March 30, 2013

Sharing Saturday - Help! Summer is soon approaching!

It's been a very, very very, long time since we've had a sharing Saturday.  In fact, many of you probably don't know what it even is.  Basically, I lay out a few questions (which are sometimes from readers) and everybody gives their two cents and ideas.

The subject today is SUMMER.  Why?  Because I need your help.  Blatantly speaking I'm a little scared.  We just finished a week of spring break and it reminded me of summer and how unstructured and challenging it can be.  You see, I'll be having the baby about a week after school ends.  Talk about changes.  Rex will suddenly have no school and a newborn sister.  (Cue the "Mom what can I do now?  We aren't doing anything fun?  I'm bored. etc.)

[old picture from THIS post]

You see, Baden can entertain himself really easily.  However, Rex is a lot more demanding and thrives with more structure and getting out of the house a lot.  I plan on doing Mommy School like last year, but I don't know how I'll put the same effort into it with a newborn around.

I found a cool idea/ concept on a different blog where she gave her kids assignments in the morning and then they did fun activities together in the afternoon, but I'm not sure my boys are old enough to independently handle assignments each morning and I don't want it to become a nag fest.

So, enough of the blabbing.  Here are a few questions to answer.  Answer whatever you like.  I LOVE hearing your ideas and insights.

- What do you do with your kids in the summer?  Summer school?  Nothing?  Playdates?  Trips?

- Do you go with the flow and enjoy less structure?  Do you organize the week to create more structure?

- What have you found really works for you and them?  (Obviously this is different for everyone, I know.)

- Do you schedule less because of a new baby or do you keep the older ones busy with activities and let your new baby take lots of naps in the car?

This is definitely going to be a time of reconfiguring things for us.  I want to make the transition easier for the boys, if possible and I want us to be able to enjoy the summer together.

Thanks in advance for your sharing.  See you tomorrow.


  1. I know age is always a factor, but for my 3yr old, our play space its organized w lots of small boxes. There are building supplies in one, some great cooking pretend play in another, cars in a basket, a million tiny animals, etc. Sometimes they get forgotten. When little man starts to get restless, I can often just pull out a box he hasn't noticed in a while and that can entertain him for days. Also he loves reenacting story lines from library books. My suggestion would be a plan to your day that includes scheduled outdoor time and consider creating "sets"of interest that you can pull out when the days seem longer. A weekly schedule that gives them some structure, like regular library story time attendance, but be flexible in everything and give yourself a break when you need it! (and I will resoundingly say a baby carrier/sling is a must!)

  2. I had a baby right after school let out last summer and found myself in the same predicament with my older two. What worked best for me was to try to stick with a schedule of fun things planed in advance. I let them know at the beginning of the week which days we had special activities planned and that kept them happy. Also we enrolled them in a summer day program through the YMCA. It was a life saver, it gave them structure, interaction with other kids, activities during the day, and gave me time to focus on myself and the new baby without them feeling jealous.

  3. we're planning to buy a zoo pass for the summer. i also plan to put my almost-four-year-old in VBS for a week, and he's taking swimming lessons. i like jessy's (above) idea for a summer day program at the YMCA!

  4. Last summer I did "mama pajama school" with my boys (then ages 3 and 5) every morning, but, like you, I have a baby on the way now (due apr 24) so I'm not sure how this summer will change. Last summer I did a theme every week, everything from solar system to superheroes and printed worksheets on the weekend before so I didn't have much work to do during the week. I also tried to have a fun activity or two that loosely tied in (everything from your superheroes ice scavenger hunt to making bird feeders). On days without a special activity we usually did cooking one day, art another etc. the afternoons were all free play. We also joined a local museum and went there or to see a movie one day each week instead of doing "school". This summer I have them signed up for a week of morning camps each month. I am hoping only having them three weeks a month in the morning will give me the break I need to continue our schedule from last summer, as it worked well and we really enjoyed it. Good luck, I am sure you will have an awesome summer however it pans out!

