1) Summer Schedule Thoughts: With my kids getting out of school for the summer a week from today (!!), summer (and staying sane and scheduled) is on my mind. In fact, I have so many thoughts swirling around my head about summer that this might be the only “Friday Thought” I share today.
Over the last 10 summers, we’ve done various systems/schedules to keep us organized. Those of you who know me well already know that I’m super scheduled – schedules keep me sane. I’m kind of in love with schedules, actually.
So while there are some parents who approach the summer 100% free range style, I’m not one of them (although I admire greatly parents with this style, and my kids, I’m sure, often wish they had been born to a mother with a little more free range in her).
However, let me be very clear, I do not keep my kids scheduled 100% of the day. And they aren’t involved in a lot of outside activities/summer camps in the summer. Maybe summer “system” is the better word for what we have going on here.
I believe in summer chores (work before play is our motto).
And I believe it’s ok for my kids to be bored once in a while.
Every year, given the changing ages of my kids, we sit down one-on-one and evaluate what goals they would like to accomplish during the summer (learn Photoshop, build a wood project in garage, etc). And of course, I throw in a few of my own.
Our “system” has changed from year to year. In the past, I’ve done an official, super cute job chart (I made the cards from Susan Fitch’s amazing job chart clipart on Etsy). I would fill in the slots each night before I went to bed so when the kids woke up, they’d have an outline of their jobs:
It worked great for many summers, but my older kids have kind of graduated from a cutesie system like this. So we’ve also muddled through a few summers where I would do the ol’ pen and paper system for them and the cute job chart for the littles.
Now I’m at the point that I want one system for all. Simplicity! So this summer, my plan is to print out a one-page chart (I’ve linked it below) on cardstock, laminate, and use a dry erase marker for the kids to mark off their jobs.
And I’m changing up our “every day chore” system and moving toward a life skills method.
I’m realizing that my kids can do bits and pieces of a job pretty well – but clean the bathroom top to bottom thoroughly? Uh, yeah. Scary.
This summer they’ll have a daily list of tasks to complete by noon (Fridays are a free day for all the *’d jobs):
-Pick up room/make bed
-Reading (30 mins)
-Typing* (1-2 lessons per day; goal to get to 40 wpm by end of summer for age 10 and older)
-Practice piano/cello* (30 mins)
-Math facts* (10 mins)
-Dad’s outside job list (Brian writes this out every morning)
Quick note: for typing, in the past, we’ve used Typing Instructor for Kids (actual software you buy) but it didn’t play nicely with our mac, so now we just use typing.com. It’s a little boring (no frills and games) but it gets the job done and every time they finish a level, they can play a game (tons of free ones online). If anyone has great typing program suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
And then they’ll have a weekly job assignment. The cleaning jobs have to be finished and checked off by me by Thursday at noon with the caveat that if we have company or something else happening, I can ask them (nicely) to complete the job sooner.
We’ll rotate through these weekly job assignments (and I’ll help the 6- and 8-year old, but I’m expecting that my 10-, 12-, and 14-year olds should be able to do an adequate job themselves with a little training).
-Vacuum whole house, including stairs
-Dust entire house room-by-room and help plan and prepare one dinner this week
-Clean bathrooms top to bottom (we have 2.5 bathrooms)
-Clean up breakfast every day this week and prepare one hot breakfast this week
-Clean up lunch every day this week and prepare one lunch (hot or cold) this week
Five kids. Five weekly assignments. (Here’s a PDF of the chart I threw together in Pages for a visual.)
We also have a “room job” chart that we’ve used for years that includes things like cleaning up dinner, picking up various rooms in the house, wiping down the guest bathroom, feeding animals, etc.
It works wonders for our family, and is the longest running job system I’ve ever used (we use this year long, not just in the summer). I really love this little wheel. It saves my sanity on a daily basis.
I redo it every once in a while when we need to add job or change things up. Every single day of our lives around dinnertime or right after, I call out “room jobs!” and everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about – and they (hopefully) get moving on their room job. And trust me, if one of them is still fat dogging it on the couch, one of their siblings will quickly call them out to get moving on their room job. #siblingaccountability
Anyway, I’m not sure how our summer system will work this year. It’s the first time I’ve done the “weekly” job thing – but Brian and I talk all the time how we want to raise functional, responsible kids who know how to work, how to finish a job, and how to…well…clean a toilet.
