Amanda Rioux Photographer

Preserving Your Summer Sanity

If you are anything like me and are a Momma to kids of elementary school age, summer can become somewhat of a mixed blessing. The first week after school closes you are probably saying “Halleluja” and “Good Riddance” to rigid schedules, homework check ups, and generally running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to check all the boxes you are supposed to check. As the days turns into weeks this feeling of relief will fade as your kids start whining and bickering while you grasp at straws trying to figure out how to keep them entertained all summer long.

At that point you either become the “Over Scheduling Momma” who fills up the weeks with various camps and activities trying to keep the peace, or you have to figure out how to strike a balance between relaxation and a schedule where people don’t kill each other. I have been the parent who has over scheduled to the point that it didn’t feel like the kids/myself had any down time before starting another rigorous school year. That was the summer of  VBS….. The one where we went to every local vacation bible school to the point where we could have taught the classes. It seemed that every church within a 45 minute radius decided on the same theme that year and I still can’t get the catchy song “Journey off the map” out of my head. Believe me I have tried. I digress…….

In an effort to strike a better balance we now only do two camps per child per summer and try to plan other activities that allow them some engaging down time. In planning activities the goal is always to have them be technology free, creative, and for the most part independent from me. This is not because I don’t love my children and don’t enjoy their company but it’s because I don’t believe it’s my sole purpose in life to entertain them. They are going to learn to use their imaginations even if it’s against their will! What’s the point in having multiple kids if they can’t at least help entertain each other?!

So if you are already hitting that part of the summer where you are pulling your hair out, your house is trashed, and you can’t think of what else to do with these little people you used to think fondly upon as your children, here is a list of things that seem to work for our family.

Disclaimer: We are a quirky family and my kids may or may not be on the weird side so execute these ideas with caution. My husband did just make a gold mining sluice so we could pan for gold at whimsy so there is that…..

