Make Your Summer at Home with Kids Count (+ LOTS of Practical Ideas!!)

Fighting Impatience

With my kindergartener finishing school TOMORROW, plus a 2-year-old and 4-old-year old at home already, I’ve been gearing up for my summer at home with these three very active little people. With over two months all together at home, I want to have a good plan in place for our time together so that 1) it’s fun for the kids and me, and 2) we use our time intentionally. Are you hoping for the same?

To come up with a solid plan, I began by thinking through these three questions that this post will address:

  • What challenges do you face this summer?
  • What are your goals for the kids this summer?
  • How will you execute your goals practically? (includes LOTS of practical summer ideas!)

If you’re in the same boat, maybe it will be helpful for you to think through these questions with me. I’ll share pictures of ideas I’m going to put into place, but just know that I’m no expert. I’ll blog again later in the summer and let you know how it’s going. And, I’d love for you to share any of your summer plan ideas with me and our readers in the comments section!

Below is the process I’ve gone through the past few weeks to make my summer at home with kids count. I feel like I should mention that I don’t intend to be a slave to my plan but instead to let it provide the structural bones for our summer. I’m always up for a last minute call from friends and a change of plans! :)

summer at home ideasWhat challenges do you face this summer?

First, think through your own challenges in your home when all the kids are home. This will help you later as you narrow down and think through reasonable goals for your family. Here are some of my anticipated challenges with my crew this summer:

1- My kids are at multiple ages and stages, so finding activities that can work for everyone can prove difficult at times. For instance, it’s hard to play a board game with the older two while the toddler is awake. But, it’s hard to take the toddler on a walk in the stroller when I have the big kids walking alongside and complaining that their legs are tired. Certain field trips, like a museum, would be fun for the older two but a nightmare with a toddler along. Know what I mean?

2 – My kids are very active. They seem to always be touching each other, making one another cry, or destroying something if left to their own devices. I’m sure no one else’s kids are like this, right? If I don’t have a plan in place, they will quickly derail the morning with shenanigans…leaving mom a frazzled mess and multiple kids sitting in time out.

3 – I have housework that needs to be done throughout the week, as well as, some work for my part-time job. But, that means I will need time away from distractions (i.e. kids) periodically.

4 – I, myself, can get easily distracted from and/or just plain lazy in executing my goals for the day!

What are your goals for the kids this summer?

After you consider what challenges you’ll face over the summer, it’s time to think about some goals. When it comes to parenting, if we don’t have some goals in mind for our kids–whether long-term or short-term–it’s easy to spin our wheels. It’s easy to lose sight of what is important. It’s easy to waste the precious little time we have with these young souls in our charge. I’m speaking from a “guilty as charged” place myself! So, that’s why I think it’s important to think through some big or even small goals you have for your family this summer. Here’s the process I went through to arrive at my goals:

Ask Yourself Big Picture Questions

To decide on a few goals, start by asking yourself some of these questions about your end parenting goals for the summer.

  • If you could see your children grow in one or two areas, what would it be? How can you help them grow in those areas? (This might be different for each child.)
  • What is one or two routines you’d like your family to learn and master this summer? (For instance: reading the Bible, doing chores around the house, establishing reading time, etc.)
  • What is a new experience or activity you could try this summer?
  • What books would you like to read to your children this summer?

Narrow Down Your Goals

It’s important that you don’t have too many goals or else you’ll probably get discouraged and never follow through. I’ve also learned the hard way and have been wisely told by older mothers that it’s important not to over pack our days. We must leave time for teaching moments, times of discipline, sick kids, diaper blow-outs and the other inevitable but important “non-planned for” events of the day. So, having too many goals can lead to too many activities and not enough flexible time.

Make Measurable Goals

It’s also important that the goals you decide upon are concrete and measurable. See my examples below. You should be able to answer periodically throughout the summer or at the end of the summer whether or not you made progress toward your goal. To give you some examples, here are the goals I have for my kids this summer.

