorts all winter or a jacket all summer.

8. Some days everything you say to a teen will be the wrong thing to say. Even “Good morning.”

Fortunately, teens can also be a lot of fun to talk with, as they develop opinions of their own. They may challenge your rules, but they’re also learning to face the world on their own.

So many of the little frustrations that come with being a parent of kids at any age will be things you look back on fondly later. Enjoy what you can and don’t let the challenging parts get you too far down.

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 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.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.