Last month I was asked to teach an enrichment class for the women in our church about keeping your kids busy and entertained during the summer. The evening was a movie theme night. We had movie treats and then had a "double feature." The first feature was "Footloose" (a class on exercise and physical fitness.) My class was next and was called "Where the Wild Things Are." The preparation was a beast, but forced me to get organized for the summer (always a good thing around here) and the class ended up going very well. I thought I'd share some of the things I did for the class for anyone interested. Below the pictures I've posted the hand out for the class. A lot of it is specific to the Salt Lake area, but you'll get the idea.
This is our summer planning calendar. I've discovered that there's a lot less whining about the days to do list (chores, errands, etc.) if Olivia is involved in the planning and knows what to expect for the day. Thus our summer calendar was born. It's just a piece of poster board with scrap paper letters glued on and then the whole thing is covered in clear contact paper (laminating for the cheap.) The pictures are just clip art from Word that I printed out on photo paper so that they have a slick surface and are really durable. Every Sunday evening (okay - I'll be honest - The Sundays that I actually remember) Olivia and I sit down and plan our week. I stick on the pictures of things that need to be done on certain days and then she helps fill in the rest. Here's the key to the pictures: dust pan = chores, music note = piano practicing, books = library, telephone = play date, slide = play group or park day, house = grandma, bus = field trip or family outing, shopping cart = the store, movie reel = dollar theatre, campfire = evening in the mountains. We use a wipe board marker to fill in anything that doesn't happen often enough to warrant its own picture. If anyone wants my word doc with the pictures so that you can print them out just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send them to you.
These are just some of the visual aids I had at the class. The art box is just to show how having the kids toys and activities organized and easy to find helps minimize a mother's least favorite phrase: "I'm booorrrrred!" When kids know what their options are and can find and get into them by themselves they're more likely to actually use their stuff and not rely on you so much for entertainment. This is an on going project at our house, but we've got an art box, a puzzle box, a dress up box, a Little People box, etc. Maybe someday my organizing will move past just the kid stuff and into my own stuff...
The two jars are our "Job Jar" and our "Boredom Buster Jar." Olivia complains less about her chores when I rotate how they're assigned (adds a little pizazz to the process!) When she's not in school she draws jobs out of the jar. When she is in school she's got a magnetic chore chart that changes each day (depending on what I want help with that day.) Below are more ideas about jobs. The Boredom Buster Jar is just a whole bunch of random ideas that I fall back on when I hear that dreaded "B" word. (Bored!) If you want a copy of my list, just e-mail me.
The work book is just an age appropriate skills book that I picked up for Livvy at Office Max. For every 15 pages she completes, she gets to lift up one of the colored circles on the caterpillar (pictured underneath the book) and there is a "prize." Some of the prizes on our caterpillar are: making cookies, choosing her favorite dinner, having a late night with a friend, going on a picnic, getting a snow cone, etc.
Here are the tips I handed out in class:
Tips for Working:
1. Have a plan - what skills do you want your kids to know by what age? Breaks from school are the perfect time to introduce a new skill and really work on it with them. (Cooking, sewing, gardening, budgeting, cleaning?) This summer Olivia is going to become an expert at cleaning her bathroom. She is also learning how to play the piano.
2. Shake it up - make the way you assign or do chores during a school break different from how you normally do them. Switch from a chart to a jar, rotate each week or each day, let them work towards a goal.
3. Have family projects! Deep clean, organize and pull out items to donate in the play room. Have a yard day - plant, weed and clean together in the backyard. Wash the family cars or bikes together.
4. Find a schedule that works for your family and then stick with it. When kids know what the expectations are they will fight against it less. (Work completed = time for play.)
5. Make it fun - give out stickers or awards for jobs well done, only having to ask once or completing a task in record time. Use a timer. Send kids on "secret missions" around the house and see who can complete theirs first (use walkie talkies or the baby monitor to make it extra fun.) Put on some fun music while you work.
Tips for Learning:
1. Go to www.jordandistrict.org/depts/communityeducation.htm and sign up for a class. Eight lessons are usually around twenty bucks and there are different locations to choose from.