Example: Summer Goals at Home for My Kids

In addition to the simple goal of ENJOYING THEIR TIME AT HOME!!, my goals for my kids this summer are that they would:

    • Start to make reading the Bible a regular routine. We will do this by completing the Summer Bible Reading plan from our church 3x per week.
    • Grow in their responsibilities around the house. The older two kids will each have at least one age-appropriate chore to complete each weekday morning before we do our fun activity for the day.
    • Make reading more of a priority. In addition to our bedtime reading, we will build in a 30 minute reading time each afternoon where either I will read aloud or they will read to themselves.
    • Be exposed to new learning experiences each week. We will designate one morning a week for a local field trip. I have also purchased work books at garage sales that the kids can use at home sometimes to challenge their brains a bit while away from school!


How will you execute your summer goals? (LOTS of practical ideas here!)

So after you come up your goals and have your challenges/limitations in mind, think through a system, resources, and/or basic supplies that will help you stay on target. Here’s what I’ve planned to put into place and have bought so far:

Tentative Weekly Schedule

I want our weeks to have a natural routine and flow for the most part, because I know this helps my kids have expectations for each day. This also helps me have a simple idea of what we’re doing each day ahead of time and stay motivated.  Here’s a photo of our simple “big picture” week day schedule:

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.23.49 PM

Daily Fridge Schedule

Nerd alert, but I’m super excited about this magnetic fridge schedule I made this week! This schedule will change daily, based on that day’s events, and give the kids and me direction for the day.

To make this, I tried to think of the activities and main events that will usually be included in our summer daily routine. I think I made about 20 or so. First, cut out strips of poster board and write out each your activities on each strip. I added a picture (pay no attention to my sad attempts at drawing) to each one so the non-readers could understand the flow of the day as well as the readers. Lastly, add small magnet pieces with adhesive on the back to each one, so you can change the schedule up each day.

make your summer count with kids at home

Chore Wheel

I haven’t gotten to this project yet, so I may do a post about it later when it’s complete. But, I’m going to put together a Chore Wheel that will indicate what chore each kid (and me, too!) will be responsible for each day. My goal is to complete these before leaving for any fun adventures!

UPDATE: The Chore Chart (I nixed the Chore Wheel concept) is complete! Check out a list of age-appropriate chores for kids and how to make your own Chore Chart here. It’s changing my life so far! :)

How to Make a Chore Chart

Ideas for Local Field Trips

Like I mentioned above, I want to take one learning-type field trip a week. So, my friend, Kelley and I brainstormed some local friend trip ideas. Here’s what we came up with to try but more ideas from you are welcomed!

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.24.17 PM

Summer Reading List

I stocked up on some books for the summer and beyond. We’ll also make trips to the library periodically to get picture books, as well. Below are the chapter books I just bought through Scholastic Books and/or at garage sales. Also, here are some recommendations for The Best Children’s Bibles and our Top 10 Toddler books.

Stuart Little – We loved Charlotte’s Web as a read aloud, so I can’t wait to tackle this one with the kids.

The Boxcar Children Books 1-4 – My 4 and 6-year-olds are obsessed with these books right now!

Little House on the Prairie series – We read Little House in the Big Woods last year a little at a time and we all learned a lot. I think we’ll do the same with Little House on the Prairie next.

Pippi Longstocking – I remember this being a fun read as a kid and thought my daughter might enjoy it.

Check out our store for more children’s books, learning toys, and music ideas.

Art and Other Misc Summer Supplies

I restocked our art box and toy closet with new and fun supplies. Here are some ideas to stock yours with:

  • construction paper
  • good quality markers
  • stickers
  • stamps and ink pads
  • pipe cleaners (my kids come up with all kinds of creations with these)
  • embroidery thread (for making bracelets)
  • beads (for making necklaces and bracelets)
  • Do A Dot Paints (These are my favorite paints for preschoolers! Very little mess and very fun to use!)
  • water color paints and brushes
  • sidewalk chalk
  • bubbles
  • journals (for writing stories or as a nature notebook on walks)
  • age-appropriate learning workbooks (I found cheap ones at Aldi, garage sales, and the dollar store)
  • an egg timer (for timing Clean-Up Time, Reading Time, Room Time, and time-outs)

Summer Boredom Busters

Now, if your plan for the day fails at some point and you’re scrounging for an idea, you might try one of these 10 Summer Boredom Busters. They are my fall-back activities.

 easy kid activities at home

Make-Ahead Meals Means More Time with Kids

how to start a freezer clubWant to know one last secret that I’ve been doing for the past six years now that saves me loads of time?