  5. I've been there. I had a baby right in April a couple years back. You need a baby bjorn, and a cute sun hat for you baby. We hiked and walked around the neighbor hood a lot. We also swimming lessons almost all summer long. I tried to schedule lessons in the morning so that when the kids woke up the had a routine to schedule. The woke up cleaned their rooms, made their bed, had breakfast etc. My two oldest we 3 &5 at the time. After swimming lessons they were usually tired when we got home so they wanted down time. This was a good time for me to have downtime. If you don't a sandbox you might want to consider it. It entertained my children for hours. We also did mommy school but I was more flexible with the timing. I usually pulled something our when they started to complain they were bored. Also, my experience is that small children like new responsibilities. I usually amp up the chore chart to include a few more chores in the summer because they have more time. My kids have been fine with this. They know they will get more tickets and the feel grown up that mom is trusting them with new responsibilities.

  6. My daughter was 27 months when I had my son, but I found it easier to be on the go. He was sleeping so much and lived mostly in a moby wrap(that I got skilled in breastfeeding him in) home we'd get bored and there was more for her to get into;)

    My daughter goes to a year round preschool program so we're going to keep her in school. I'm going to be helping out with fun art projects(I've been coming in weekly for a few months) so that should keep us busy:)

  7. See if your theater has dollar movies. My theater has them every week all summer, and they're movies that came out last year, so they're still slightly new, but your boys may have seen them before. And, if you buy a pass for the whole summer, it's $5 a pass and you can see every movie all summer (10 movies). Otherwise it's a dollar a ticket if you think that you won't make it to the theater enough. Of course, that's my theater, and they don't always advertise very well, so you might have to research, but it's still pretty fun and cheap!

  8. My number one recommendation is to find a museum in your area that belongs to the Association of Science-Technology Centers and buy a membership. We buy a $60 membership every year to the kids' science museum in our hometown, and through the ASTC's reciprocal program, get free admission to the local natural history museum, plus five other science museums large and small in our state. In a single month, we get more value out of that membership than what it cost, and if we're traveling out-of-state (or out-of-country), we can visit lots of other museums for free, too.

    Here's the list of participating centers in the passport program by state.

  9. We also did the dollar movie series last summer (my then-two-year-old could last about an hour, anyway, if popcorn was involved) through the local Cinemark outlet. And our local recreation district has all sorts of summer programs for parents with young kids. Our favorite last year was Wacky Water, a "class" which featured lots of splash pools, sprinklers, water toys, etc. one day a week for eight weeks in a row (in two four-week sessions).

    I'm also thinking I might introduce scavenger hunts this summer. Lots of scavenger hunts.

  10. Last summer we made a list of 60 or so things we wanted to do over the summer. It was a mix of big outings (like the zoo or a museum) and small easy things (like try 3 new-to-us parks or go out for ice cream). It included crafts, baking projects, playdates with friends, etc. It gave the kids a focus - "what should we do this week off of the list?" We checked almost everything off by the end of the summer.

    I'm also a big fan of library summer reading programs. Our county library offers tons of free programs. We also have some free kids' outdoor concerts in the area that we visit. A backyard inflatable pool and some squirt guns helps a lot too. Add in a week or two of half day summer camps and that usually covers us.

    And, I find the first few months of the third baby are not so bad -- baby is highly portable, not on much of a schedule, and will sleep almost anywhere. Plus, little ones are not moving yet, so you can just put them on a blanket on the floor while you do something nearby with the older ones.

  11. This just happened to me last summer. My son was born just before school let out. I think no matter what you do, everyone is going to have to adjust and things will not always go smoothly. In our family, we have jobs and "homework" and practicing in the morning, but, I found if I let the kids relax in the morning and watch a little tv while I'm tending to the baby and making breakfast, they are more willing to get their work done after breakfast. Then, I plan something fun to do later. Even if it's library or walks or watching them play in the back yard. I am one of those tv sticklers and only allow one or two shows a day, but I found that tv became my friend when I needed to focus on silence. I'm rambling, but I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's going to be crazy but it'll still be fun. You'll find times everything runs well and other times. Goodluck!

  12. Some fun summer ideas: If you have kids who are up before the sun, take them to the park for an early morning play time. It's usually nice and cool. If your kids are having a hard time falling asleep, have a night time adventure. The parks here aren't lit at night or dimly lit. Get a bunch of glow sticks/necklaces etc from the dollar store or oriental trading co. Light them up and play by glowstick. Bring some flashlights to help see the area. It's a lot of fun!

    There are soooo many 5ks happening this summer and some are a blast! I don't know where you live, but a couple fun ones are The Color Run/Color Me Rad/The Color Mob etc. There's also the Rock N Glow which happens at night. None of them are timed. The Color Run is where you get pigmented corn starch thrown as you run the course. The Rock N Glow is a night run where you're in glowing attire and dance and have fun. Most of these are free for kids under 6. It may be something more geared for your husband and Rex. I feel like Baden (whom I don't know at all so I'm just guessing here) may be overwhelmed by it. Obviously you'll be busy with baby.

    Slides/trampoline in the house. Seriously. It sounds ridiculous, but I lived in Las Vegas which was hot as heck in the summer. Every summer, the family I babysat for would move the furniture around in the living room (huge vaulted ceiling) and put up the trampoline. Their kid was in HEAVEN! After jumping, we'd hang blankets over it and make it a fort! Another family I worked for bought a slide and put it inside the house. Their 3yo played on it for hours on end. She'd slide on her stomach into pillows, on top of blankets, backwards, etc.

    Other ideas would be to set up play dates (preferrably with people who don't expect you, with a newborn, to reciprocate), have one day where they get to eat at McDonalds then let them play for hours, watch Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on mini golf, children's museum, aquarium, things like that. Take them for a hike and picnic, help them plant a garden, play board games, get a few workbooks and have them do "schoolwork", get them into sports (or if you know enough children around the same age, have your own "team" and have the parents meet up every week to play), factory tours, museums, national monuments, art in the park, farmers market. Some places do free movies and concerts in the park. Swimming lessons. Tumbling classes. Music lessons. Mini road trips to one town over. Scenic drives (especially on days when the baby is fussy and prefers the car motion).

    I think that's all I can think of. Sorry it's so long!

  13. So, a couple thoughts:

    -first, I would try not to schedule (meaning, pay for) anything in advance, since you'd hate to find yourself in a situation where you feel obligated to do something but it's really not working for your family. So, do some research now, but try to find something that works on a drop-in basis or doesn't require you to sign up now.
    -enlist the help of some friends: hopefully there's some moms around that would volunteer to take Rex and/or Baden for maybe a morning/afternoon a week. This will allow you to have a little time with the baby and one of your little guys and give them a change of scenery and something to look forward to during the week.
    -get to know Elsa and how she operates. Some babies are really good at napping in the car and can fall asleep in the middle of a crowd. Others really need to be home in their own quiet space. Some babies come with their own internal schedule (meaning, they like to eat and nap around the same times, or they're always fussy at particular times of the day). Others are more "go with the flow" and won't mind if things are different every day. The more you get to know her (and what makes her tick) the easier things will be. And I guess this means that you and Rex and Baden kind of have to play by her rules for a little while. I'm not saying that she dictates EVERYTHING (okay, maybe she will sometimes...) or that there aren't going to be situations or circumstances that come up, but you know what I mean.
    -try to scope out some places where Rex and Baden could play or do activities relatively independently with a cozy/quieter spot nearby where you and Elsa can be. A place like that could be great for those days when the boys just need to get out of the house but you're not up for a huge adventure. There's a great coffee shop in my neighborhood, for example, with a nice-sized play area that if great for those mornings when my girls are really whiney and just need to do something. Also, caffeine!
    -join a gym with drop-in childcare. Go sit in the corner for a few minutes and read a magazine. Then go take a long hot shower, get dressed, get the kids. You could even exercise too. I hear that's good for you.

  14. one idea that worked well for us is to do a "park crawl" with some of the mums who have the kids the same age as mine. Every week on a certain day we go to a different park and take a picnic if it's nice. the kids loved seeing their friends once a week and i loved having other mums to chat with too.

    as for other days i just always went out. sometimes the garden, library or a friends house. but it helped them and me stay sane each day.

    also i have a board on pinterest of simple kid friendly activities. if they're getting bored i can check there and get one sorted. in fact that reminds me that i need to get some more things pinned too.

    thanks ladies for the ideas above! great sharing saturday idea Cheri!

