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 June 1st, 2018

11 Ways To Prepare To Work At Home Over The Summer

11 Ways To Prepare To Work At Home Over The Summer

School getting out for the summer presents some challenges for work at home parents. Suddenly the kids are home all day and want to do things with you. This makes it really difficult to work sometimes, while still being the mom or dad you want to be. It’s time to make plans and prepare to work at home over the summer so that you can continue to be productive.

1. Review your work routine.

Taking a look at your work routine is an important part of preparing to work at home over the summer. Is it going to work for you with the kids at home? If you’re used to getting all your work done when they’re at school, for example, how will you cope when the kids are home all day? When will be the best time for you to work now? How will you keep up with what needs doing?

Working at home during the summer often takes a bit more flexibility than when the kids are at school. Be prepared and think about what’s about to happen in your daily life.

If necessary, work more when the kids are sleeping. Pick late evening or early morning, whichever you prefer, and focus on work when the kids are in bed. Working when your spouse is home and able to be in charge of the kids can also help. Use daycare if that’s what it takes.

2. Talk to your kids about your work needs.

Hopefully, your kids are used to you working at home if you’ve been doing it a while. Even so, it’s a good idea to remind them that during the summer you still need to work even if they’re on vacation.

If you’re planning set work hours and a set location in the house, let them know about it and explain that they aren’t to bother you unnecessarily when you’re working. Lay down some rules so they know when they can interrupt. They may not get it perfect, being kids and all, but it should help.

This shouldn’t be much of a problem with older kids but can be challenging with younger ones. Your younger children may need more attention than you can afford with your work at home requirements. Consider if daycare is necessary. It can be better for all of you. Do what’s necessary to have a productive work at home day.

3. Encourage age and location appropriate independence.

climbing rocksI’m a big believer in encouraging my kids to do things on their own. When my kids were young, they could play out back on their own. They’re old enough now that they can play out front, ride their bikes around the neighborhood, or even go to the store for a treat on their own. The youngest can’t go to the store yet on her own, but with the prospect of getting some candy or ice cream, it’s easy for her to get a sibling to take her when she wants to go.

These are privileges they’ve earned. They’ve shown they’re capable, and it’s a generally safe neighborhood. They also have rules about how they can play on the computer and know the consequences of breaking the rules.

Children need time to play independently. They do not need their parents participating in everything they do. Participate some of the time, absolutely, that’s just fun, but remember how much fun you had just being a kid with your siblings and friends, and let your kids do likewise. Hopefully without getting into too much trouble. After all, if they’re happily playing you should be able to get some of your own stuff done.

4. Encourage outdoor play.

Summer’s hot, and sometimes it’s hard to get the kids to play outside. They’re too used to air conditioned buildings. But outside play is healthy and should be normal. Think about how much of the summer you spent outside as a child, despite the heat.

I usually push for my kids to go play outside first thing in the morning. The sun’s rays aren’t quite so strong then, it’s cooler, and they have energy. Sunscreen is still a generally good choice.

There are a lot of things you can do to encourage outside play. When my kids were younger, we would walk to the playground in the morning. That got the urge to go there handled at a time of day we all could stand. The walk would also tire them out a little, as it was over a mile and mostly uphill. Funny thing, no matter how tired they were on the walk, they always had plenty of energy for the playground itself.

Make sure you set up a lot of ways for your kids to play outside at home.  If you have a sandbox, make sure you have some great toys for it. A cover is also a good idea to keep any local cats from using it as a litterbox. If you keep your sandbox in a shady area, it can be used for much of the day.

diving

A Slip ‘n Slide, sprinklers, water guns and other water toys also help get kids outside and playing. Most of these won’t cost all that much money. Water play is the perfect way to get kids to outside and play no matter how hot it is. If you have a swimming pool or easy access to one, so much the better.

You may also want to set up a screen time rule for the summer. Have your kids play outside before they can watch TV or use other devices. No heavy buildups of screen time with the promise to go outside “soon” either. No carryovers to the next day. This rule keeps them wanting to play outside earlier in the day, with the promise of being allowed to relax indoors when the day is at its hottest.