I’ve been making freezer meals and swapping them with friends (my Freezer Club) each month. If you’ve got a busy summer planned, I encourage you to give this a shot. You can even be in your own Freezer Club by doubling some of the over 40 healthy and kid-friendly freezer meals in this post–eat one now and save one for later. It’s such a relief to know I don’t have to cook every night of the week in order for my family to eat healthfully and to save money. And…that leaves more time for mommy to play with and teach kids all summer long!

There you have it. No one can say I didn’t have a plan in place. Now the question is…can I pull it off? To be continued (Update: check out my Summer reflections and Fall plan here)…

Now, I personally know many of the amazing moms who read this blog and I’m confident there are many more whom I don’t know. And, I really do want to know…WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR KIDS THIS SUMMER??? Please share.

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Comments

  1. Kari says

    Great job planning!! I have to plan a lot like you do because I run a daycare in my home. In a couple of weeks I will have 8-9 kids in my home everyday that are ages 11 – 3. Believe me, having a plan in place is a great thing to do! One thing I have found that I LOVE… it a “reading hour”. I take them all down to the library once a week and they pick out books that they want to read. Then everyday they have an hour of reading time. The Library gives incentives for the amount of reading they accomplish during the summer and at different intervals they will get to pick out a new book to keep, or other prize. At the end of the summer they get gift certificates to different activities in the area like roller skating, baseball games, or sweet treats. Good job getting so organized this year! I’m sure you will all have a great summer!

    • Rachel says

      Kari,

      How do you run the reading hour? Do you set a timer? Spread the kids out? I’m wondering what this looks like practically. Thanks for your comment and suggestion!

      Rachel

  2. Devin says

    Rachel, this is so great. I love your plan, and know that doing something similar (or at least having a plan) would help out a ton. Is the Summer Bible Reading plan accessible anywhere?

  3. Rachel says

    Yes, Devin. Our reading plan will be available a few days before Kids Club begins. In fact, we are launching a new mobile-friendly website (so it can be used just like an app) just for kids that includes a summer reading plan, photos, videos, and all the Crossing songs! Crossingkids.com will be up and running soon. Bookmark it now and save it to your smart phone’s homescreen, so your little ones can use it like an app. Can’t wait for you to see it!

  4. Stacy says

    Love this post! I’ve been talking to my kids (ages 5&7) about summer goals. I want to come up with a simple routine. One of the ideas I came up with (to fit our goal of lots of reading time) is a paper chain to keep track of how many books we read. We will each have a different link color to show how many books we are each reading aloud :)

    • Rachel says

      Love this idea, Stacy! How fun! My kids love visuals like that (and any excuse to make a chain).

    • Wow, what a great idea! We always do the summer reading program at the local library and end up finishing it early, making less of an incentive for my son to keep reading throughout the summer. But this chain idea is brilliant because it’s such a visual way of tracking his reading!

      I would love some ideas on how to keep up math skills over the summer. Not a fan of flashcards or workbooks. Something as regular and easy as the reading chain. And ideas?

  5. Ashlie says

    Thank you so much for sharing your plans. I’m a first grade teacher by year, stay at home mama by summer, and I always feel an itch to write actual lesson plans to help our days at home go smoothly! I feel like you’ve finally given me permission to make a magnetic schedule like the one I use at school for my home (my kids are 4 months and 19 months, so it’s not actually going to be for them, but I want it!).

    This summer we’re definitely making library trips a priority, and we’ll be hitting the park a few times a week. I’m setting up a “backyard paradise” with a kiddie pool and a rock box, and I’ll be putting different sensory things in bins for lazy mornings. Our state (Massachusetts) has a Free Fridays program that offers different museums and cultural venues at a free admission on Fridays all summer. We also decided to spend the money to get a season pass to the local spray park/petting zoo- there are SO many different areas that we could go a few times a week, and both kids are young enough to be free, so for a relatively small price, we’ll have tons of options.

    I fall into a habit of overscheduling and getting in over my head, so I’m so excited to steal your idea about weekly and daily planning. I hope your have a great summer!

