General Health & Wellness • May 23, 2016

Four tips to keep kids busy during summer break: “Summer Mom” to the rescue

Last night I read a mom blog post titled, “Spring Break- a preview of how much summer will suck” and I laughed so loudly that sweet Daisy Dog was startled from her nap.  For many moms, school is drawing to an end and the transition to summer is underway.

I’m a summer mom. My friend Sherri taught me that term on a bike ride one day around this time last year. “Summer break is only a week away!” I said excitedly as we began to ascend a hill.
‘I know!” she groaned; her pained response coming from the subject of summer and not the difficulty of the hill. “You don’t like summer?” I said much as I must have said, “What do you mean there’s no Santa Claus?” decades earlier. “Oh, you’re a summer mom.” she said in that wise, all-knowing voice.

I learned that day that not all moms look forward with excited anticipation for that time of year when the kids are out of school. I went on to learn that those that dread the ending of the school year like a trip to the dentist are called “school moms.”

As a summer mom, I look forward to the more relaxed, free-of-lunch-packing-and-homework-doing days. A break from the days that start at a fixed time when minutes truly matter is a welcome change.

But, as a solo mom to three kids (dad lives hundreds of miles away), I also look forward to the two strategically placed weeks our limited budget allows for the kids to be in camp so I can catch up with life a bit before diving back into the fun of summer.

But this year, the camps the kids want to attend are all in different weeks. Different weeks, a.k.a., no time for mom to catch up without kids around. Thus my laughter about the “preview of how much summer will suck” I think I just glimpsed it. I need those weeks.

Looks like I won’t get that kid-free week this year. So begins the slow breathing and “It’s ok, don’t panic, I can figure this out” mom-blem solving. I dig around in my mental tool box and realize there are some good solutions in there I had forgotten.

So, whether you’re a school mom or a summer mom who just needs a little help, I have a few tricks to make the summer a bit less suck-y, prevent summer slide and double dip in the time and money-saving buckets:

  1. Treasured Teacher Time: Without opportunities to learn and practice essential skills, kids fall behind on measures of academic achievement over the summer months. Many kids will return to school in the fall having lost two months of grade-level equivalency in reading and math achievement.Knowing these sorts of facts as a pediatrician can make you a bit crazy. I tried, and quickly gave up on creating a summer lesson plan to keep the kids on track. There’s a reason teachers have a four-year degree.

    The first summer following kindergarten, I came upon this solution so terrific we repeated it many more summers.  Once a week, on the day following the night I worked overnight in the hospital, one of the kids’ favorite teachers came and spent time with them, aka tutored them while I slept. My request was for her to begin a topic that we could continue that week on our own. She would bring fun projects that teachers are great at creating, and we would spend a few hours on two other days completing them.

    Hiring a teacher is expensive, and appropriately so. By having her come once a week and work with all the kids at once, we were able to double dip in many ways. The kids were safe while I slept. They had a chance to spend time with an adult they looked forward to seeing and the four hours of paid tutoring was stretched into eight hours of learning without my time and energy to make lesson plans. There is also a social benefit to spending time with a teacher in the summer. It keeps “school” on the kids’ minds but does it in an environment that is relaxed: their home. Seeing teachers outside of school has the added benefit of making them more like family and less intimidating.

    Only have one or two kids? Partner with another family or two to share the cost. Teachers are used to teaching 20 or more kids, a handful of kids won’t bother them a bit. Don’t feel comfortable with a teacher in your home? Have her meet at a park picnic bench or the library.

  1. My Book of Summer: Desperate to improve my children’s handwriting and get a couple hours of work done, I started a weekly routine that as they grew older improved their writing and story-telling skills all the while creating a keepsake of summer memories.Each Friday, they sat at the kitchen table and thought about the week prior, choosing a favorite memory to document. Sometimes this was easy. Sometimes we literally had to talk about each day to jog their memory. Much like Pinterest today, at the top of the page went a picture. They could print a photo they had taken, attach a ticket stub or piece of nature or draw a picture. Then, they wrote about the event. I would love to say they excitedly penned long pros about their adventures. But, in reality, they grumbled and had to be told, “Five sentences! You can write more but at least five sentences.”

    How does this activity allow you to stretch some time and money? It is inexpensive entertainment. All it really requires are supplies your kids have around the house: paper, crayons or markers. They are keeping those academic skills active by practicing weekly. And, at the end of the summer, you can take the pile of pages, color photocopy them and have them bound and you now have a very cherished Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or grandparent gift. See, another double dip.

  2. Half Day Camp, Full Day Fun: Camps are great for kids. They get to practice social skills with a new group of children and inactive screen time is minimized. Camps allow kids to try new things like archery or ceramics without a large time and money commitment. For kids with chronic illnesses, camp provides a chance to improve their health related quality of life. 

    Half day camps tend to be half the cost. I thought this was terrific until we did our first half day camp. I drove the kids to camp, walked them in, walked out to the car, drove home and then had all of 45 minutes before repeating the drive to camp, walk in to get the kids, walk out to the car routine. The day was pretty much shot. And, what do working parents do with a half day camp?!This is where I pat myself on the back for choosing parent-friends much smarter than me. This is the solution my super-smart friend, Michelle, proposed: one parent drives all the kids both ways to camp, then keeps the kids, feeds them lunch and lets them play together for a few hours before the other parent(s) pick up their kids. Abracadabra, half day camp cost into full day without kids. The kids loved the downtime together and each parent got a “free day” to work, rest or play. For parents that work daytime hours, this could easily be turned into each parent taking a week.

  1. Kids in Training: One summer, my kids learned before school ended that the following year they would have to run a mile in PE. My future-CEO child decided she was going to train in the summer so she could be much faster by fall mile time. This sounded like a great idea to me. We could all stay physically fit and decrease the chances of the very well documented summer weight gain. So, for many weeks, before the swelter of summer heat set in, we would bike to the park, run laps, have a snack and read our books under a shade tree, then ride our bikes home. This endeavor was free and took up a great deal of the day, giving it structure to avoid the “I’m bored!” complaints. I also felt ok letting the kids have some screen time once we were home having accomplished some exercise, nature time and learning time.Where’s the double dip? It allowed me to exercise with the kids instead of trying to find 30 minutes to an hour to exercise alone. And, by fall, they were much more confident in their mile running skills.

 Have some double dip ideas for keeping kids busy in the summer? Share them with us! Are you a summer mom or school mom? Give us the scoop on why.

 

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