  1. The Lego Challenge: Give the kids a set time limit and challenge them to make an invention. All my kids have their own Lego sets and are competitive by nature so this one usually takes about half the day. That’s half a day that you can do laundry, clean, or sip a cup of coffee and read a book!
  2. The Nature Scavenger Hunt: Send your kids out with a baggie and a list to find items found in nature. If you live in a rural area you have an advantage on this one but before we lived on a farm we also used to do it in our neighborhood park. For little ones that can’t read I’ve used clip art or put them on a team with their older sibling.
  3. The Play Doh Contest: My kids can spend endless hours making Play Doh dresses for Polly Pockets, furniture for animals, or my favorite, trying to replicate Shopkins. The other variation we do often is to use Kinetic sand and bury small items in it or mold them into waves for surfing Polly Pockets.
  4. Make a video: My kids also spend a lot of time making “How To” videos as well as stop motion animation videos using their figures and things around the house. We often view them with a bucket of popcorn when they are finished.
  5. The Voice: This one works really well if you have swivel chairs in your house! Have your kids take turns debuting their talent and kindly judging others as you act out your own rendition of The Voice. This one brings a lot of laughter into the home as my kids also like to come up with fake names/personas and sing in the voice of their own quirky character. Another spin on this is to have a dance contest.
  6. Water Day: There are so ways to do this one but I say use what you have. Slip N Slides, diving for gems in blow up pool, water balloons, sprinklers, you name it! When it is hot yet you don’t want to have to put your swimsuit on at the public pool these things will buy you a couple of hours!
  7. Art Camp: One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if I make up a bogus contest my kids will buy into it every time hook, line, and sinker. This means that I can turn any art activity into a contest. Coloring, painting, crafting, you name it! Buy in is important if you want little ones to do something for a long time. That is why you have to get them excited about it. Maybe open an art exhibit where they hang pictures they have created all over the basement with painters tape. My kids also don’t seem to notice that I basically find a way to give them each a praise/win over the course of the activity.
  8. Hide and Go Seek: Another favorite is to have a person hide something like a sock monkey and then take turns finding it. I usually start this game when I need a good 30 minutes to finish something I’m working on. Simply grab the the item closest to you and say, “Hey! hide this thing and see if your brother and sister can find it”! Remember, if you sell it well, they will buy it!
  9. Cooking Contest: Obviously you have to have an older responsible child monitor this one if you are going to use the stove but it can also be done with younger kids by giving them proper boundaries. My oldest daughter watches a lot of cooking shows like “Chopped” so we like to have cooking contests and then throw in a weird ingredient to see how they can fit that in.
  10. Summer Theater: Have your kids put on a mini play where they write the script, dress the part, and perform it for the family.
  11. The Lemonade Stand: This one has been tricky since we moved out to the farm but we still figure out ways to work it in. The lemonade/sweets stand is a good way to teach your kids about entrepreneurship. They have to make the goods, use marketing, sell the product, count the cash, and then decide how they will spend/save it.
  12. Reading Time: Every day at a certain hour require some down time where your little ones have to snuggle up with a book. You can read my previous blog for book ideas!
  13. The Doll/Stuffed Animal Cafe: My girls love to create an American Girl cafe and use items from the house to make seating/decor as well as create food using clay. This could also work with stuffed animals for boys.
  14. Summer Olympics: This one is on Maizy’s list for the summer. The basic idea is to create a fun outdoor event and compete in different areas like hula hooping, bike races, etc.
  15. Camp Out: Borrow a tent, make some smore’s, and sleep out under the stars with the kids. We tried this one recently with a bunch of families on our farm. We ended up having a horrible storm that night so only a few stayed all night but I haven’t abandoned the idea for next year.
  16. Learn Something New With Your Kids: This is one that is always on the list at our house as living on a farm seems like an endless opportunity for learning new things. From taking care of animals to planting a garden and canning, there is always something that can be shared and passed on to your children.
  17. Tournament Time: I wouldn’t describe the Rioux family as an overly athletic one but we do like to have Bocce ball tournaments in the summer and have added other sports like kickball and softball as Kai’s interests have headed in that area in particular. We will often invite other family and friends over to make it more fun.
  18. Field Trips: This one probably goes without saying as many people take field trips to the zoo, library, etc……but try to think outside of the box and expand your world view a little bit. Maybe hit a museum, national park, exotic pet store. Follow your children interests and see where it takes you. I know that my girls in particular have a love for antiques like I do so we will visit a quaint little town an hour away called Bell Buckle that has been preserved in time and has many antique stores. We’ll shop all day long and then eat in the cafe ending our journey by buying dessert from the local Malt Shop.
  19. The Goodwill Hunt: I’m a lover of Goodwill as you never know what you will find there. Since my kids share my love we will often search there for treasure together. You can often find Maizy searching for vintage dishes, Lyric looking for forgotten Lalaloopsies, and Kai digging through the junk bin for Lego mini figures or Pokemon cards. We often find family games, puzzles, or projects there that we can later do together which then results in a family activity that we can engage in that evening. That’s a two for one special!
  20. The Kindness Game: Teaching kids to do things unselfishly for others is a good thing any time of year. Maybe visit an elderly neighbor who loves kids, deliver dinner to a family that is struggling in some way, or make a care package for the homeless man that sits at Kroger. Try to get your kids thinking about ways to serve others.

These are just a few ideas that will hopefully help you survive the long, hot days of summer! I also should probably mention that my kids do have chores to do over the summer months and that we try to get those things out of the way before we play. When I’ve exhausted my list and the bickering starts, I usually invite friends to come over for an activity. On the farm we often have “Popsicles on the Porch” days where friends come over to play for a few hours, pet some animals, and eat some popsicles before they go home. And who knows? During the last weeks of summer when the going gets tough, I may even sign them up for another round of VBS! I hear the theme is Submerged this year 😉



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