5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break with Your Kids
Everyone gets stoked for Summer Vacation to arrive! However, that joy can turn sour in a heartbeat when parent or kid expectations aren’t met or if you forget to install ducted air con. Kids seem to want a free range, carte blanche, “do anything I want when I want to” existence, while parents generally can’t hack that kind of mindset. Before those smiles turn upside down, and your summer gets away from you, use these 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break. Start here, then adjust as you go!
The first of 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break with your kids is to maintain a schedule while setting consistent limits.
No need to be a strict dictator here, but experts agree: kids do better when there’s some structure to their worlds. Tennis lessons is a good way of giving your children something to do during the summer as well as give them consistency, if you are interested in finding out more, check out what type of tennis lesson are you looking for? There are a few other games that allow your kids to be active and enjoyable, an example of this is something like Pickleball, a game that has the elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. With it’s growing popularity there are a few places online that can help get them started with the best pickleball paddles and instructions to start playing the game, teaching them a new game would be a great way to give your kids consistency. Consistency helps manage expectations for both kids and parents. Parenting expert Dr. Laura Markham writes on structure:
Research shows that kids get stressed during the school year from academics, homework, the social scene, and all the activities. They really need time to chill and relax. But they also need structure, meaning they need their day and week to have a shape — so they know what to expect. For instance, every morning after we play, we do errands or pick up the house together for an hour, and after lunch we have reading time and then quiet time. Every afternoon we run through the sprinkler or go to the pool.
With the abundance of screen-driven entertainment these days, “screen time” can be a parent’s “easy button.” Computers, smartphones, iPads, and game consoles abound. But research from The American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests eliminating screen time for children under 2 years old and advises limiting daily screen time to one to two hours for older kids. What to do? Setting consistent limits seems to be the consensus top tip, according to GreatKids family blog. Other top suggestions include:
- Use technology (DVR, apps, passwords) to monitor and control screen time
- Set a consistent family viewing time
- Keep media out of kids’ bedrooms
For a more comprehensive look, check out their 9 Secrets for Managing Your Kids’ Screen time by clicking here.
Technology can be an effective motivational and behavioral tool when used correctly. Empoweringparents.com outlines the guidelines for using technology as a consequence or reward.
Our second of 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break is to get outside and take in some adventures with your kids!
Yes, get them playing in the back yard. Yes, take them to the local park. Yes, hit up those play dates. Yes, go on family vacation. But YES, YES, YES, open their eyes to a bigger world and bigger experiences. Summer is prime time to take them on a hike into the woods, to the top of a mountain, through a creek, over some sand dunes. Travel and explore a neighboring town. Travel as much as you can this summer. For some helpful tips on traveling with kids, check out our blog from last week.
Family travel expert Debbie Dubrow has been there and done that when it comes to family travel. She emphasizes the challenges, the solutions, and rewards of traveling with your kids in her blog Deliciousbaby.com. Read her article “Why Travel“ by clicking here.
One father gave his 3 & 4 year old daughters a “travel experience” of a lifetime and documented it here:
While that “travel experience” may be extreme for some, be pro-active in sharing big experiences with your kids, no matter how little they are!
Allistair Humphreys, one of National Geogrphic’s Adventurers of the year, has coined a new term: “microadventures.” While Alistair has walked across India, biked around the world, and rowed across the Atlantic, his most recent passion is to encourage microadventures among those who living within the 9 to 5 structure. Grand, months long adventures may be out of reach for the majority of us, but a weekend microadventure isn’t. Here’s a short piece he did on microadventures for CNN:
His new book is called Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes. His other adventure books are available on his website.
Brett & Kate McKay run The Art of Manliness website, and after reading Alistair’s book on microadventures, decided to take an 8-week microadventure challenge – with their two young kids. Click here to read about their experiences. Their conclusion:
What turned out to be the most surprising thing about my 8-week microadventure challenge was how unchallenging it was! Breaking out of my routine and doing a tiny expedition each week required very little effort, time, or money at all; the barriers I had imagined to executing such outings turned out to exist only in my mind. That included a worry that Gus and Scout wouldn’t take to some of the activities, and I’d have a pair of whining kids on my hands. Instead, they loved getting out more and exploring, and I learned, as I seemingly have to again and again, that they’re more resilient than I sometimes think.