One trick my kids tried early on was to each claim screen time separately, and watch the shows someone else had picked. They soon found out that it didn’t matter who picked out the show – if you watch it, the time counts as your screen time.

5. Know where their friends live.

You really want to know where your kids’ friends live, especially the ones who will be home during the day. That way, you can encourage them to all play together at one house or another. Don’t be the parent always sending your kids to someone else’s house; take your turn. Kids with friends over are usually too busy playing with friends to bother you other than for the occasional snack or when an argument breaks out. Hopefully, that’s less often than when your kids are home with just you.

If you’re lucky, your kids will have some friends within walking distance. That’s not something my kids have had often, but it’s such a help when friends have been that close to us.

Of course, the time it takes to drop kids off with a friend can be worth it if you get more work time.

6. Get the kids out of the house without you if possible.

When my kids were younger, we lived close enough to grandparents that we could send the kids off to see them. It was a huge help. These days, I have to come up with other plans.

While we don’t live close enough for daytime visits to grandparents, we sometimes send the kids to spend several days with them. This works pretty well, although the planning is difficult at times.

One alternative is to look at local day camps if that’s in your budget. While these can add up fast, it’s one way to get the kids out, doing something fun and still giving yourself the day to work. The big question is whether it will be worth it financially. Many camps are expensive. Of course, the kids will enjoy the experience as well if you choose the right camp.

As they get older, of course, expect your kids to do things on their own in the local area without you. It’s good practice for when they head out on their own.

7. Have craft projects available.

kids painting

Most kids love to do crafts, so have the materials for their favorites readily available. My youngest loves to paint, for example, so her supplies are often just right there on her table, although the water for rinsing the brush doesn’t stay out too much.

We keep better craft supplies for the older kids, as well as a soldering kit and other challenging activities. The craft supplies you need will depend on age. The older they get, the better quality the paints we get for them.

Make sure your kids understand the safety rules for crafting as necessary. My kids are allowed to use a glue gun, for example, and that gets very hot. They know that they can get burned by it and that if they ever leave it plugged in after use, they will lose all use of it.

Crafting sometimes means allowing them to use a computer, phone or tablet to look up ideas or instructions. So long as that’s what they’re doing, I allow it. Our screen time limits aren’t meant to limit their access to information, after all. They’re meant to limit the time spent sitting, staring at a screen and doing nothing else.

8. Be ready for “I’m bored!”

There are many ways to cope with kids who announce that they’re bored. For the most part, it’s a good idea to tell them to go figure out something to do. This is especially important when you need to work.

Children need to learn to entertain themselves, especially without staring at a screen. If you always give them ideas for what to do, they will keep relying on you for that rather than using their own creativity. The whole point of having a lot of things available to them is so that your kids can find things to do when they’re bored.

But there are times when it’s easier to give them ideas. That doesn’t mean your kids will like your ideas. My own favorite is to suggest a chore that needs doing, as there are always chores that need doing. Kids will usually think of something else they’d rather do, really fast. If not, the chore gets done, and the kid learns to not complain too often about being bored. That said…

9. Have kids do daily chores.

When school’s out, there’s no reason for kids to not help out more around the house. During the school year, chores depend on time left over after homework is done. If homework is heavy, there are fewer kid chores to be done.

During the summer, there’s no such excuse, and kids need to do chores so they can learn to cope with all the things a home needs to be done. Decide what’s age appropriate for your kids.

We have some chores that must be completed on certain days. Dishes are daily, of course. Some of their assignments alternate weekly, so the same person isn’t responsible for the same job all of the time. This keeps away arguments over whose chore list is the hardest. I found that alternating weeks saved arguments over alternating days. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose track of who did what when it changes daily. Change it weekly, and everyone knows who’s on duty. Keep it age appropriate, of course.

My kids get assigned weeks to either help make dinner or make it entirely on their own, depending on skill level. The kid on duty also has to help with the grocery shopping, with the oldest being responsible for planning almost the entire list. They also get to plan one dessert a week, which they really enjoy.

10. Plan.

Solid planning can help make a great summer for your family while still giving you time to work at home.

