My kids (most kids, I think) thrive on structure, and sometimes summer can get a little too loosey-goosey. Without the steadiness of that Monday-to-Friday school schedule (I miss it already) kids can get cranky because they (A) don’t know what’s coming up next and (B) get into a rut of doing the same things without any variety.
Yes, they will spend a lot of time playing outside, and we will make many trips to the local park, library, pool, playground, etc. They will draw and make crafts and play with their toys and build blanket forts and invent new games.
Sometimes, I just structure activities that will keep them quietly content while I’m working. So here are some of the ways I’m going to structure our time this summer to keep them from becoming “vidiots.”
I started doing this a few months ago actually. They run up to our son’s room and each build a unique Lego creation, and then I come upstairs and tell them what I like about each one — um, what I like about the Lego creations, not the kids themselves.
(Yes, everything has some sort of alliteration. It’s the “fluency heuristic,” which means ideas are more valuable if they’re easier to say or think).
This is when I’ll pull out toys they haven’t played with in a long time, and they are legally obligated to play with them for a certain amount of time. I’m looking at you, giant expensive Playmobil collection they never touch anymore.
We do this every summer because I’m genuinely afraid they’ll forget everything their teachers have worked so hard to teach them. I bought them each a thick workbook that’s designed to bridge the gap between the grade they just finished and the grade they’ll start in September. I’ll assign them a couple of pages a day and then I get the fun of grading their work (with stickers, naturally).
I will do spelling tests that include the upcoming year’s “No Excuses Words” (words they need to spell by the end of the last term). They’re really into word searches now, too, and I found a site where you can make your own and print them off.
I’ll put an iPod or iPhone on a tripod and leave them to shoot videos of their toys (these are weirdly popular on YouTube). If I really want to extend the activity, I’ll have them craft scenery first or draw out storyboards of what they’re going to record.
This is when I send them to the back deck with our nail polish collection and instruct them to paint their fingernails and toenails.
I’ve long since learned not to let them do this in the house unless I like a rainbow of streaks and drips on the kitchen table (or worse). Sometimes the “beauty treatment” will be face-painting each other, and they’ll almost certainly end up with murky brownisn-green faces because they mix the colours together.
Face paint’s another popular option. Skills not required! LOL.
They both love chess, and Mommy doesn’t have a frigging clue how to play it with them. When I call out “Chess Challenge!” they will need to drop everything and start setting up those little horsies and castles or whatever the pieces are.
I’ll think of something they want — probably a trip to the frozen yogurt place I don’t like — and tell them it’s a reward for doing a specific cleaning job, like finding all of the Shopkins and organizing them on the shelves by colour.
Whenever they ask if they’re done, I’ll tell them they only get one inspection so they’d better be really sure it’s clean.
They’re both signed up for the summer reading program at our awesome local library, where you can earn prizes for logging a certain number of reading hours. They read nightly on their own anyway, but I think more midday reading will be in order — after all, guys, PRIZES?!
I also like to get our son read to our daughter (and have him help her read one, too) so I can see myself saying a lot of “Read each other a book and THEN it’s time for a snack.”
You might be thinking “Summer is supposed to be about relaxing and doing what you want. Telling your kids how to play is ridiculous!” Fair enough.
But I know my kids. They love school, they love structure, and they miss both of those things during the summer.
While they might grumble initially at one of my “forced play” suggestions, I know they will end up having a great time and appreciate doing something a little different. It’s kind of like school, except without a qualified teacher … and with more nail-painting.