“I would say read! Read, read, read. In books there is a world of information just waiting to be discovered. The person who does not read has no advantage over the person who cannot read.” ~ Dear Abby
Aha! Parenting nails it:
Books open the imagination, make time disappear, and give kids a wholesome alternative to screens. (Reading is also highly correlated with school achievement.) Reading to your child develops a love of stories and books, which is what starts them wanting to read on their own. For more on helping your child learn to love reading, click here. For a starting list of great books to take to the library with your child, click here.
Coming in at 4 of our 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break is Home and kid organization.
Staying active and creative will result in lots of loose ends. Here’s what to do with them.
Cords, cords, and more cords. Whether it’s your home entertainment center, or you have grandchildren or nieces and nephews visiting, managing cords can be a regular struggle.
- Start here: Separate Power from Everything Else. Route power cables in one direction and all of your audio and video cables going in another direction. It helps with cable management, but it also decreases the sheer bulk of cables. In addition, it simplifies your task if you need to swap something out or test a connection. Grab yourself a few sturdy, plug-rich surge protectors like the Belkin Pivot Plug. Separate out all of the things you need to be on all the time from the things that can be easily powered off. That way even if you have a device that prefers to stay on standby and never really powers off, you can save energy by flipping the switch on the surge protector.
- Label Everything – You might think that is common practice, but the fact is most people just don’t label the cables connected to their TV, receiver, consoles, and other gear. Grab a cheap, personal label maker and label both ends of your cables with the cable type and the device it’s connected to. That way you don’t even have to look at the connector, and you’ll always know which end to disconnect to pull out a cable you need to test or replace. Do the same with your power cables. No label maker? Grab some tape and a sharpie!
- Tie Down, Hide, and Organize Those Cables – Once you have the right cables, have your cables labeled, and have the right gear to make the most of your home entertainment center, the last step is to set it all back up as cleanly as possible. using binder clips, coiling and zip-tying slack when you need to. Velcro strips can all help conceal your cable clutter.
BOOK ORGANIZATION IDEAS
- Multi-Purpose Bookshelf: A shelf like the Oeuf Mini Library can hold books as well as toys. Its utilitarian form is easy on the eyes, too.
- A Wall bench and bookshelf automatically creates a cozy reading area and provides both a space to read and extra storage for books.
- Stacked cubes: A custom book area with plywood cubes created this set-up with differently sized boxes for differently sized books.
- Baskets: It can be as simple as finding a large basket or two to hold all of your child’s current favorite books.
The key to keeping a somewhat clean space with kids is to have a very clear organization for their toys and arts and crafts. When kids feel they can actually put away their belongings quickly, it can be a game.
As far as arts and crafts are concerned, here are some solutions that are simple to implement:
- Mom’s Crafty Space has an Upcycled Montessori-Styled Crayon Holder Tutorial. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also a good exercise for color sorting.
- I heart Organizing made an art caddy, using chalk paint, so it can be personalized by the kids to their taste.
- Cheeky Kitchen‘s pantry organization includes a shelf for arts and crafts, and a fun use of tin cans with simple labels.
- A Bowl Full of Lemons brings us the over-the-door shoe organizer as arts and crafts organizer.
- One Orange Giraffe designed a Portable Art Studio, including an essential craft bucket with pockets around it. Brilliant!
Check out @BetterHomes Storage Kit Ideas
Utensil caddies are a great size for far more than just utensils! The divided portions of the caddy are great for keeping markers, crayons and color pencils in their respective sections! Canning jars are perfect for odd shaped crafting items and can be tucked into the caddy along with scissors, paint, glue and wiggly eyes! The end result is something that can be tucked up on a shelf in a bedroom or pantry and can easily be snagged and carried to the kitchen table or floor to work on creative crafty projects!
Our last stop in our 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break is to focus on fun!
