When I was a child, my mother used to say, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” I find myself saying the same thing to my kids whenever boredom leads to trouble. Not that I’m against boredom. A certain amount is healthy — it allows children to use their imaginations and creativity in a free and leisurely manner. Excessive boredom, however, makes children want to eat when they’re not hungry and waste time on video games (which we don’t do here). It also incites kids to pester their siblings because they have nothing else to do.
The warm, care-free days of summer are a wonderful gift. But children still need structure. They still need to use their time constructively. Besides play-dates, swimming, biking, and sports, here are some things we are doing to make the most of our summer days.
The Summer Reading List
One of the best things about summer is having the time to delve into a book and get completely engrossed in it. Summer is a time when children can read and read for the sheer joy of it. Admittedly, some of my kids are book worms while others are not. Those who are not need a little motivation. So I gave each of my children a list of fourteen books which I wanted them to read during the summer, and then I offered incentives. Once a child read seven books, I would buy him/her a candy bar (something I almost never do). After 11 books were read, I would take him/her to Ky-Ky’s (a slushie place). After all 14 books were done, there would be a big prize.
Well, the incentives worked… a little too well. My children read during most of their free time.
Princess finished her list in three days. Feisty and Sparky finished a book a day, more or less. And All-Star, who had harder, longer books, finished in three weeks. (I did shorten his list.) As they were reading and reading, Feisty convinced all of us that the big prize should be:
(At least we got it used.)
Well, they got their prize, and guess what? They’re still reading. I found Sparky reading on the trampoline today. Another bonus, Princess is now reading easy chapter books with confidence.
Want to know what books they read? Here are their Summer Reading Lists.
Math and Music
Yes, I’m a tiger-ish mom. That means the kids still practice piano in the summer, and some of the kids do math each day. But since I’m on summer vacation, I won’t be grading math. The kids do it all on the computer. Sparky practices his multiplication facts on a Multiplication Trainer. Everyday he practices his facts until he ranks “good” on each fact. Essentially, he has to get 144 facts right. Some of the others use IXL math. Each week I get an email showing how many problems each child solved, how much time was spent each day, and how many skills they mastered. So good for
lazy busy moms. Even better for kids who need to keep their math skills sharp.
Each of the kids have a few projects they are working on. Last summer, the boys built a tree house and Feisty grew a vegetable garden. So, the vegetables came out looking… interesting and inedible. But we learned some lessons, and I’m hoping Feisty will have another go at it.
This summer with the help of my Dad, the boys built a small shrine for our outdoor Virgin Mary statue. Then they weeded, mulched, and planted flowers.
Now my kids are into other projects: Big-Sis has been painting with acrylics, and she’s writing another book. All-Star has been playing guitar and programming on Scratch. He’s working on a “secret” project – something requiring the use of a word processor and a color printer. He’s also designing t-shirts.
Blank books. I LOVE blank books. I bought some of these from Rainbow Resource, so Feisty and Big-Sis are working on a comic book of all the funny things they did when they were little. It’s so cute. When we go on vacation, the kids are going to write down their memories.
Today Feisty baked a blueberry cobbler. He was supposed to put in three and a half tablespoons of sugar; instead he accidentally put in three and a half cups of sugar! Future project for Feisty: learn how to bake three desserts.
Sparky is not one for big projects; he likes quick short ones. Lately, he has been making bows and arrows out of tree branches and string, and he’s been folding oodles of paper airplanes. Future projects include collecting bugs for a bug zoo and making an animal board book for Junior.
Princess has the goal of skipping with her jump rope 100 times in a row and learning to skip backwards. She is also making a scrap-book with old photos. She also plans to make a board book for Junior.
It doesn’t matter to me if the project is big or small. I just want my children to have a goal to aspire to, a hobby/job they enjoy, or an activity that exercises their creativity. As the summer goes by, I’m sure we’ll be thinking up more short and long-term projects that they are interested in. Pinterest, here we come!
Playing with Baby
In addition to reading, practicing math and music, and working on their projects, each child spends time playing with Baby Junior. Now that he’s crawling, Junior is getting into everything. He especially loves to open the air vents and bang the lids. I have found that each child has his/her own special way of playing with Junior, and he just soaks up all the attention.
Putting it all together
Keeping track of my children’s activities in and out of the home can make me feel like the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe… she had so many children she didn’t know what to do! So here is a checklist I made for my kids’ at-home activities.
I printed it on cardstock and covered it with contact paper so the kids can write on it with a dry erase marker. When they complete an activity, they check it off. If they complete all their activities by dinner, they circle the abbreviation for the day of the week. At the end of the week, if they have circled each day, they get donuts on Sunday or some special treat.
This checklist has been working really well. Between free play, my kids complete their activities with few reminders, and hallelujah, they’re not bickering as much! Here’s a blank copy for your kids if you want to give it a try.
I hope you have a blessed, joyful, and restful summer. And don’t forget:
(Thanks, Big Sis!)
P.S. Still looking for more book recommendations? Check out these: