Summer break is coming, and you know what that means: your house is about to be full of kids who are accustomed to structure, mental stimulation, and same-age playmates. If your kids are like mine, school breaks are a recipe for boredom and bickering.
Oh, no, sorry, that’s just my kids. Right? Riiiiight.
Well, just on the odd chance that someone out there doesn’t have angelic kids who cause no trouble and never get bored, let me propose a solution: give your summer vacation a structure. It doesn’t have to be rigid; in fact, flexibility is key. But having structure upon which to hang expectations will make Mom’s life easier and the kids’ life more enjoyable. Here is a three-part plan to get you started:
Part 1: Chore time
Kids need to learn how to be contributing members of society. Right now, “society” equals “home.” Some families I know simply give their kids a list of things that have to be done at some point during the day and let them work out the details themselves. That doesn’t work for us, so we lay out more structured expectations.
Our kids know that every day during the summer, with a few exceptions for special occasions, they will do up to one hour’s worth of chores immediately following breakfast–before moving on to more fun things. This could be watering or weeding, straightening, washing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, or folding laundry–basically whatever needs doing.
Disclaimer: in my house this has proved trickier than it seems, because I have two children who have to be supervised one-on-one. So sometimes one child has to do his or her chore later. Lesson: every plan has to be adapted for your own unique circumstances.
Part 2: Religious formation
My newest book is based on the idea that religious concepts can only take root when kids (or adults, for that matter!) make them real through action. So this summer we’re going to take a chapter a week and break open the faith by taking a “just live it” approach to the Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, and so on. Sarah Reinhard’s book Catholic Family Fun is also a winner for connecting ordinary fun things to faith matters.
Part 3: once-a-week field trips.
This was the crown jewel of last summer for our kids. We saw reptiles, planets crossing the sun, visited a Chinese lantern festival and a botanical garden with a “forts and fairy houses” display, and spent a day at a children’s science museum. We also did lower-key field trips, like a picnic at the park and lunch with Daddy on the grass outside his office building.
The field trips get everyone out of the house, away from whatever distractions keep you from spending time together, and give you the chance to enjoy time together. Here are some ideas:
- Water parks
- Nature center or nature area
- State Park hikes
- Visit to grandparents
- One or two “big” trips, perhaps to a nearby metro area, which offers year-round attractions as well as seasonal ones
- State or county fair
- Historical sites
- Picnics at the playground with friends
- Lunch with Daddy (pack it or go out for a treat)
Field trips don’t have to be expensive or involve a lot of travel. They just have to be outside the ordinary routine.
Placing a bit of structure on summer break helps everyone in the house get through the long, hot days–and helps moms be successful with their household, work and parenting goals.
How do you handle the long procession of unscheduled summer days?
Kathleen writes at her personal blog, So Much To Say, So Little Time, about life at the intersection of faith, family and the written word. She is convinced that every issue touches every other, and that faith must be at the heart of them all.