  15. Wow, I guess I'm really a non-structuralist here. No schedules, no real plans. I just kick my kids outside. They/we roam the neighbourhood, meet up randomly with neighbourhood kids and hang out. Always have lunches packed for impromptu picnics. But otherwise, it's just out and about and seeing how the day will unfold. I'm fortunate enough to live near some woods, as well as the water, so those are always potential places for wandering and exploring. As for my kids being bored, well, I am a boredom advocate. We need boredom, we need the down-time from over-scheduling and the mania of the media, where you must be entertained 24-7. It's in the boredom that the mind can finally begin to reflect and ponder and figure out and think and observe and imagine and create...And so, boredom is truly not so boring after all. My 5-year-old will fight me sometimes about going outside, but I stand firm and kick him out and he immediately finds something to occupy his energies, never fail. The same with my 3-year-old daughter. The biggest hurdle with three is getting out of the door -- all those shoes and lunches and diaper bag full of eventualities and whining and tears -- but once we're out and just roaming, well, it's fantastic. My number 3, who is now 14 months, spent her first few months nestled into my Ergo carrier, when she wasn't in her pram. And now, she's getting her own jacket and bringing it to me to let me know that she wants to head outside and suck on stones and find a good stick (-: My advice: keep it low-key, flexible, easy, spontaneous and boring (-;

  16. My third is due in August (I will have a two and four year old) and our summer plan is backyard all morning with paint, water, the grass and the sand box. Combine as seems fit.

  17. I was big on getting the baby into a regular sleep, eat pattern, so my first born adjusted to the routine too. He knew he had to plsy by himself while I fed, and settled the baby, but he h a few my attention whilst baby was asleep. I also made sure for the first 2 weeks, sleep time for baby was in a variety of places, whilst at home. So naps would be in the pram, in a hooded carrier, on a couch surrounded by cudhions, in the car, so baby number 2 adjusted to daytime sleeps anywhere, which meant getting out and about was easier, baby would have its routine regardless or where or what I was doing with the 3 yo. I also involved the 3 yo in the baby activities. Helping me dress him, pick his clothes, humming him to sleep, fetching blanket s I r cushion s. So the 3yo was involved as much as possible, and never hada jealous moment.

  18. I have a 3-year-old and 5-month old and with our baby, I've found it works best to plan one place to go most days (park, library, playdate, errands, etc.) since that was my 3-year-old's old routine. I think an outing every day disrupts my baby's naps too much and just feels too busy to me, so I try to have 2-3 days a week at home, too. I use a Moby wrap for the baby whenever we're out and HIGHLY recommend it. He sleeps well in it, all snuggled up to me, and it is so nice because it's a super comfortable carrier and we can still go out and he still gets a nap. I also made a bunch of busy bags for my 3-year-old to do while I'm nursing or other downtime at home and I think new, quiet activities have been helpful. I also saw this post at Power of Moms (an awesome and encouraging website I think you'd love) that looks like a really good summer plan for school-age kids:

  19. I was in the same predicament last summer and tried to find a balance between what the kids wanted to do and what I needed to do. A cheap $7 inflatable swimming kept them entertained for hours on end, as well as helping me in the garden. We also enjoyed parks and community playgroups all summer long. No need to pay alot of $$$ for activities when there was so much free stuff going on.

    I always put baby girl in our Baby Bjorn Synergy. One accessory I loved was a large cloth with high SPF sun protection that I could tie on to the baby carrier. It kept arms and legs out of the sun and there was a flap I could flip over when baby fell asleep. Here's a link: I got mine on for half the listed price!

  20. I'm kind of a home body, so I don't have lots of ideas for getting out and about, but here are some for at-home fun. Water is always my go-to in the summer time. My younger kids can be entertained for at least a good hour with a few buckets or shallow kiddie pool of water and some cups and other containers they could fill and pour out. You can also let them "paint" with water on cement with brushes which is a lot of fun and there's no mess to clean up after. I also think sandboxes are great. If you don't have one built in your yard, there are some cute ones by Little Tykes that you can put right on a patio (they can also be great year-round fun if you you happen to have the sandbox on a covered patio). Sand can be a little messy, but it's just a matter of some sweeping or vacuuming. It's not like dirt that turns into mud when wet.

