Ah summer vacation. A time to sit back, relax, and be lazy. A carefree time where no one needs to worry about schedules or timetables, and where peace and harmony reign.
HA! Not in my house.
I vaguely remember my own summer vacations being like that. My parents worked, leaving my brother and I to stay home alone during our break from school. I’m sure he and I bickered and fought, but the most prevelent memory I have is just being lazy and enjoying my time off school. We didn’t go to a lot of fancy summer camps, we entertained ourselves. And when I began staying home with my kids I assumed they would be able to entertain themselves all summer long as I did. But whether its because my memories are incomplete or just that my kids are younger than I was back then, they were incapable of entertainning themselves without my intervention.
Because I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for a summer at home with the kids I was having to make things up as I went. Creating activities on the fly isn’t as easy as it sounds either. Plus with my inexperience, a lot of the activities I did plan either took way longer or way shorter than I thought they would. What it boiled down to was that year summer vacation was the longest 84 days of my life.
I was determined that this summer would not be like that. I swore I would have enough activities planned to keep the kids busy all summer long. I started with camps and activities. But when I looked at the calendar and saw how things would pan out it reminded me a lot of last summer. Last year the boys went to a week long summer camp right at the start of the summer. They loved it, but it was over so soon that by the end of summer it was just a distant memory. This year its the same thing. We have one full week of summer vacation with no activities, then 3 weeks of stuff, then it all ends and we have no more activities scheduled for the rest of the summer.
Which left me 6 weeks of summer to keep my kids entertained. Admittedly that’s half as long as last summer, but I know from experience that after a day or two of nothing to keep us occupied everyone will start going stark raving mad. So, I devised a plan. Most people would have just thought of a few things to do and interspersed them throughout the summer. A few others would have actually made themselves a list to draw ideas from whenever the kids seemed bored. Me? I made a daily schedule which every hour of the day accounted for.
Maybe it goes back to the days when I worked in a pre-school and was required to come up with different activities for the kids when they were in my classroom. Maybe it’s knowing that Brendan functions best when on a set schedule. Or maybe it’s just in my nature to be an eternal list maker and planner. Whatever it is, the schedule I set for the kids went beyond merely occupying their time. Each day of the week has a theme and a block of time for us to do a fun group activity.
Make it Monday: Monday’s are our arts and crafts day. Last summer one of the things that kept us all from killing each other was projects. This year the kids even had some requests. Brendan wanted to build a home made volcano, and Cameron wanted to paint bird houses. So both of those projects are on the docket along with doing a play. Last summer the kids watched an episode of Blue’s Clues which made them want to put on a play. We spent weeks coming up with the plot and then creating scenery and costumes. The final performance was less than 5 minutes long but the kids had a blast doing it.
Take it Tuesday: Because last summer was so stinking hot, the one thing the kids didn’t get to do very often was go to the park. I think we went twice. Once about 2 days after school let out when it wasn’t yet sweltering hot, and one other day when it was. We practically melted the second time and therefore avoided the park for the rest of the summer. Praying that this summer won’t be quite so unbearable, we plan to picnic in the park every Tuesday. I’ve located a bunch of different playgrounds in our area that we can take our picnic lunch to. I suppose we could just go to the park that’s 2 houses down from us every single week, but I thought playing in different parks might be more exciting for them. A new adventure every single week.
Waterplay Wednesday: One of the few things I could get the kids to go outside and do during the oppressive heat wave last year was play in our inflatable swimming pool. They loved it because we would fill the pool up then set the end of our little slide in it and let the hose run a water stream down the slide. It created their very own mini water slide. Even Kaylee, little as she was, loved to stand and splash in the water for hours on end. Cameron has already asked me a dozen or more times if we can get out the little pool yet. I have to keep telling him it hasn’t been warm enough to do so yet, but hopefully things will warm up a bit so they can get outside and play.
Tabletop Thursday: I was inspired for this one by a show that Wil Wheaton runs on YouTube called Tabletop. He essentially uses the show to introduce people to new board games and teaches you how to play them. We have tons of games in our basement which rarely get played, and I thought this would be a good chance for us to dust them off and get some use. The hardest part about playing board games with my crew is finding things that will entertain their varying ages, but usually I can entertain Kaylee with some of the pieces even if she doesn’t play the actual game.
Fieldtrip Friday: This will be the third summer that we do this. Matt and I came up with this idea the summer before Brendan entered second grade, my last summer working. Brendan hated going to his summer program so much that we decided to give him small breaks from it. That first summer we used a reward system and if he earned enough pennies in his jar during the week he would get to take Friday off from his summer program and we would take him on a field trip of his choice. He loved it and was better behaved that summer than he had ever been before. Last year we did something similar having him and Cameron earn the pennies for the reward and it gave them something to look forward to in an otherwise empty week. This year I worked it into our weekly theme and they won’t have to earn their trips out of the house.
Seedling Saturday: Part of what I was looking to do with our summer was create long term projects that would keep us busy the whole summer through. In the past few years my yard hasn’t gotten the attention it needed either because I was pregnant and morning sick with Kaylee, or Kaylee was an infant, or the summer was 105 degrees and everything died off anyway. But this year I wanted to make sure that I got my yard looking nice and well kept again and started thinking of ways I could get my kids involved. Then I thought about letting them plant some seeds just to see what happened. The idea grew and soon we had a large patch in our backyard dug up (Matt wasn’t complaining, it’s less for him to mow) and the kids took a fieldtrip to Target to purchase their seeds. We planted them before summer started to make sure they have enough time to grow and mature over the summer, and already a lot of them have begun to flourish.
Saddle Up Sunday: Sunday’s will be another outdoor day. Brendan, with his low muscle tone, has never learned how to ride his bike. This year during Turn off the TV week the school hosted a Bike Rodeo and Brendan really wanted to go. We didn’t take him feeling he might be embarrassed since he’s as old as he is and unable to ride a bike properly. In addition, Cameron is begging for us to buy him a bike, but since we’ve had one sitting in our shed for 3 years without a rider, we are a little hesitant to purchase another. So Sunday’s will be spent working with both boys on the bike to get them riding like pros. Or at least able to ride without assistance. My guess is the training wheels won’t come off the bike this summer, but if we can at least get them riding it will be a huge improvement.
At least, that’s the plan. So far, things haven’t gone quite as well as I would have hoped. Last summer the kids were stuck in the house for the entire summer due to blistering heat. My intention was even if this summer was just as hot to get them outside more. We’d just plan our activities for the early morning so it would only be mildly hot instead of scorching.
But Mother Nature has got a mind of her own. This year it isn’t the heat that’s keeping us inside, it’s the torrential rain. More often than not it seems that rain has been falling during the day, making our backyard a wet and soggy mess. Today we were supposed to have a picnic in the park which we cancelled due to the thunderstorm that rolled through our area around 4:00 this morning. I figured the playground would still be too wet to play at by the time we were ready for our picnic.
I’m trying to be flexible, and we instead switched our Tuesday activity with our Thursday activity. The biggest problem is that 4 of our activities are to be held outdoors each week. Meaning we have more outside days than inside ones and eventually I’ll run out of days to be able to switch around. But that isn’t really the point. The point is, I have a plan. And that plan will enable me to keep my kids entertained all summer long.
Just 69 days left until school starts…