Parenting experts agree that what kids most remember is the feeling they had from a period of time, not so much the detail of every event. If the summer structure they remember is that they had fun during self-directed play, but parent-initiated activities were mostly about chores like clean up, they’ll remember the summer as a bummer. Making the focus of parent-directed (or grandparents) summer activities intentionally fun, while keeping age-appropriate responsibilities part of your schedule, will keep you sane and your kids happy!
What other tips do you have to create a successful summer break with your kids? Share it by leaving a comment below!
Karen & The Cleaning Crew
Over The Hill & Through The Woods
First of all, congratulations to any and all newly-minted graduates! Well done – now go on and reach for those stars!
For you, and for many many families, this post will find you shouting, “Summer Vacation Ahoy!” No doubt there are summer trips ahead, and thus, it’s time to get organized!
But first, if you’re travelling abroad with your family, it’s vital that you’ve all had the recommended vaccinations to ensure you are protected against any potentially deadly infections and diseases. The PharmaVaccs website is a useful resource to use while planning your trip as it contains information regarding the necessary vaccinations for various vacation destinations. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s always better to be safe and prepared where your family’s health is concerned.
Travelling, though exciting and exhilarating, can induce anxiety and stress, especially when children are involved! Whether your’re traveling alone, with a single partner, or with a large family, stash these family travel tips in your travel arsenal to master the art of reducing travel stress.
PACKING FOR YOUR SUMMER TRIP
Clean Your Room BEFORE you Pack
This may be the last thing on your mind while in the throes of getting ready for a trip, but this may be highest on the list of family travel tips experts recommend. If the laundry is done and put away, all belongings are tidied up, and the bed is made before packing commences, it allows for more streamlined item selection. It’s easier to identify and choose favorite articles of clothing, and to check specific clothes off a packing list. We are also less likely to forget things we need, and it’s easier to pack on a neatly made bed than a messy one. Plus, everyone loves to come home to a clean house! Too busy or stressed? We can help with a one-time cleaning, regular cleaning service, or with home organization.
Roll With It, Baby
Most travel experts recommend rolling clothes instead of folding. By rolling up each article of clothing, your clothes stay less wrinkled and often take up the least amount of space. We’ve also come across a packing method called bundling, where you wrap your clothing around itself, with your most wrinkle-proof things in the center. One Bag, a website devoted to packing efficiency, seems to swear by it!
Another space and time saving idea is the Pick and Roll Packing strategy. The concept? PICK each day’s outfit BEFORE-HAND, then ROLL each outfit as one bundle (undies, socks, pants/shorts/skirt, & shirt). This makes organization and decision-making on the road and at your destination much much simpler! This is incredibly helpful with youngsters who can’t choose their own outfits yet!
In addition, if you’re on a multi-day road trip, you won’t have to lug in ALL your luggage each night – just your overnight kit and your ROLL for the next day. Brilliant!
ROAD TRIPPIN? HOW TO KEEP IT SANE!
Keep a trash bag in the car!
This may seem like the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind, but we’re amazed at how many travelers don’t do this! Whether it’s a simple plastic bag, a recycled container, or a fancy auto trash can, put something within your reach to throw out your trash, and the floorboards don’t count! A few options for different applications:
Make a Travel Timeline
Let your children visualize your trip with this simple and fun timeline craft. Have your children draw pictures that represent each city or state that you will be traveling past. All you will need to pack in the car to make your own time line need is string, a hole punch, makers and paper clips.
Use Travel Organizers – You can find these everywhere – and for good reason. They flat-out work at helping keep your car well-stocked and organized. Keep one in your trunk for groceries, shopping bags, and sports gear. Hang one on the back of the front seat filled with your kids stuff: sippy cups, books, toys, and other essentials they need for a car ride.
Food Travel Kit – Using a tackle box or a similar box with dividers, raid the kitchen and assemble this snack kit before your next road trip. It will turn a simple snack into entertaining fun!
Organizing Junkie has great tips for corralling art supplies, DVD player, wipes, and snacks all in one handy place. There are some great printable picture packing lists the kids can use to get ready for the trip.
SUMMER TRAVEL INCLUDE LIFT OFF?
