Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Keeping kids busy during the summer

“Who cut their hair on the couch?”
“Why does the dog have one blue paw?”
“Where did all the kitchen chairs go?”
These and many more questions like these are not a good way to start summer vacation.
My experience as a mother of three children, including twins, has taught me that it’s easy to entertain a child, but not so easy to keep them busy. Allow me to explain the difference.
It’s easy to put on a movie for your toddler or allow your tween all the computer time they want to keep them occupied or from destroying the house. On the other hand, it takes more effort to give them opportunities to grow and develop into independent, well-rounded, active, self-sufficient young people.
It wasn’t without difficulty, but I taught my preschoolers to help around the house. I involved them in my daily chores: folding towels, mopping floors, preparing meals, etcetera.
I had to let go of some of the perfectionism. The towels weren’t always folded to my liking. The floors sometimes needed to be re-mopped, but I wanted them to learn that they weren’t too little to be an active part of the upkeep of our home and that it wasn’t all mommies job.
I’m now reaping the benefits of their early training. I have three children who are helpful, compliant, and carry-out household tasks with little to no whining.
Here are a few of my tips for keeping children actively engaged in things that will benefit themselves and the family:
Early to bed, early to rise, even in the summer
Allowing your children to set their own sleeping schedule in the summer, doesn’t do anything for them in the long run. If anything it will teach them to be disappointed adults. Sleeping-in isn’t a regular part of any productive adult’s life.
Even though it’s summer, our regular wake-up call has only been pushed back by a half-an-hour and a decent bedtime is still enforced. Everyone still enjoys a full eight hours and nobody sleeps the day away.
Fun first, then play? Really?
We’ve adjusted our schedule so that the kids aren’t helping around the house during the cooler hours of the day and then refusing to go out to play when it the temperature climbs, thus spending the whole day inside the house.
Instead, we eat breakfast and then play outside or exercise, which for kids is one in the same.
When it gets hotter outside, that’s when we do chores inside. As it begins to cool off later in the day, the chores are finished and everyone can do as the please. It may sound like putting the cart before the horse, but it’s worked for us.
Let them know what is expected and what they can expect
When Secret Agent Man decodes sensitive documents or protects State secrets, he gets a pay check.
I want my kids understand that if want something , just like dad, they have to earn it.
On a daily basis, my kids know it’s their job to take care of the pets, unload the dishwasher, set the table, and maintain the cleanliness of their bedrooms and bathroom. On top of that, each day I give them a list of other things to do around the house.
Just like a real job, the completion of everything that is expected is met with a payment. Sometimes it’s money or trips to the pool, or extra time to play video games or watch TV.
It would be easier to let them be free-range children over the summer and do whatever they feel like doing, after all, “they’re just kids.” But, then how will they ever learn the value of time, self-reliance, and how to be an asset, instead of a liability?
I think it’s worth the extra effort especially if it will help avoid more couch haircuts.


  1. "Allowing your children to set their own sleeping schedule in the summer, doesn’t do anything for them in the long run. If anything it will teach them to be disappointed adults. Sleeping-in isn’t a regular part of any productive adult’s life"
    YES! THANK YOU! Brought a little tear to my eye... :)

  2. Oh man. I'm a bad parent. We have been letting them stay up to almost 10. But I hate it. But we are on the border of the time zone, and it is truly LIGHT outside until well past 10:30. They just have a hard time going to bed when it is superbright in their rooms.

  3. That is an awesome picture of your kids!
    Our kids earn "Mom Bucks". 5 bucks is equal to one dollar of real money. They can also cash their bucks in for screen time, extra snacks and other fun things. One change I recently made is to require them to save half of all their Mom bucks to use as cash and each of them have a goal they are working towards. The best part of that is that they have to earn twice as much as usual to get that coveted screen time, because they have to save half of it. However, they don't mind! They like that they are earning towards a goal.

  4. I printed this off. My kids thought I was being mean by sending them to bed by 9 PM. I still work so summer break is not an adult thing. I love that it's not all mommy's job. Not here either :)

    That picture of your kids is astounding. I love it!!!

  5. Ok Heff. My kids are ready to hear the details. Can you email me your specifics of how you do it? I would love to implement this!!
    When you get time, will you either put it here, or email me at--get ready---
    chompoforfrancis at yahoo dot blah blah blah.

  6. I like the switching of the cleaning time/playing time to match the playing conditions. Thanks for this! :)

  7. So THIS is why my boys are so screwed up! I did it all wrong!

    Crap - wish I could call mulligan.

    Oh well, just more fodder for them to discuss with their therapists

  8. It's 10:18 and Amanda is laying/lying/whatever on my bedroom floor watching Seinfeld. I keept saying...go to bed. She obeys really well.

  9. Great advice. I may not have any kids at home, but maybe I'll use this with Allan ; )

    Seriously, I did a pretty good job with the chores and helping them understand how to help around the house and it has really paid off. (I stunk at letting them stay up at night ; (

  10. Great blog post! I'm making a chore chart for my kids with pictures so the younger ones can understand. I like the play first,then chores idea too.

    My kids go to bed around 9. I need my quiet time!

  11. I am the worst parent (of teens) ever. I was pretty consistent when they were not so much, it's a slippery slide.

    Great post!

  12. *APPLAUSE*

    Great job! I love this! :)

    I try to get Zach Face to go to bed at a decent time in the summer, but when he doesn't want to I don't push it. But he wakes up early anyway! :)

  13. Great advice, Annie! I'm going to use some of your suggestions!

    My oldest cleans his own bathroom, and even though he's not great at it yet and sometimes I have to touch it up a bit, eventually he'll be able to do it well on his own with practice. Yay! :)

  14. I forgot to say I LOVE the picture of the kids!


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