12 Things to Keep the Children Busy This Summer (Around the House and Yard)

I have the distinct impression that my children think they are going to vegetate and stare at screens for most of the summer. While I am sure they are looking forward to great swaths of unstructured time — and I will let them have such — they are also going to have Stuff to Do.

Last day of school outfits
Enjoy your last day, sweeties! Mama’s got plans for you!

I am sure they will not believe me, but: children do better with structure. It doesn’t need to be rigid. I’m not going to punish them if they decide they don’t want to build with Legos. But I also can’t have them 1) whinging about being bored; 2) asking to go a lot of places that cost money; 3) bugging me for ideas every five minutes while I am working at home; 4) asking to watch a show, go on my computer, or play Minecraft every five minutes.

1. Chores. Every day, they will have to make their beds, clear and rinse dishes, put clean dishes away, and pick a chore from the chore jars. (Water plants, sweep kitchen floor, etc.) I need to remake the chores to put in these babies, but I’m perfectly happy to do that. Somehow or another, all the popsicle sticks I had got used for other arts and crafts projects.

chore jars
Pick one!

2. Math. Flora struggled with math and science this year, and I wasn’t around to help much. Her teacher and I never managed to meet, either. Kate started the year in tutoring for math, and “graduated” out of the program this spring. We are very proud of her, and yes, she is getting a little reward.

I received an offer for this site from Amazon, and signed up the girls. They are *horrified* that I did such a thing. But doing well on these lessons (I am not sure if they are daily or not) will ensure continued access to computer and Minecraft time.

3. Drawing “camp.” The people at DIY.org clearly recognize that children like to spend time on the computer, and have curated a whole lot of “camps” to help it be productive time. They ran special offers on Facebook. I saw the offer for $10 month-long make-a-drawing-a-day camp, and promptly signed Flora up. She’s going to love it.

4. Make play dough/Play with play dough. I learned to make play dough this past year for one of Kate’s school projects, and this is going to be something we do. Make a bunch of colors; play with them; store them; make more when it runs out. Cream of tartar is a major ingredient — play dough, meringue, and snickerdoodles all call for it.

5. Baking/cooking. When they are done making play dough, they can bake us up some snickerdoodles! Other things they can make: s’mores dip; chocolate chip cookies bars; brownies. We can probably start working some dinner stuff into the rotation.

6. Books. Each day they will need to do 30 to 60 minutes of silent reading. Obviously, this will be hard for M, but I figure Kate can read with him, or the nanny will.

7. Activity. Head outside for *at least* 30 to 60 minutes. I am hoping that they will get into a game or other activity, and lose track of time enough that this goes on longer than a half hour. Bike riding needs to be an option — which means I have to get my butt to a thrift store to get bikes for Kate and M. I’m saving that for after Chicago.

8. Build something. Use Legos. Or blocks. Or cardboard boxes and glue. Heck build forts for silent reading time! Another 30-minute activity.

9. Draw or paint something. Pretty straight forward. *Note to self*: buy some acrylic paint for the girls. They want to start customizing their LPS and MLP.

10. Play in the sprinkler.

11. Do a science experiment — make goo; make invisible ink; etc. Flora has a couple of good books of experiments. I’m sure there are scads of websites out there too. (If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments.)

12. Write a letter or card. I’ll put it in the mail!

Obviously, they don’t have to plow through a dozen activities every day. I’ll draw up a calendar and a schedule. Once they are done with the day’s activities, screen time is open. I am also considering raiding a dollar store for little rewards that they can earn.

The other thing I will need them to do will be to pick activities and experiments they want to do, and make sure they are supplied.

How are you keeping the children busy this summer?

Progress II

Wednesday evening after dinner, the girls helped me wash the dishes.

If you don’t know this already, when a child helps you do a chore, that chore will take anywhere from two to ten times longer. Accept this now, and don’t let it stop you from letting your child(ren) help you.

It took me awhile to figure this out, and it lead to some frustration on my part. I am a slow learner. But then it clicked, and I embraced it. And here’s a few reasons why.

First of all, like many other WOTHMs, I don’t get to spend a lot of time with my children. Since days have grown shorter, my children have started going to bed earlier. I pick them up at the day school at 5 p.m. (or later), and they hit the hay around 8 p.m. That is a scant 3 hours, and that time is filled with feeding, cleaning up after, and bathing them. If they are “helping” me, it’s not a chore, it’s quality time together.

Second, it’s less time they spend in front of the television.

Third, it teaches them responsibility. (You probably already figured this out.) Meals have to be cooked, dishes have to be cleaned (and dried and put away), clothes have to be laundered.

Fourth, it’s fun! Watching Kate intently wash the same spoon for 15 minutes was hysterical. Flora spent a lot of time washing one of my travel mugs: she would put some water in it, submerge the sponge, take out the sponge, put more water in the mug, submerge the sponge again, lather, rinse, and repeat until she got to the point that submerging the sponge made the water overflow the mug. And then she would empty the mug and start over again. (She may have been learning applied physics for all I know.)

They were wholly absorbed in this “chore”, standing on kitchen chairs I had pulled over to the sink (with a towel spread underneath to catch the inevitable spilled water). In the meantime, I was getting the other dishes done, dried, and put away.

By the time we were done, Kate had probably washed three pieces of silverware (quite thoroughly); Flora had done both travel mugs and a couple pieces of tupperware; and I had taken care of all the dishes, one pot, and one pan. Also, Kate was soaked from the neck down, the chair she had been standing on was soaked, and the half of the towel under her chair was — you guessed it — soaked.

But the girls were also ridiculously pleased with themselves. I handed Flora a towel to dry the chairs (Flora, incidentally, was dry except for the very tips of her sleeves), she happily declared, “I’m going to help you every day all day.”

And that’s just fine with me.

(I would normally have just put everything in the sink until the girls were in bed, but we are still having a major issue with fruit flies. Nothing we’ve tried to date has completely solved the problem. And besides, now that I know how much fun the girls find washing the dishes, there’s no reason not to do it together!)