Start out with the things you absolutely must get done, such as the work time you need. Add in planned family vacations. Then take a look at the most important things you want to add in.

I insist on swimming lessons for my kids until they reach a high enough level, for example. While we don’t have a pool, another family member does, as do some friends. The ability to swim is a safety issue and a major part of water safety. You may have other activities for your kids that you consider a priority.

On the fun side, my youngest loves to go to Movies In The Park, a local event where they show a popular movie at the park one night a week. It’s great fun, and we make plans to meet with friends there so the kids can play before the movie.

Libraries may also have fun activities for the summer. Our local library has reading challenges as well as special events. The kids have been able to meet interesting animals there, watched magic shows and more.

carousel

11. Be spontaneous.

If your work schedule allows it, take the time to be spontaneous. Go to the water park on a really hot day. Play tag with the kids. Accept that invitation from a friend. Make a special treat. Have fun during your workday when possible..

It won’t always be possible to be spontaneous. That’s what happens when you work at home over the summer. You have responsibilities. Take care of those, and make time for fun when you can.

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 12th, 2017

12 Tips To Keep Cooler Without An Air Conditioner

12 Tips To Keep Cooler Without An Air Conditioner

We’ve had some hot weather here lately. If there’s one thing I hate about summer, it’s what the hot weather does to my power bill. Using the air conditioner, even as little as I use it, gets so expensive. I set it to about 81 degrees F, so it’s not like I’m trying to keep the house cold. It still adds up too fast. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to cool yourself and your house that don’t involve using the air conditioner.

Ceiling Fans

The more rooms that have a ceiling fan in a house, the more I like it. My home office has one, and it is such a help, especially since I’m on the far side of the house from the air conditioner and only get a little of it when it does run. Moving air isn’t actually cooler, but it feels cooler, and that makes a warmer house much pleasanter.

Window Treatments

Windows are one of the big ways that heat gets into your house. Double panes help, but there’s still more you can do. First and foremost, keep your sun facing windows covered during the day to minimize the heat that comes in through them.

Look for window treatments that block sunlight. White is a good color to have on the outside, as it reflects a lot of heat. Anything that insulates the window or is considered to be light blocking is good. We have thermal shades in some rooms, and not only do they block the sun in the morning (great for sleeping in!), they keep the room cooler.

If you can’t afford to get new window treatments, you can use cardboard in the windows if you don’t mind ugly. It blocks a lot of heat. Another inexpensive alternative is to buy a Mylar emergency blanket and cut it up to fit your windows. Use painter’s tape to hold it up so the tape isn’t too hard to remove later. Mylar is wonderful at blocking heat. It doesn’t look nice, but if you put it up carefully you may be able to open your windows with the Mylar still on when the evening cools off.

If you can spend a little more, there are insulating films that attach to the window. They look much neater than cardboard or Mylar sheets taped to the window.

Solar screens are another option. They don’t block your view too much, but they keep a lot of heat out. This is something we’re considering as some of our windows need new screens anyhow.

Whole House Fan

We have a whole house fan, which is quite a help in cooling the house in the evening after the outdoor air is cool enough. Shut down the air conditioner if you have one, open a bunch of windows and turn on the the whole house fan to pull in cooler air and blow out the heat of the day from your house. It’s not as fast as an air conditioner, and some are pretty noisy (like ours), but it’s cheaper to run.

Use Ice And A Fan

For cooling a small area, place a bowl of ice in front of a fan. The fan will blow the cooled air around the room. Just make sure it’s somewhere that the melting ice won’t cause any problems.

smoothies

Enjoy Cool Treats

Start out by drinking cold water throughout the day. I keep an insulated drink bottle full of ice water at my desk. It’s the healthiest choice and it feels good to have a cold drink right there.

You can have more fun with cool treats too. Make fruit and vegetable smoothies. Have popsicles. Ice cream. Just don’t overdo the stuff that isn’t good for you.

Use A Cool Cloth

A cool cloth on your neck will help keep the rest of you cool. Dampen a washcloth and drape it across the back of your neck.

