6 Creative Ways to Stay Productive When The Kids Are Home For Summer
Whether you’re the type of person that packs the schedule all summer long, or you rely on spontaneous fun, chances are it’s going to take an adjustment period for the whole family. It’s pretty normal to worry about summer burnout as a parent. In fact, “70 percent of parents are stressed about summer and the majority would be ok sending the kids back to school after just a week off” (New York Post). There’s a lot to juggle between earning a living and our kid’s routines. So how do we stay sane, avoid the burnout, and still make the summer enjoyable for our kids? Check out these 6 ways to stay productive when the kids are home!
Create a summer calendar.
This is a great tradition for the whole family, but it can be especially effective for slightly older kids and teenagers who have a better grasp on the concept of time. Creating a summer calendar full of fun activities will also allow them to practice delayed gratification.
Create a calendar that is in a visible, high-traffic location and add intentional, dedicated time for the activities you and your children enjoy most. Consider adding a new adventure for each week, or even a monthly weekend getaway, to give them something to look forward to while you’re working. It’s worth noting that once the commitment has been made, the follow-through is hugely important to your children. Use that to your advantage as another fantastic motivator for you to do the things you have to do so that you can be fully present when you get to enjoy the things you want to do.
Including them in the creation of the calendar can go a long way into reaffirming their ability to be a team player. Reassure them that you are working hard so that you can enjoy the fun things on the calendar with them. Utilizing the rewards system in their developing brains in a way that actually impacts them will give them the ability to be just as excited for your success as you are. Plus, knowing that they have your dedicated time later will allow them to cope when they can’t have your full attention now. Creating a team environment means that when you achieve your goals and stick to the calendar, it’s a family victory!
Let them “help.”
If summer calendars are a great idea for older kids, this is a fantastic one for the little ones. We all know that toddlers want to help. In fact, “studies have confirmed this apparently universal desire of toddlers to help” (Psychology Today) and furthermore, that they “help because they want to be helpful, not because they expect to get something for it.” Nurturing this desire to help without the expectation of a reward can develop their natural affinities to become “truly helpful later in childhood.”
When children feel like they are given the ability to help, they become more than a helper and more like a “partner” who “[acts] as if the family’s work is as much their responsibility as it is their parents.” When we deny their requests to help at this young age, it is often only begrudgingly and when they are asked to do so that they will help later. Does this take a little more effort for the parent on the front end? Yes. Does it slow down the process some? Sometimes. But it will help keep them occupied while you continue to complete your own tasks.
So how can we implement this? There are some times when toddlers truly can’t help in any real way, but giving them the illusion may be enough. For example, you may be doing a lot of computer work at home. That day, if you have the ability, let your child type “important things” on a fake or shut down laptop next to you. Maybe print “important” paperwork for them to fill out with crayons. Consider even giving them their own desk and workspace. Using another example, you may have a day were you want to generate leads by making phone calls. Give your child the list of names your going to call and let them “check them off” as each phone call is completed. Involving them and helping them to be excited will fulfill a deep-down desire of theirs, but will also teach them to be kind, helpful adults.
Load a snack and drink center.
Kids are notorious for needing snacks. A hungry kid may be one of the most common distractions for a busy parent. Creating a healthy snack and drink center may help curb their appetite and limit your interruptions. But is it healthy? According to Healthy Eating for Families, “many kids need to eat snacks to help them grow properly and to fill any nutritional gaps.” But snacking doesn’t accomplish this if the food isn’t nutritious.
This means that “[their] weight gain is not related to how often kids snack, but it does seem to be related to what they are snacking on and how much they eat or drink.” That means cookies, chips, and SunnyD probably aren’t the best options. That being said, everyone’s situation is unique so you don’t have to start busting out the fancy kitchen equipment and turn on the oven. Whether you’re a no prep or a prepare ahead kind of snack provider, or even a healthy pre-packaged snack prepper, there are healthy options for every kind of family.
If constant snacking isn’t your style and you would rather opt out of a 24/7 grazing cart, create a basket or cart loaded with healthy options that can be pulled out for an hour a day. It’s already prepared, well thought out, and requires little of your daily energy to provide when they do ask for snacks. This keeps the side-track to a minimum delay so that you can provide your children with what they need and still be the go-getter you are.
