I remember when my kids were little, by the end of April I had every camp booked (because they offered a discount). All of those open hours looming were both welcoming and worrisome. It was important to me that I knew what our days were going to look like from the moment school let out until the beautiful day the first bell rang once again.
Keeping our kids busy in summer was expensive and it was a lot of time behind the wheel for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of mom who feels every moment has to be scheduled…far from it actually. But, there are A LOT of hours in summer. Even though I only had my kids in half-day camps most of summer vacation, there were (and still are) a lot of down time to get bored, tap into their imagination, and (now that the youngest two are thirteen and fifteen) stare at a screen.
I think that’s the biggest challenge I hear from parents today. How am I going to keep them occupied so they aren’t staring at their phone/computer/mini iPad? How many hours a day is okay? How can I keep them safe while they are on social media?
The preteen years can pose an additional challenge because by then there aren’t a lot of camp choices and most kids are beyond this stage anyway.
The whole before-they-can-get-a-job-but-too-old-for-daycare-camp phase can be a real stumper, especially for working parents who really don’t want to leave their kids home unsupervised. I can relate to this well because the story will be the same for our family this summer. Believe it or not, parents who have to work and leave preteens at home have actually told me they are installing security cameras in their homes to keep an eye on the kids and make sure they are being honest with their screen time use or to be sure they’re not getting into things they shouldn’t.
While I understand this, I don’t think it’s a good solution, do you?
For our family this summer brings drivers education, a son home from college and working full-time at an internship, a husband starting a travel business with a storefront, and myself commuting several days a week to Fort Worth. The juggle to keep our youngest two kids entertained and not in front of the screen for 12 hours at a time has led me to find some creative ways to divide up their days.
First, my kids volunteer at camps now. The camps they loved as kids are gracious enough to take them back in as helpers. This is a fantastic way for my kids to learn how to model positive behavior, to continue to tap into their inner child, and to help out community members who are looking to provide quality programming at a reasonable price.
Second, the driver’s education kiddo is signed up with five other kids we know so I can share the drive time with other moms and it’s also a terrific way for our boys to have some face-to-face time.
My teenage daughter has an offer to be a “mother’s helper” which is something I instigated. She loves kids and I know I would have LOVED to have had a morning off a week to run errands, get in a workout, or grab Starbucks with a friend. This is a great way for my daughter to take on some responsibility and make some spending money as well.
I’m also going to put my kids in charge of getting dinner ready some nights. We’ve decided they will rotate jobs like cooking, setting the table, and cleaning up so no one gets bored or overwhelmed with their job. Great life skills that will make open up time for my husband and I to be able to reconnect with them in the evenings.
How are you handling the summer months with your kids? I definitely think there is value in having some down time, but also a real need for them to have continued face-to-face interaction and to pitch in at home while mom and dad are at work. I trust my kids to do what needs to be done and I look forward to our family dinner when we all gather round the table at night.
Cheers to Texas summer and however you choose to enjoy the toasty months ahead!