Take A Quick, Cool Shower

A quick, cool shower will help you feel much cooler. This can be a good idea right before bed. If you don’t mind damp sheets, don’t dry off completely, and they’ll feel cooler on you.

Run Through The Sprinklers

This might be more for the kids than for you, but a quick run through the sprinklers will get you active and cooler. Make sure you use sunscreen if you’re going to be out for more than a short time.

Open The House Up At Night

Now obviously, this depends on the safety of the area you live in and how cool it gets at night. If possible, open up your windows at night and leave them open to let the cool night air in and the heat out of your house. We’ve had warm nights where this still doesn’t help, but most nights it’s a good idea.

Use Your Barbecue

Cooking in your home will make it warmer. If it’s not so hot that you just can’t bear the thought of going outside, fire up the barbecue to cook meals. I love using a propane grill for this, since it doesn’t take long to heat up properly.

Plant Trees

This is a long term solution, and probably won’t help you this year or even next. Plant shade trees in your yard, with a focus on blocking the worst of the afternoon sunlight on your house. You don’t want the tree planted too close to your home, or the roots may damage your foundation, but you do want it close enough to give shade.

Put Up An Awning

An awning over the windows that get the most sunlight in your house can keep things cooler. It’s a bit of an expense, but it can be worthwhile.

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 14th, 2017

20 Free Or Cheap Activities For Families During The Summer

When the kids get out of school for the summer, you want to be sure they do more than sit about at home watching one screen or another. The trouble is that things add up really fast if you have to spend much money on them. It’s a big help to know in advance what free and cheap activities are available in your area for your family.

I write various summer activities on our calendar if they take place on a given day or week. This makes it easier to remember what’s coming up. I tell the kids it’s their job to check the calendar and make sure I remember the things they really want to do.

Go Play With Friends

I’m putting this one first because this doesn’t happen enough for my kids or many of their friends. They’re so busy with organized activities, that they don’t often get to just go play with friends. Some of the issue for my kids is that none of their friends are in the neighborhood, and there are very few kids in the neighborhood at all.

Don’t plan everything your kids are going to do this summer. Let them make plans with friends or decide to head over to a friend’s house to see if they can play.

Movies In The Park

Many communities do free movies in the park once a week or so during the summer. These are usually free. The city we live in does them on Wednesday nights in the park, and the same movie on Thursday nights at the pool. I prefer the park, as it’s easier to let the kids run around. Check your city’s website to find out what happens in your area. The movies start once it’s dark enough for everyone to see the screen clearly.

You may need to get there early to get a good seat, and you will probably need to bring your own blanket or chairs to sit on. If it gets cool in your area on summer nights after the sun goes down, bring jackets or blankets to keep warm. Younger children may fall asleep if the movies run much past their bedtimes.

I also make sure to post on my kids’ class Facebook page when we’re going to a movie at the park, because it’s a great way to meet up with friends over the summer. Other parents don’t have to promise to go, but the kids have so much fun seeing which friends show up for each movie. They’ll share snacks, play until the movie starts, and snuggle up if it’s cool after the sun sets.

Cheap Movies At The Movie Theater

A lot of movie theaters now run children’s movies during the summer for a low price. They’re generally in the morning, and tickets should be about $1-2. The movie selection varies from fairly recent children’s movies to older selections such as The Wizard of Oz. Check your local theater’s website to see if they have any to offer and for ticket prices.

Summer Concerts

Communities may also do summer concerts in the park. Once again, you should be able to find out about these on your city’s website. As they don’t need to wait for darkness to begin, these may not run as late as movies in the park.

Summer Reading Programs

Many libraries offer summer reading programs to encourage kids and teens to read. They may offer prizes, and there may be special activities and crafts at the library as well. Check with your local library to learn what they offer.

Barnes and Noble offers kids a free book if they read at least eight books and record them in the Reading Journal. The free books the kids can choose from are listed on the journal.

Kids Bowl Free

If there’s a bowling alley in your area, they may participate in the Kids Bowl Free program. Check the website to find out. You will probably need to pay for shoe rental, but kid can have up to two free games a day.

