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.

Last Updated February 15th, 2018

When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone?

When Can You Let Your Kids Stay Home Alone?

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

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

State Law

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

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

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

Where Do You Live?

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

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

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

Maturity of Your Child

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

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

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

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

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

Siblings

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

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

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

How Long?

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

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

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

Can Someone Come Help If Needed?

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

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

How Will They Contact You?

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

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

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

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

What Options Do You Have?

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

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

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

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

Last Updated October 2nd, 2017

Encourage Your Child’s Creativity With Destination Imagination

Encourage Your Child's Creativity With Destination Imagination

Every school year, my kids talk about which clubs they want to join. My son does archery, which doesn’t start until later in the school year but is a lot of fun. My youngest daughter chose Destination Imagination this year. It’s a club I strongly recommend if you want to help your child be more creative. My oldest daughter has participated in Destination Imagination in years past, and I think it was a good boost to her creativity.

What Is Destination Imagination?

Destination Imagination is an organization that encourages kids to come up with creative solutions and apply them in a variety of ways. The kids are challenged to use a variety of skills. It’s not all technical, and it’s not all performance.

The challenges the kids choose from change from year to year. There are some basic types – fine arts, technical, scientific, structural, improvisational and service learning, as well as a challenge for younger kids. The details, however, are always different.

Choosing a fine arts challenge doesn’t mean your child won’t use their skills to build something. Choosing a scientific challenge doesn’t mean they won’t need to come up with a story to go with their presentation. Teams build multiple skills as they complete their challenges.

Then come the Instant Challenges. Your team won’t know what their Instant Challenge is until they walk into the room at the competition. They’re sworn to secrecy about the challenge until after the world competition is over. This is so that no team gets an advantage on the Instant Challenge by knowing what it is in advance. There are penalties for revealing what happened at an Instant Challenge after you’ve taken it. The revelation can impact more than your own team. Keeping the secret until after the World Competition is a huge deal, even if your team isn’t going that far.

Teams can practice Instant Challenges on their own before competitions, as old ones are released. These involve a lot of very quick thinking and planning. One of the most important things the kids have to show is teamwork – no leaving a team member out of the challenge.

Every school year, Destination Imagination puts out a variety of challenges for teams of children to work on. There are regional and state competitions, and an annual world competition for teams that make it that far.

Destination Imagination is run by volunteers, and that includes any team your children may join. Be prepared to volunteer, whether as a Team Manager, Appraiser at a competition, or other roles. Teams must provide a certain number of volunteers at competitions in order to participate. This can be difficult, especially if you have a small team, but it is an absolute requirement. It’s best to choose your volunteers as the team forms.

What Do Destination Imagination Teams Do?

The kids on the teams with Destination Imagination must do all their own work. Adults aren’t even supposed to give them ideas. The kids sign a statement at competitions saying that all work is their own – having an adult help can disqualify the team. Adults can teach kids skills needed, but the kids have to figure out what they need to learn and ask for it.

This is where the kids learn a lot about creative thinking. The solutions the kids come up with are amazing. They might build things out of old toys, cardboard boxes, or anything else they can figure out a use for. They might spin a tale that will keep everyone laughing.

There are some expenses you may need to help pay. Each challenge has a budget that the teams are not allowed to go over. Expenses must be tracked to prove that the team did not spend more than was allowed. This helps level the playing field. Keep your receipts, as they will be turned in.

Expect a scramble to get things done as competition time approaches. The kids will almost always seem to be running way, way behind, but somehow it comes together just in time for competition.

What Can Adults Do?

Adults can handle the required volunteer roles their kids need in order to compete. These roles may involve a couple training sessions. Appraisers have to learn how to grade team projects. That means at least one day of training done in person, usually at a reasonably local school. You’ll try out some of the old Instant Challenges with the other volunteers there so that you better understand what the kids go through. You’ll learn what to look for.

Being an appraiser is a lot of fun. They encourage silliness and silly hats. The idea is to make things comfortable for the kids as they present their ideas.

Adults can also be Team Managers. The role of the team manager is to keep the team on track, not to give ideas or help make anything. The team manager can store the team’s supplies, but there is a point at competition, where they aren’t allowed to help with so much as carrying supplies. They also cannot give guidance during the competition itself.

Being a Team Manager can be a heavy commitment. Teams will meet at least weekly as they make their projects, and may need extra meetings as competition approaches. The year I managed my oldest daughter’s team, I sometimes had them come over to my house to work. One student used my sewing machine to make a backdrop. Weekends get gobbled up as the team works hard to get everything done on time.

Adults are allowed to teach kids skills as well. If the kids on the team don’t know how to make something, they can find an appropriate adult to teach them the skill. The adult may not make the item for them. Adults may also make sure the team is using tools safely.

Overall, the entire process with Destination Imagination is a lot of fun. Everyone will probably be tired at the end of the competition day, but it should have been a good day overall. Whether your team makes it to the state competition or even World shouldn’t matter as much as what they’ve accomplished together.