Wherever you go, Pack Light! Watching children carrying and moving around with multiple and heavy suitcases is stressful. You’ll be going through check-in lines, security, pushing strollers, rolling carry ons, plus managing the kids – and no one will be offering to help you. Do yourself a favor and pack light!
From Head to Toe – Wear slip-on shoes and nothing too metallic – you’ll be thankful when you get to security. Simple clothing is best, especially if you have to use the bathroom while holding a baby. Bring or wear a sweater since airplanes tend to be cold.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of You – When flying with kids it’s easy for adults to focus so much on their kids that they forget to make sure they have a few things that help reduce their stress (food, books, tablet, etc.)
AIR TRAVEL TIPS FOR KIDS
No one wants to be THAT family. You know, the family with the screaming baby, the tantrum-ing toddler, or the demanding diva. While you certainly can’t make a guarantee against these scenarios, with these family air travel tips you can certainly increase your chances!
Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite. There are whole blog sites dedicated to this topic, so use this guide as a primer and a springboard.
Use Backpacks not Rolling Suitcases – for you carry-ons. For young kids, especially, it’s difficult to navigate narrow aisles and sharp corners with a “wheelie.” Most kids can carry a backpack with everything they’ll need for the flight.
Always check in and confirm your seat assignment online before you leave for the airport. Definitely print boarding passes & put them in your carryon! Set a calendar reminder on your smartphone to remind you the moment they become printable!
Most airports have of wide-open spaces. Use these areas to encourage your kids to get some wiggles out. The time between checking in and boarding is not a time to “sit still.” They’ll be doing that on the plane! Wear them out if possible! Many airports now have family-friendly play areas. Identify them & use them!
For family vacations where you are not going to be in your own vehicle, you will want to consider a car rental service like e-mietwagenkreta who have a whole range of cars to suit families of any size. They operate in Crete and can deliver your car to a convenient location, be that your hotel or the airport.
Airborne Activities – Keep the kids busy on long trip with a DIY Portable LEGO Kit and Activity Cards. A great idea for those times where you have to wait.
Debbie at Deliciousbaby.com is one of the country’s most influential family travel gurus. Here’s her “Top 10 Tips for Keeping a Toddler Busy on a Plane:”
- Go on a scavenger hunt through the airplane magazine. On each page, pick one item that your child has to locate. For older children, hand them the magazine and say “can you find a picture of an airplane?”
- Put some fun pictures onto your digital camera (you’re carrying it anyway). Good candidates are pictures of the people and places you are going to visit or pictures of a recent adventure (like the zoo). During the flight, you can relive the fun and tell stories about where/who you’re visiting.
- When the flight attendant delivers drinks, ask for a cup, a couple ice cubes, and a straw. There are endless games with this combination. Ice is fascinating to toddlers in and of itself, and you can teach them to swirl it on the bottom of the cup, or catch it on the straw (airplane ice usually has a hole in the middle). Watch that the ice doesn’t end up in their mouth though (choking hazard).
- Teach yourself some new finger rhymes (e.g. “where is thumbkin”) before you go.
- Get your children playing with the neighbors in front of and behind you before the plane takes off. (Peek-a-boo and kiss-blowing are hard for even the most stoic travelers to resist). Your seat-mates will be a lot more understanding if your children have a difficult time later once they’ve seen them at their cutest, and you never know what fun entertainment they’ll come up with.
- Extend snack time by challenging your child. “What is the is the smallest bite you can take” or “see if you can eat just one at a time (tricky for little fingers). Pack your snacks in Tupperware & the packaging becomes a toy when the snack is done.
- For young toddlers, screwing and unscrewing the top on a plastic water bottle is great fun (watch carefully as small tops are a choke hazard). Ask the flight attendant to bring you an empty bottle if you’re not carrying one.
- Learning how to fasten and unfasten an “old fashioned” seatbelt, jacket zipper, and snaps or buttons on their clothing (or a carryon bag) can keep them occupied for a long time
- Have your toddler help you make up fanciful stories about what you will do on your trip. For young toddlers, they might choose between two options, while older kids will be able to fill in parts of the stories.
- Three words: Barf bag puppets