Splash Pads

Many kids love to play in the water on hot summer days. When you don’t have a pool of your own, and the community pool admission adds up too fast, a splash pad can be a fun option. Water shoots up or sprays down on the kids from various items.

Some splash pads are free to use, while others charge admission.

Summer Food Service Program

No Kid Hungry is a program which serves free lunches to kids 18 years and under at approved sites during the summer. There’s no paperwork required – just show up. Any child can use this program, regardless of financial need, although the hope is that kids who get free or reduced lunch at school during the school year can make it to these sites so they continue to get free lunches during the summer.

To find a site, you can visit the program page on the USDA site, or text FOOD to 877877. Check to see what time each location serves lunch.

Local Playgrounds

Are there any playgrounds near you? Your kids may have a lot of fun playing at them. As they get older, encourage them to range more widely so they get more independent, and consider when they’re old enough to go to a park without you. Kids need to develop independence, and this is one way they will enjoy doing so when it’s appropriate for their age and your area.

Ride Bikes

Riding bikes is a great physical activity for the whole family. You can ride around your neighborhood, around local parks, or run quick errands on a bike. Once again, let them ride around on their own when they’re old enough, responsible enough, and you’re comfortable that your area is safe enough.

Go Geocaching

You can use a GPS enabled device, such as your smartphone, to find geocaches in your area or anywhere you go. You share your finds with the geocache community, and can make your own caches.

Free Admission Days At Museums

While admission to many museums can add up quickly, many offer free days, or are even free regularly. The California Science Center, for example, always has free admission, although there is a fee for parking, movies and special events. There’s still a lot to do there for free.

Check the websites of any museums you would like to go to and see when their free days are.

If you have an EBT card, you may be able to find museums in your area which participate in Museums For All, which gives free or discounted admission to families in the EBT program. Fees can currently range from free to $3 for museums participating in this program.

Work On A Skill Or Project

Each of my kids picks a skill or project each summer they want to work on. This gives me something to tell them to do any time I hear the words “I’m bored.” Mostly they want to make videos for YouTube, and I have rules for them about whether they can show faces, use real names, etc. They also have looked at improving artistic skills, learning to solder and much more.

Home Depot Kids Workshops

Home Depot offers workshops for kids to build small projects. The kits change each week and are free. You may be able to register online, but drop ins are usually welcome so long as there are enough kits. Classes are the first Saturday of each month. Parents must remain with their children. They also have workshops for adults, so if you see something you would like to learn, sign up for it.

Summer Code-A-Thon

Tynker offers a Summer Code-A-Thon to kids with free memberships to their site. It’s a 10 week program with a new project every week. Kids get certificates for completing projects, and the top projects each week get a t-shirt. Child accounts must have a connected parent account to participate.

YouthSpark Programs At Microsoft Stores

If there’s a Microsoft store in your area, your kids may be able to participate in free YouthSpark courses. Activities vary by the ages of your children. Parents must remain in the store for the duration of the event – these are not drop off classes.

Apple Camp

If you have an Apple store in your area, you may be able to sign your kids up for Apple Camp. It’s for ages 8-12, and is three 90 minute sessions. Kids choose their track from what is offered, and spend their time at the camp working on their project.

Use Educational Websites And Learning Games

If you want to work on academics over the summer, make sure it’s fun for your kids. They do forget a lot of what they learn over the summer, making it important to help them use their skills during their break, but this time should be a break.

There are fun sites for kids to keep working on their math skills, for example. My youngest loves The Prodigy Game. It’s a lot more fun for her than the math sites they use through school, although their accounts for those may be available over the summer as well. The basic account for The Prodigy Game is free, but don’t be surprised if your child wants a paid membership to access the extras.

Volunteer

Some places will allow families to volunteer with their children. My kids and I volunteer year round at a local animal shelter, for example. While many animal shelters only allow older kids to volunteer, you may be able to find places you can volunteer with your kids by checking VolunteerMatch.

Be Bored

There’s nothing wrong with kids being bored sometimes. That’s what will help them learn to come up with ideas on their own.

For more ideas, I did 30 Days of Keeping Kids Busy During The Summer a few years ago.

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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