Rotate their toys.
This is a great way to help the little ones stay engaged while your working hard for them. It mean less clutter and tidying for you, which creates a less stress environment for parents and kids. For kids, it can increase their engagement, focus, and creativity. In fact, research suggests that “toddlers are capable of focusing on one toy if there aren’t too many toys around to distract them” (Psychology Today).
So what is toy rotation? The caregiver of the child “divides the toys into groups” and only allows “access to one group of toys at a time.” This process can be incredibly simple, or you can opt for a more structured approach. Either way, it starts with gathering all toys in one place and assessing how to best tackle it for your family. At that point, it may be a good time to remove any “obvious offenders” and “junk” that has been collected over time.
From there, anything goes. Some parents may choose to “organize toys into groups” and to “create toy sets” based on groups. Others may put everything away in one central storage place and easily rotate a random 10 toys at a time from a bulk location. Some may choose to create a “rotation schedule” to make it a streamlined process. Others may choose to rotate when they see their child is getting bored with what they have. Typically parents keep whichever toys are in rotation “on display” and easily accessible to encourage playtime. If it’s easy to get to, it’s likely they will want to play with them.
The bottom line is that toy rotation should make both of your lives better. Feel free to “make exceptions.” Do they have a favorite stuffed animal that they can’t sleep without? Maybe a comfort item that they take everywhere with them? There are no requirements here. Every child has their own needs and desires and you know them better than anyone else. Find a balance in your family that helps keep you and them on track!
Use your resources.
Kitsap County has a lot of fantastic resources available for children and teens. Check out a few of our favorites below!
- Visit Kitsap has a great guide to kid-friendly local events, attractions, and fun. For a comprehensive, all-in-one site, this is a great place to start!
- The Macaroni Kids website has many local resources as well. They have a list of events and summer camps as well as articles and a newsletter relevant to Kitsap County.
- Did you know that the YMCA offers childcare for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years while you workout? Maybe you need a quick break and they need to wear themselves out! Also check out the monthly Kids Night Out, Teen Fridays, summer day camp options, and childcare programs. There’s something for every age!
- The Kitsap Regional Library has a ton of events scheduled each month and many are free. Check out their monthly catalogs to see what they have available. From babies and little kids all the way to teens, there are plenty of activities available. Who knows? Maybe you can get some work done in the peace and quiet while they enjoy the event.
- For the young readers in the family, check out Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. When you register a child, they get an age appropriate book delivered to them every month for free until they turn 5 years old. It really is that simple and it really is free!
- There are plenty of free online resources as well that go beyond YouTube and Netflix (not that there is anything wrong with a little televised entertainment once in a while!). Resources such as story time, virtual tours, physical fitness, and learning and education tools are great ways to fill in the gaps. Check out these free suggestions from PopularScience, MindChamps, and Parents.
Ask for help.
Not everyone lives near family or friends that they can ask for help, but for those who can, embrace it! As tough as it is, you may have to “let go of the idea that you should be able to do everything” (VeryWell Family). If you’re working from home or maybe you’re a stay-at-home-mom and your kids are home for the summer, you may feel as though you should be able to manage it all. Maybe you feel guilty because you think you should be enjoying every single moment your kids are home. Maybe you feel as though you should just be a better mom or dad. If you’re weighing yourself down with should’s, we get it! But there is no perfect solution to parenting, and having the “willingness to ask someone to help shows you’re able to put your ego aside and do what you think is best for your family.”
Every situation is different, but finding a way to ask for help and implement a system will be greatly beneficial in the long run. Maybe you find a long-term babysitter that is reasonably affordable and willing to watch your kids once a week. Maybe you develop a plan with grandparents to pick the kids up once or twice a week from school. Maybe you and a friend create your own child swap program- occasionally one parent takes their kids and yours for a couple of hours and then the next time you take all the kids. This is a great way for both of you to get some quiet time.
Ultimately, it’s about feeling empowered to ask and positively handle rejection if they decline. Not everyone will be up to the task, and that’s okay! Find what works for your family and release the guilt. You’ve got this!