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  22. I worked at a preschool for children with special needs, but this idea would work with any kids. This is a great way to have kids have 'assignments,' and make it doable for their age. We called it a play schedule, or work boxes. Call it something fun for your kids. Take a plastic bins and set an activity in each (legos, puzzle, coloring, etc.) We would use colored circles to teach the kids the order. We'd have 2 circles of each color, and 1 circle would go on the bin, and another would go on a clipboard to teach the child their schedule. So maybe legos would be a blue circle- blue circle on lego bin and blue circle in the first spot on the schedule. Then you choose then next activity and put it on the schedule, etc. This way, they can play and know what to switch to next. They could probably do that while you feed the baby. We also taught the kids how to use a timer for activities that don't have an exact ending like legos. It might sound like a lot of work at first, but to simplify it you could just make a schedule if your kids have easy access to the supplies and can get them out okay. I bet they could even make their own schedules once they figured out the routine. I hope that makes sense-it's a lot to explain in text.

  23. Last year I had 4 older kids aged 9,5,3 and 2 and a newborn. We did a lot of just playing in the yard. I sat on the porch with my baby and let them run through sprinklers and play in our "dirt" patch. Sad to say, we did a lot of movie watching too.
    I love the structure, but this last year was one of my hardest with school. My son starting bringing home homework I've had to google and getting him to school on time has been awful. My kids love their sleep and during the summer will sleep till almost 9am.
    Sleeping in works amazing for all of us! lol Also just being out their letting them run around in the yard has been great. I also tend to get them involved with everything, so laundry - they help change it from washer to dryer and then bring it to me from the dryer. They "help" fold clothes (although I go back and re-fold them). And I have them put their own clothes away, although I have to just not look at their closets cause I can be pretty anal about putting them away perfectly and that does not happen with kids! :D That goes with cooking and cleaning and sewing. :D

    We were hermits. I stopped everything. We stayed home and didn't really go out at all. I've gone through 2 kids having to get spinals and hated it, so since then, we are the hermit family after a new baby!

  24. I have two boys the same ages and you'd be surprised at what they can do independently. My 5 year old, with some training, can vacuum the stairs, take out the smaller garbage (like in the bathrooms) takes out recycling, reads to himself, does smaller 'homework' assignments like coloring something or tracing letters. I am planning on doing the 'work' stuff in the morning while their fresh, then most of the time it has been petty laid back. I work from home, so need to work 4-6 hours or so a day so they play pretty independently outside. I am horrible, but I tell them that they can either go outside and play or stay inside and clean (or whatever it is) with me. They always pick outside. Also last year we had friends over 1 or 2 times a week. Usually the ones I know they really got along with and were easy to handle (they have some friends who are fairly high maintenance and stressful on me) so I just ask them mom if they will let them play, even all day. If you pick the right kid(s) it actually makes everything go a lot easier. I also have been able to swap with people giving me a break as well. A few times I got 'mothers helpers' who were boys/girls 9-12 range and paid them (not much) just to play with the boys while I worked, this was usually during some busy times when I just needed them out of my hair and occupied, also I love giving kids that age an opportunity to earn money and have some responsibilities. As far as outings go we only did them every other day and they were all pretty low key, library and play in the fountain, go to the park, pick berries....things like that. Things that for the most part you could show up late, leave early, stay as long as you want.

  25. I found the summer I had the twins easier than the following summer. They were much more portable, we (the older kids and I) took them on walks, went to the park, library, pretty much anything we did before the babies were born.
    Last summer we implemented a chore chart. More specifically a "don't ask unless your chores are done chart." The chore chart was pretty easy, but seemed to occupy the kids (then 9 and 13) for a while. We sat them down at the beginning of summer and explained the chart. We also explained that if things were planned for the day, chores had to be done first. I never put any pressure/nagging on them to get the chores done; so it typically stretched out until after the boys got up from their nap. Then we would set off for our adventure.
    I like the bucket list mentioned above, I think we may have to implement that this summer! Best wishes!


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