2. Utilize the library! Pick up a calendar from any local library to find out about crafts, classes, story times, puppet shows and family activities all for free. Libraries also have a summer reading program. They earn prizes along the way for how many books or how much time spent reading (or being read to for young ones.) If you don't like the libraries version make up your own.
3. Community or recreation centers are also great for having classes (swimming or sports), day camps, and information on community events.
4. Go to www.iutah.tv, www.ksl.com or local university web sites for information on local events, plays, recitals, etc.
5. Pick something to learn about as a family and make a fun day trip out of it.
Recipes for Fun:
1. Hairy Heads: soak a small handful of wheat for 24 hours (or use grass seed) and then plant 1/2 inch deep in a small cup of soil. Decorate the front of your cup to look like a face. Keep the soil damp and watch your wheat seeds sprout. Cut "hair" as needed.
2. Homemade Popsicles: If you don't have a Popsicle mold, fill an ice cube tray with your favorite juice. Cover with foil or Saran wrap and punch a Popsicle stick down through the center of each ice cube mold. Freeze and enjoy.
3. Salt Dough: Bring 1 C water and 1 Tbsp of oil to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1/2 C salt, 1 Tbsp alum (found with the spices in the grocery store) and 1 C of flour. Knead until smooth. Divide into several balls and knead a different color of food coloring into each ball. Refrigerate and use again and again.
4. Bubbles: 4 and 1/2 C water, 1/2 C dish washing soap (like Dawn or Joy), 1/2 C corn syrup or glycerin. Stir together, do NOT shake. More hints about bubbles: bubble solution works best if prepared a few days in advance. Let your bubble maker or wand sit in the solution for a few seconds bore removing it and blowing - stirring it around causes suds which are bubble busters. For a great site on bubble ideas and activities go to: http://www.sdahq.org/new1198/kids/bubbles/Welcome.html.
5. Rain sticks: Trap beads, beans or rice inside a paper towel tube by covering both ends with paper or fabric. Decorate with markers, stickers, glitter or paint.
Getting Out and About:
1. Spend an afternoon or evening at the neighborhood splash park (if you walk there you'll get the added bonus of exercise and very tired kids come bedtime.) Once a week discover a new park to play at. We love to take a picnic lunch or dinner.
2. It's about a thirty minute drive from here, but Big and Little Cottonwood canyons have some wonderful family and kid friendly hikes. Plus - it's cooler up there! (Some of our family favorites are the Silver Lake trail at Brighton, the Donut Falls hike up Big Cottonwood and the Quarry trail at the base of Little Cottonwood. Go to www.utahoutdooractivities.com or www. trails.com to find more great hikes.)
3. Your local library - pick up a calendar of events. Go to story time. Find a library you haven't been to before and be amazed at how entertained your kids will be with a new children's reading area.
4. Gardner Village off of 7800 S in Midvale - feed the ducks, browse the shops, enjoy the scenery and get a free sample of fudge at the candy store.
5. Cabelas outdoor store in Lehi - there is a huge fish aquarium to look at and some really fun outdoor and animal displays.
6. South Towne Mall - in the lower section by Mervyn's is a "dinosaur land" play area. It's geared towards toddlers and preschoolers. There is also the carousel in the food court.
7. Wheeler Farm - take a picnic, walk the trails, see the animals. Free. (Did you know that you can even camp at Wheeler Farm?)
8. The Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy off of 106th. The first Monday of every month there is a special family night discount.
9. Farm Country at Thanksgiving Point - $3 a person and includes a ticket to ride the ponies or go on a wagon ride. There are a lot of animals and it's very clean and fun. The Children's Discovery Garden at Thanksgiving Point is completely worth the $6 adult and $4 child admission price. Wear clothes you can get wet in - there is an amazing Noah's ark water play statue. (The regular gardens and waterfalls and the Dinosaur Museum are also wonderful at Thanksgiving Point!)
10. Other great field trips: Red Butte at the University of Utah, the International Peace Gardens at Jordan Park, Discovery Gateway (children's museum - there are also some great outdoor fountains to play in at the Gateway), Hogle Zoo, MUSEUMS, historical downtown sites.