So, that’s the goal this summer. I’m still working on delegating laundry. I’m worried for my life, our septic tank, and all the clothes in our house if I offload this responsibility. They DO fold all the clothes (see room job chart), but I still do the washing.
Lest you think that my kids are the most disadvantaged kids in the history of ever to have their summer focused around jobs and chores, I always start the summer asking them to write down the three things they’d be sad if they didn’t do during the summer. The answers are enlightening. And we try to make many of them happen (assuming the list isn’t focused on international travel and anything that would require me to sell a child to afford).
So far, this summer’s list is looking doable: lemonade stand, sno cones, take walks, bowling, camping, each week a kid cooks, fishing, etc.
Since jobs are always done by noon (and usually much earlier since we are still up by 7:15 a.m. during the summer to read scriptures as a family during the week, much to my teenager’s dismay), they have the rest of the day to play basketball in the front yard, put the sprinkler under the tramp, work on their individual summer goals (woodworking, photoshop, etc), do their fave drawing tutorials on ArtHub, and, you know…get bored. 🙂
Enter my boredom busters chart.
I have this thing laminated and hanging permanently on the fridge during the summer (not during the school year). They’ve learned not to even come to me and say “I’m bored” because they’ll most likely get another job to do or I’ll rope them into whatever project I’m doing (this summer it is going to be a lot of indoor painting of rooms).
So they often consult this chart, and usually manage to find something to do to entertain them (some of the ideas require mom approval).
And guess what? If they STILL end up writhing in boredom on the couch moaning that all of their friends are at Disneyland all summer long, I console myself knowing they actually do have lots of opportunities for creativity and fun, whether they can see that right now or not.
The boredom buster chart saves me too, because despite being at home full-time (something I’m intensely grateful for), I still have to fit in 3-5 blog working hours every day, since this crazy blog of mine requires a crazy amount of work.
While I do most of that late at night, especially in the summer, I also tell my kids several days during the week that I have work hours from 1-3 (or whatever we decide that day), and they need to self-entertain and only come to me if it involves the three B’s: blood, broken bones, barf.
In addition to weekly trips to the community library, a trip to the local waterpark once in the summer, swim lessons, community pool now and then, and several family reunions, I also try to incorporate one or two NEW things each summer to keep everyone excited at home (at least for the first two weeks – ha!).
Last summer it was a slack line (similar to this one) aff. link that my parents gave to them for Christmas the year before but we hadn’t pulled out before. It stayed up all summer and was the hit of all hits.
This year, I added a few new games to our Osmo system aff. link (we love this thing – anyone else have it??). This is a learning-while-playing system – they don’t get unlimited access to it, but I’ll let them dig it out in the afternoons for 30-45 minutes (or until someone starts arguing, whichever comes first).
We just got the Awbie coding game aff. link (super excited about this one). We also have words, numbers, Newton and a few others.
And the other surprise for this summer is this impressive shaved ice machine (aff. link) A bit excessive, I know. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I have several friends with the blue model (aff. link) of this popular machine, and they can’t stop talking about it. The jury’s still out on whether or not we’ll actually use it enough to justify it; I’ll keep you posted (I’ll probably sell it if we decide it’s too much machine for us – haha).
If I had a neighbor with kids, I would have pressured them into splitting the cost with us, but I’m sure we’ll get a ton of use out of this summer, even if I haven’t figured out where to store it (my house is sadly lacking in storage – it might have to take my side of the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch).
A few other things that save us in the summer. Some of these have been birthday/Christmas gifts that continue to prove their awesomeness:
–bunch o’ ballooons aff. links
-free ArtHub drawing video tutorials
-ThinkFun games (these games are so fun; we love the roller coaster one and the tilt one) aff. links
–Snap Circuits aff. link and Legos
-Origami tutorials (we search free ones on YouTube and we also have this easy origami book) aff. link
-Lots of markers/crayons/colored pencils
-Latch hook kits (buy them with 40% off coupons at Hobby Lobby)
Phew! This is long! And I am really, really interested and excited to hear YOUR thoughts and YOUR summer systems.
But one last quick note.
