What I Wish We had Done on our Summer Vacations

School is almost over, milestones have been celebrated, the last sport tournament is just around the corner, and thoughts turn to summer vacation – where to go, what to do, and how to fill the time between visits with family and friends. It is also important to think of ways to ensure that during this two-month break our children don’t forget everything they have learned in school.

When my girls were little, we always tried to take advantage of the many free and child friendly activities that happened over the summer. We:

  • joined the Summer Reading Club at the library. The girls picked up a week’s worth of books and rushed home to read them so they could be finished before we headed back to get the next week’s stickers
  • took the train downtown to the Street Performers Festival or the Klondike Days Parade
  • watched the Canada Day fireworks after spending most of the day at the Legislative grounds
  • planned the bus trip to Heritage Days and each of the girls chose what food item they wanted to bring for the Food Bank.

We often wondered through our neighbourhood with no specific destination in mind. It was a way to get out of the house and keep the kids active, but those walks would have been a perfect opportunity to practice their literacy skills without them even knowing. I wish I knew then what I know now. We could have:

  • played a game of street sign bingo – how many stop signs could they count on the way to the park or yield signs on the way to a play date, or what was the most unique sign found
  • searched for all the letters in their names on street or business signs
  • looked for all the numbers from one to ten, or the numbers in our phone number, in the numbers on the houses
  • sung a song about all the colours of the rainbow and looked for them in the beautiful flower gardens we passed along the way
  • planned ahead to make it to our local spray park before the mad lunch rush
  • discussed all the different shapes we could find like the octagon in the stop sign, the triangle in the giant slide, the rectangles made by doors, or the circles in the playground
  • named all the different animals we could see as the clouds passed by in the sky
  • counted how many steps it took to walk to the mailbox and back.

We also could have done more literacy activities at home. We could have:

  • used sidewalk chalk to encourage the kids to write and illustrate their own stories – each square in front of the house another page in their book
  • researched what flowers or veggies grow best in our area, then they could have planted their own to take care of over the summer
  • planned a back yard pool and sprinkler party and sent invitations to their friends
  • read the comics and then created our own.

There are so many opportunities at our fingertips to support and build on our children’s literacy skills – we just need to look at things with a different mindset. The next time you see a child scribbling on your sidewalk, take a minute to ask them about the story they are trying to tell.

 

Giving the Traditional Chore Chart a Modern Twist

Chores… Something every parent has to think about and most children dread. There are so many tips available on the Internet and in many parenting magazines. Yet chores remains a hot topic in any circle of parents meeting in playgrounds and playgroups across the county.

At this time of year, as schools prepare to let loose the children, parents are talking even more about chores and responsibilities. Summer is upon us and though we want our children to have their fun, we need them to contribute to the home chores.

How do you balance work and play for your children? Do you pay them an allowance? Do they get incentive rewards? How old should they be when you start to assign chores? How you choose to work out those details is as individual as each household. However, most experts (and parents) agree that it is as important for children to learn these skills as it is to learn to walk, run, and ride a bike.

Chores teach children how to accomplish tasks. They teach children how to schedule or budget their time. They teach children how to work together. Chores create independence and problem solving skills. If allowance is involved, it can serve as a lesson on how to budget or save earnings for a special item. These are all wonderful lifelong skills and positive character traits!

So why can it be such a battle to follow through and assign chores to the children in our lives? As adults we rationalize that if we had a choice between something we perceive as fun, vs something that we perceive as work, we would likely choose the fun thing as well. But since we do not really have a choice, we get through the work so we can reward ourselves with some leisure time afterwards. Personally, I dislike kitchen chores. Why does it seem to be never ending? I can relate to “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” and what happened because she would not take the garbage out!

How can we get our little lovelies to chip in around the house? There is no magical answer to that question. As a mother of four, I know what has worked in my house and what hasn’t. Trial and error can take more effort by the parents, but it is rewarding to find a method that works for your own family. One thing many parents agree on is that, though the chore itself may not be fun, the approach to it should be. Pinterest is a great source for creative ideas and approaches.

My boys are like many other boys and really enjoy their video games and computer time. I struggled to find a balance for their allowable game time, chores, and other fun until I started using a sign up sheet. In our home, it is a successful and fun way to encourage my boys to do chores.

Your sign up sheet can be new daily or laminated to write on with a dry erase marker. On our sheet I add things that I can use help with daily. There are a variety of things to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty and age appropriate for each boy. I write things such as tidy up the shoe shelf, sweep the kitchen floor, take out the garbage, take the dog for a walk, shovel the sidewalk, or weed the flowerbeds. For fun, there are things such as go for a bike ride with a brother, play tag outside, build a snow fort, use sidewalk chalk to create a picture, or even read a book.

The boys are responsible to sign up for a chore one at a time. They have to complete one chore fully before they can sign up for another. Each “chore” or “job” has an amount of time assigned to it by myself, such as 5, 10, 20, or 30 minutes. When they have successfully completed some jobs and accumulated enough time credits, they are given equal time on their games. It is a great way for us to balance chores, play and computer time. The boys feel it is their choice and that they are in control. It balances out well and they never have too much “time” accrued to make me feel they are spending too much of it on video games.

This summer, think how to keep it fun. Have the children think they are in control of how and when they help out around the house. It makes for less of a battle and guarantees more fun for all!