I’d like to finish off with a TED Talk shared by the California Destination Imagination Facebook page. It’s about raising successful kids without overparenting. It goes well with DI’s rules.

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 September 8th, 2017

How to Limit Kids’ Screen Time While You Work at Home

How to Limit Kids' Screen Time While You Work at Home

It’s hard balancing working at home with being a parent. Someone always wants something. Even when school’s in session, kids find ways to need you right when you’re trying to be really productive. And of course, they always want permission to watch TV, use a tablet or a computer. But you can’t let them do that all the time. Kids need limits on their screen time. Sometimes that’s difficult when you’re working at home and screens are the easy way to get them to give you some peace and quiet.

This issue has become both easier and more difficult for me as my kids have gotten older. They’re all old enough now that they can play on their own for quite some time, but the oldest in particular likes to play online games where she can interact with friends whose parents never seem to want to let them just come over.

Giving screen time to the kids is, of course, one of the easiest ways to keep them busy and somewhat quiet while I work, but it’s not ideal. Fortunately, there are good ways to limit kids’ screen time while you work at home. Try a few and see what works for you.

Talk About Screen Time Limits And Set Rules

It’s good to get into the habit of talking about it when you’re going to make a rule change such as limiting screen time. The ages of your children will determine how much they have to say, and you can try to come to a mutually agreeable solution. You can set limits per day or week, and consider ways for kids to earn extra time if you like.

One thing you may have to discuss is how much screen time parents have. Since I work at home, I’ve had to explain why the rules don’t apply the same way to me. I work on my computer, after all. If you aren’t following the rules yourself, be sure to have a fair reason why.

One long standing rule we have is that the kids may not bring screens into their bedrooms – except on sick days when I want them to try to keep their germs to themselves. Keeping screens out of the bedrooms means no one can just sit and stare at a screen for hours without being noticed, and they won’t stay up at night watching stuff.

I don’t count homework time against their allowed screen time. That’s school work, and the older the kids get, the more often the computer is required to get their homework done. They’d be upset if that was the only time they could use the computer, and I would consider that reasonable.

Consider Educational Computer Games And Apps

If you want to give your kids a little more leeway on how long they use screens, find some acceptable computer games or apps for them. My youngest adores The Prodigy Game, an online math game, which is nice because she needs a little extra help with her math.

You may also want to give some leeway if your child is building a skill using the computer or a table. My oldest wants to be an animator, so it’s completely reasonable to allow her extra time to work on that skill, just as it would be for one trying to develop an app or do other work that requires a computer.

Don’t give your kids unlimited time with screen just because it’s an educational game, of course. It’s not unreasonable to allow them some extra time if they can convince you of the value of what they’re doing.

Send them outside

Send Them Outside

Many kids these days seem to really resist playing outside when it’s hot out. I suspect it has to do with air conditioning. Why go outside when inside is soooo comfortable?

I aim to get my kids outside during the more pleasant parts of the day – morning before it really heats up, evening as it cools off. In the heat of the day is more difficult, but a nice sprinkler and a healthy supply of Super Soakers really improves their interest.

Consider also whether your kids are old enough to go to the park on their own or with a group of friends while you work. Whether or not this is possible depends on a lot of factors, but there comes a time when it’s really good for kids to be allowed to do things without direct adult supervision. Once they can do that, you may worry, but you can get things done while they’re gone. You can go along and try working on your laptop or tablet if you like or if the kids are too young to go on their own, but if your kids are old enough to go to the park on their own, you’ll probably be more productive at home.

Classes, Camps, etc.

What do your kids want to learn about or do during their spare time? My kids take swim lessons at least part of each summer, and we look at other classes, soccer camp and so forth. There may be signups at various times, both during the school year and in summer, depending on where you live. While I don’t believe in overscheduling kids (they need down time too!), signing them up for something they really want to do is great for keeping them away from the TV or computer and can give you some work time. If the classes are short, you may be better off bringing some work along on your laptop than driving back and forth for drop off and pick up.

Have activities ready for the kids

Have Activities Ready For the Kids

I keep a variety of craft supplies ready for my kids. My kids went through a phase where they constantly wanted to make things with Perler beads. They print designs off the internet for whatever they want to make, and my oldest is allowed to use the iron to press them.

Pay attention to the kinds of crafts and other activities your kids enjoy so you can keep supplies ready for them. The easier it is for the kids to access the supplies on their own, the more they’ll use them rather than watch TV, and the more they’ll let you work.

Board games are another good choice. Play as a family sometimes, but make sure your kids know how to play some games just with each other. Some games are good for a wide range of ages – mine play Sorry together sometimes, for example.

Be ready to help the kids negotiate when they can’t agree on what to do. One time I persuaded my two older kids to play a game called Greed (what they wanted to do) while taking turns playing Mastermind with my youngest. It worked out pretty well, as everyone was doing something they wanted to do.

There will probably still be times when you’d rather let your kids watch TV or play on a computer or tablet. If you plan alternatives in advance, you won’t have to give in as often. As everyone gets used to relying on screens less and less for daily entertainment, it gets easier all around.

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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