By Ashley Steel
Summer — that time of year we all go a little bit crazy, whether it’s from the heat, a case of young love or the kids being home from school. While we can’t help the first two, we do have some tricks on the latter.
For parents — particularly stay-at-home parents — in the summertime, duty calls 24/7 and keeping up with regular household responsibilities can be stressful. Never fear — NewHomeSource is here! Now that you’re in your newly built home, there are plenty of great ways to utilize each room and your outdoor spaces. Here are the top 10 ways to keep kids occupied in your new home this summer:
1. Make a Plan
“Summer … offers a great opportunity to help kids learn planning skills,” says Elaine Taylor-Klaus, parenting educator and coach with ImpactADHD, an organization designed to help struggling parents more effectively raise kids and reduce stress. “Let [kids] identify what they want to do … and then use that motivation to work through all the logistics to make it happen.” Whether you child is planning a quick trip to the mall, or a long-term project such as growing a vegetable garden, planning often involves practicing other important life skills like budgeting, self-reliance and making a commitment.
2. Take Time to Play Outdoors
Take advantage of the fact that your kids aren’t cooped up in a classroom all day. Summer is a special time for exploration of the natural world. Because of its universal appeal, many outdoor activities can be done with toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children, says Marian Fritzemeier, education and child development specialist with the Fritzemeier Foundation and who has a doctorate in education. Give backyard camping a try or dig in the dirt with your shoes off.
Sadly, as Fritzemeier points out, running through “sprinklers (is) a forgotten play activity” due to automatic timers and watering restrictions. This summer, try bringing back an old-fashioned classic and manually set off sprinklers during your child’s playtime. Additionally, a nature scavenger hunt is another great way to keep kids occupied, Fritzemeier says. “Children can collect or draw what they find … or take photos.”
3. Make Work Look Like Play
“A good summer for kids can include both work and play,” says Don MacMannis, psychologist and co-author of How’s Your Family Really Doing? 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family. “Unless you teach a child that work is bad and play is good, they will be curious about exploring any activity.”
Take the practical things that need doing, like washing the car, weeding the garden or mopping the kitchen, and turn them into a fun family affair.
4. Indulge a Little
Sharon Hepburn, a 44-year-old mother of two and author of Mothering … Your Inner Connection, believes in the power of indulgence. Whether you’re raising a house full of girls or boys or both, it’s important to entertain some of their more frivolous aspirations. Hepburn recommends a salon day where girls can get together to do each other’s nails and hair, a perfect way to indulge in your new home’s master suite.
But the possibilities don’t stop there! Your new home’s media room is the perfect place for a summer movie fest or video game day and if you opted for a pool, then it’s time for a pool party or luau. Hepburn also suggests baking as an indulgent summer activity and your new kitchen is optimized for large groups of “cooks.” Hepburn notes that “tweens love to bake and little ones can cook using cold ingredients.” Try taking advantage of seasonal fruits to add variety to your kitchen creations and to create nostalgic summer memories.
5. Don’t Forget to Educate
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your kid’s brain should operate on autopilot; kids need educational stimulation to expand their world. “When kids are asked why they don’t read, they say it’s because they can’t find books they like,” says MacMannis. His solution? The library! Free and open to the public, libraries are an excellent place to let kids explore and pick their own books that they can then bring home and enjoy in their own rooms or a study. “Freedom of choice is the ticket to getting them motivated and excited,” he says.
6. Make Music
In addition to being one of life’s greatest joys, music provides a well-rounded and educational outlet for your child. Jay Maurice, owner of Lessons in Your Home, a music school based in Atlanta, Ga. “Not only are general music lessons a great way to keep children occupied at home, but kids have fun learning and playing music,” he says.
But beyond a learned skill that kids can add to their tool belt, learning music opens doors to countless other activities. “It’s not just practicing,” says Maurice. “Kids should be encouraged to write songs, record their music and make music videos for YouTube.”
7. Be Creative
Though many schools offer art classes, according to MacMannis, kids often complain about a lack of creative time during the school year. Summer is a great time to explore new artistic mediums, techniques and styles. “Dedicate a room … that can stay messy, so that creative ideas can be worked on whenever the mood is right (or the weather is bad),” says MacMannis.
Keep supplies like sidewalk chalk, craft paper, markers, scissors, paints and glue on hand. While younger kids may love these simple craft projects, older kids may feel left out, but Hepburn maintains there are creative outlets for older kids too. “Why don’t you let him/her paint their room? They will … get into picking out the colors, taping and spending two to three days actually painting.”
8. Community Service
Not often emphasized in school, community service is a great way for kids to learn empathy and selflessness. Summer is the perfect time to explore the ways in which your community needs help and having your kid research these needs can be an eye opening experience, says MacMannis. This tip will take you away from your new home (I know, but you have to leave eventually!).
Let your kid choose a cause they believe in and spend some time volunteering at a local library, summer camp, trash clean-up, community garden or animal shelter.
9. Leverage the Help of Friends
“Every family in the neighborhood is probably hearing the same complaints you are — ‘I’m so bored,’ ” says MacMannis, so working together with other parents can provide a lot of relief. Arrange for playdates with other kids on the block and trade off babysitting for other families in the area. Another option is to arrange for regular picnics or potlucks with other families so that the kids can play together while the adults get a few hours relief. There’s an added benefit to this: you’ll meet folks in your new neighborhood — and it will even allow you to show off your new home a bit.
10. Let Boredom Be a Teacher
“Boredom is an inevitable part of life,” says MacMannis, “and it’s not your job to keep your child from ever experiencing [it].” At some point, all kids need to learn the art of self-sufficiency and how to entertain themselves. This will give them the opportunity to further explore their new home and its surroundings.
“Just as you let them put themselves to sleep when they were babies, let them figure out how to find something interesting to occupy their thoughts and attention,” says parenting educator Elaine Taylor-Klaus. “When they complain, have some compassion … but don’t try to fix it for them.”
Without being spoon-fed ideas, children will start to follow their unique passions and aspirations while they learn to think for themselves; a valuable skill that will stick with them all of their life.