Thursday, June 14, 2012

summer survival kit

i don't know about you, but when the first day of summer vacation comes for my kids, i am filled with mixed emotions. i love the freedom of no schedules, no game practices, no waking up early (not that summer vacations means my kids will sleep in even a little). i love having a little extra time to spend with my kids.

then the first few days of summer arrive and i am hit over the head with the reality that i have to keep five kids occupied for three long months. my first instinct was, "it's summer...go outside and play like i used to." that lasted for about 10 minutes until one of them came in crying.

then, to top off my summer frustration came a comment from my oldest. after a day filled with seven hours of playtime, he declared, "this was the worst day ever. i didn't get to do anything i wanted to do."

no, son, the worst day will be tomorrow...when you really won't get to do anything you want to do.

so began my ideas for summer survival...both my own survival and my kids...because, so help me, i was about to just lock the bunch outdoors and let them figure things out "lord of the flies" style. some of these may work for you, some may not but they have been a life saver. it does take a little time, money and preparation but i think you'll be surprised at the outcome.
isn't a "given" anymore. it is a privilege the kids have to earn. pretty much anything they consider "fun" has to be earned. can't you just hear the cries of "worst mommy ever" exploding from my kitchen? really, it doesn't go down like that but it's more fun to think i overcame that kind of adversity.

here's what you'll need:
  • plenty of school supplies: i purchased new crayons and markers for each kid, several new pencils, some 3x5 cards to make flashcards and some store bought flashcards. we had some computer programs for learning spanish as well as some educational software.
  • workbooks that are age appropriate for each child (hint: get a book big enough to last the summer)
  • three little buckets: these can be found just about anywhere and they don't need to be big or expensive.
  • craft sticks: i found mine at target
  • something to store all your materials in: you only need this if you're a neat freak like i. the random clutter makes me crazy.
  • books, games, coloring books, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, etc. for "fun time"
  • some sort of a reward system: i purchased little reward papers and some stickers. when all of the kids have a page filled (three filled pages) we have a movie night.
the school supplies

the work books

the buckets

here's where your preparation comes. the craft sticks need to be divided by bucket. one bucket will be filled with school work titles, one with chores, and one with "fun" ideas. i started with the school work and on each stick, i wrote things like "workbook," "computer," "spanish," "flash cards," "reading." these need to be written for each child. i put stickers on the top of each stick so each child would grab a stick labeled with his or her sticker. i doubled up certain tasks like "workbook" so there was more of a probability that one or more children would be working on the workbook at a time. this just simplified things.

some of the sticks for my 8 year old

some of the sticks for my 5 year old
"read a book" instead of "read for 30 minutes"

to earn some "fun time", the kids have to do 30 minutes of school work. they get to pick a stick from the bucket and get busy! at the end of 30 minutes, they can either pick a stick from the "fun" bucket or they can have free time. you can decide how long free time lasts. i usually count on it for 30 minutes. if they can last longer without fighting or complaining, i may let them keep going. if they come in's time for another bucket!

the "fun" bucket can be filled with summertime activities. these are generally activities the kids can do around the house that don't involve a trip to the pool or some other big family activity. those are rewards. these "fun" things can last for about 30 minutes and the bucket is my answer to, "i don't have anything to do." i figure they can pick from the "fun" bucket and make it happen or they can pick from one of the other buckets. their choice.

the "fun" bucket

the "chore" bucket is my personal favorite. during the school year, the kids have chores but they are more limited with what they can accomplish then they are in the summer. during the school year, after homework and some limited play time, the time for chores is limited as well. during the summer, all bets are off! this is my time to teach my kids how to do certain things around the house. don't know how to load the dishwasher? here, let me show you. if i can get some of these skills mastered by my kids during the summer when i have time to sit down and work with them on the tasks, by the time the school year rolls around, they will be experts.

i know there are people out there who think that kids should be kids and enjoy playtime. here's my take on that. kids learn all the time. they learn how to read and write. they learn what they can get away with. they learn what work is and they learn what lazy is. i have no problem teaching my kids the value of hard work. i also want them to understand that being a part of a family means everyone has to do their part. i'm not raising any dead beat dads or lazy husbands. i'm raising independent, hard working, responsible boys (and girl). the earlier they can learn some of those traits, the better. so, to that end, my kids do chores. we all work together; we all get the jobs done; we all take care of one another. in my opinion, that's just what families do.

to that end, we have the "chore" bucket. you can put any chores on these sticks that your family does. my kids know how to do dishes, empty the dishwasher, sort laundry, dust, vacuum, put clothes away, clean base boards, pull weeds, etc. my kids are responsible for making their beds and keeping their rooms clean regardless. the bucket chores are extra chores. so, here you go, the chore bucket. you can modify it as needed to suit your needs but i would challenge you to stretch yourself and your kids over the summer. teach them how to do something new while you have them at home and have the time. when they're out on their own, they'll be happy to know that you don't wash red socks with white t-shirts. trust me.

the "chore" bucket

i expected to be fighting these buckets everyday. the truth is, however, that the kids seem to like it. they know what is expected of them and they rise to the occasion. adding the buckets makes things more fun for them as they never know what a day is going to hold.

happy kids, happy mom, happy summer. what do you think? is mission summer survival the thing for you? is there anything i should add?


  1. I am a new GFC fan. I just found your link on my wall it was hidden and I didn't know how to find it. If you aren't already please follow me back at My-2-Cents
    Thank you

  2. I love this! My little one is way too young for this but I will definitely be using this in the future, thank you. Following from MBC, please follow back
    Thank you.

  3. I love this! Such a wonderful idea. We are heading into our 3rd week of Summer. I'm trying to remain on schedule, but the "down" time is a little rough. I don't know if I can whip this together in the amount of time that I need for it to be successful, but I might give it a valiant shot.

    Thanks so much for sharing. Here's to a FUNNER SUMMER!


    1. good luck! cheers to a great summer for you as well! busy kiddos = happy mommies!