Ten weeks!! We have a glorious 70 days of summer break ahead and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I live for the days that my children carry the scent of sunscreen, bedtimes can be stretched late, and bandages adorn tanned skin.
But, how do you keep kids productive and active all summer without the fighting and nagging?
The balance of work and play can be difficult in the summer. Nothing dampens a day as much as needing some time to work and children shooting a million questions at you like a little firing squad. Establishing expectations for each other is a great place to start. If your children understand that you need an hour or two of uninterrupted time to work – but then they’ll receive 5 hours of your undivided attention after – they are more likely to keep themselves occupied and help out.
We have established a system that works well for us in the summer (included below with ideas and printables). It took some trial and error, but, like most kids, my children crave routine. If the first few days of summer we keep to the routine, we all benefit. Chores are finished, enrichment completed, and a few hours of uninterrupted work time accomplished – usually all before 9am.
Once the “to-do” list is covered for the day, the opportunities for fun ways to keep your kids active around Cedar Rapids are ridiculously awesome. For kids into drama, there are camp offerings at Theatre Cedar Rapids. If your kids love adventure, try a retreat at Camp Wapsi. Want to keep up on academics? Check out the STEM camps at NewBo. There are so many amazing choices in our city to keep our children active and learning. Just check out the Cedar Rapids Recreation Guide if you’re searching.
So, what works for our family?
We have a “command” center at our house, which is basically a wall that includes everything from meal plans & chore charts to the family calendar. Each child has their own whiteboard here. Sometimes for helpful reminders and sometimes just for a little motivational pick-me-up. Anything that needs done for the day is listed on their individual board. They love the ownership of it [and getting to use whiteboard markers] and I love that they don’t ask me the same million questions each day. My kiddos have learned before they ask for anything, they have to check their whiteboards.
Individualized Chore Charts
Ugh…every house has chores that need done, but when everyone works together, they get done faster. On their whiteboards they will find a chore chart attached. We have three different charts that include daily tasks and weekly tasks. The daily tasks are the same on each chart, but the weekly ones are differentiated. This chore chart is pinned to their board for the week. At the end of the week, they rotate. Before play time or screen time each day, all daily chores and one weekly chore must be completed. [Chore charts are laminated so they can cross off as they go if you have a tactile kiddo like I do.]
Time and Age Limits
My kids all move at different paces in the morning. My 12 year old likes to sleep in, the others are up by 6am each day. Their daily tasks, when done efficiently, can be completed in a little over an hour. In our house, we set the expectation that all chores be completed by 10am. This means that I have from 6-10am each morning to work with limited interruptions. They are getting ready, eating breakfast, doing their math/reading, and completing their chores. Expectations are age based. If your weekly chore includes “laundry” for example, for the 12 year old that means wash, hang and dry her own laundry. For my 6 year old, it means sort her lights from darks and fold anything that belongs in her dresser.
Incentives and Rewards
Each season, we create a bucket list of all of our favorite things. This motivates my children to get their chores done early so that we have the rest of the day to choose something fun to do. From a trip to the beach (we have 4 beaches within 30 minutes of CR) to geocaching through the park; we make a list of everything that would make our season fun. Feel free to check out our FREE 60 days of summer printable for this season’s bucket list for mostly free, local activities to do this summer.
Though we usually mark off all 60 activities on our summer bucket list, most years, the list acts as more of an idea board for my kiddos. A few years ago, our task to “go to the park” morphed into a challenge to visit every park in the city alphabetically! Apache, Bever, Cherry Hill, Daniels…did you know there are 97 parks in the city?! We do now!
A little planning goes a long way when it comes to summer fun. Explaining expectations and incentivizing work with fun activities has created a much more relaxing and productive summer for all of us.
What are your favorite activities to keep your kids active over the summer?
What do you do to motivate your children to complete their chores without complaining?
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