  6. {Melinda} Such a great, practical article! I have two teens at home during the summer. It’s gotten easier because they’re involved in sports and are more independent, but I still have to have some structure or everything just falls apart. I’m making a list of projects that need to be done around the house that we’ll do together. I think it helps to talk about expectations, too. We’re going to be tackling this subject on our blog in a couple of weeks. I think it’s a common problem. I could relate to all the challenges you described!

  7. WOW! You have just nailed it here!! I love your ideas in planning and making goals for summer… I am JUST starting to think about how the heck I am going to handle the long days with my kiddos and balance it all. Thank you for the great advice!! :)

  8. holli says

    Great post. I also put a lot of energy into summer. My first goal is that its as slow as possible, meaning not a lot of running around, lots of wandering in the yard, very little adult interference with imagination, and yet having some new things available. I have a collection of books I read each year as I prepare for fun things, Let’s Go Outside! by Jennifer Ward. Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy. The Kids Summer Handbook by Jane Drake and Ann Love and The Daring Book for Girls, by Mariam Peskowitz. All of these are full of fun “old timy” summer time classics. They also help me make days feel a bit like camp. Also a few years ago I made my children Nature Explorer sacks. (It started as a birthday party theme that was so fun and has continued). Each summer I take a bit of time to make sure their Nature Explorer bags as filled with items that need replaced or things I have picked up thrift stores through the year, just waiting to be rescued from a thrift store and go on an adventure. Their bags have things like, books on local plants, humming birds, how to out run an alligator (we do live in FL and kids here think that’s a great skill to master), colored pencils, note books, magnifying glass, small collection/specimen containers, flower seeds to be planted as desired, water bottles, compass, whistle, etc… The children take them everywhere we go most every day of summer. Last year we found a stream in a park and collected a few shark teeth, those are still in specimen containers in one of the bags I just pulled out! These bags have become one of my favorite parts of summer!

    • Rachel says

      I love your Nature Explorer bag idea and the reminder to allow for imagination time! I’ve found for my kids that imagination time works best when it is part of our schedule, though, which usually takes place during Room Time and Free Play on our schedule. Otherwise, all chaos breaks loose and the only thing they are imagining is how to get out of time out. Ha! :)

  9. Leslie says

    I really love the daily fridge schedule. I’m giving it a go with my kids this summer!

    • Rachel says

      Great! Glad this post was helpful. It’s been a huge benefit to our family so far.

  10. Holli says

    This is a great post to help me get it together as summer begins. My kids aren’t in school yet, but lots of our regular activities and “Mommy and Me” classes wind down. I love the idea of having such an intentional summer…especially since they *will* be starting school in the fall. I’ll be pinning this and a few of the related posts. I’d love for you to share this and some of your other summer planning/activity resources at my Summer Bucket List Idea Share. Thanks for this! I’m off to pin away!

    • Rachel says

      Thanks for sharing your Bucket List! Great resource!

  11. Jodie says

    I just found this on pinterest! I’m starting early on getting organized and prepared for summer. I’m glad I found your site because my 3 kiddos are the ages yours were when you posted this, so it’s totally relatable :)

    • Rachel says

      Oh, I’m so glad you can benefit! I’m already starting think about this summer’s goals and our book list. I’d love to hear any ideas you come up with too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  12. I LOVE the idea of adding Bible Reading to our summer schedule. I like making it a purposeful part of our day. I also plan to add a weekly Bible verse for us to work on (probably from their kids classes at church or maybe we’ll memorize Psalm 23 or something). Love all these ideas and they’ll really help keep our summer organized! Thanks!

    • Rachel says

      A weekly Bible verse is a great idea! I think I’ll steal it for this summer. :)

  13. AmieJo says

    I love all these ideas. I am struggling to finish getting moved into my house (we move a year ago right before I had my daughter), starting my own blog so I can stay home with my kids longer than planned and getting on any type of schedule. I hope that I can implement your ideas. They would not only make my life easier but I would love to make some goals like you and help my kids to have a more productive and happy life (they are 3 and 1 and not in school yet so this would be nice anytime. Thank you for all the ideas.

    • Rachel says

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment. I hope that using some of these ideas and developing your own plan helps make the final unpacking smoother and makes for a valuable summer at home!

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