Brian and I have really tried to encourage the entrepreneurial/work side of life to our kids. My 10-year old is planning on opening up a donut shop this summer and selling homemade donuts (his trial run a month or so ago produced the best donuts ever, thanks to the recipe book a frequent commenter here, Liz, sent him!). And cupcakes too, I think!
We’ve told our kids that when they turn 13, they need to be working 6-8 hours a week. Last summer, my then 13-year old made fliers for lawn mowing, helped his friend with a trash bin cleaning business, and got several odd jobs doing yard work for people in our small community.
It was a little painful, I’m not going to lie.
Most of his friends were playing video games and going on vacations all summer (at least according to him), and “working” was the last thing he wanted to do as a 13-year old, but even he admitted at the end of the summer that he was excited about the money he had earned (and even more excited about the money he had put in savings).
And I was excited he wasn’t pestering his younger siblings all summer long. We really try to foster this “work” element by sitting down and making a plan early with him (and we’ll try and do the same as the other boys reach the same age), encouraging him to find work that he really enjoys, and fronting the money for businesses or projects where he can pay us back as he earns a profit.
This year, at 14, our requirement is that he’s working 10-12 hours a week (with the idea that by the time he’s 16, working a 40-hour week job in the summer won’t kill him off). He already has a job lined up to sand down and paint a swingset, and he’s also starting a flag-selling business (Boise State and BYU flags).
Even though all the details written out like this makes me tired, I know it will be much easier to implement than it looks on paper because we’ll tackle it one day at a time, have Fridays off (yay! free day!), and ultimately, we are used to schedules so we all kind of thrive with the structure.
My goal by the end of this summer is that we’ll all still feel like this:
Haha. In reality, I know there will be ups and downs this summer and some days where it all falls apart, but hopefully our new-ish summer system will work well.
Please share what your summer system looks like if you have one!
I welcome any and all comments (please just keep it respectful and open to all differing opinions!).
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218 Comments on “Friday Thoughts”
THANK YOU! I’m about 6 years behind you (5 kids, 4 boys followed by a girl). My mind has been trying to rework our summer jobs after our forced homeschool excitement. I love some of these ideas!
I see below that the shaved ice machine was a success this past summer. Since you also have a Vitamix (and I think at one point a Blentec?), could you comment on how the ice from the shaved ice machine compares to the “crushed” or “shaved” ice you can make in the Vitamix by either dropping in ice cubes with it running or turning it on with ice cubes in it? Are they at all similar, or do the shaved ice machines really make a product that can’t be duplicated by anything else?
Also, while on the topic of cold treats, what do you think of your Whynter ice cream maker by now? Is it still working ok? Does it get used frequently or, like the shaved ice machine, is it a pain to pull out each time you want to use it? How long does it take on average to make a batch of ice cream in it?
Thanks so much for the info! I’m brainstorming what our big family Christmas present should be this year and you seem to always find some of the most fun looking kitchen stuff!
Hey Jane, great questions. I’ve never blended up ice in my vitamix so I can’t comment on the texture differences. And actually, that shaved ice machine, while awesome, found a new home with my parents. I gave it to them earlier this year for my dad to use for some scouting things and I ended up getting a much smaller shaved ice machine (my friend owned one and told me about it and how much she loved it) – we actually ended up leaving it on our counter most of the summer because it is so much smaller and I think the ice was great quality (probably not QUITE as finely shaved as the ice machine in this post…but good enough no one noticed). I highly recommend it. It is pricey, but we’ll use it for years to come. Also, yes, we still use the Whynter ice cream maker almost weekly. I keep it on the bottom floor of my pantry so it’s not a super huge pain to pull out. It’s one of those things that if it broke, I’d immediately buy a new one. I am bad about refrigerating my ice cream base ingredients before using so it probably takes a little longer to make…but I’d say once we pour in the ingredients, the ice cream is soft churned within about 40 minutes.
Thanks so much for the super fast response, esp. on this old of a post! Sounds like your original ice shaver has found a great new home! If you don’t mind me asking, what type did you end up getting? We’ve been looking at the Little Snowie 2 if we get one because it looked like it might be a little easier to store.
Based on your response, I think the Whynter ice cream machine may be quickly making it to the top of my gift options list! I have 2 more quick questions about it – Is your ice cream base room temperature when you put it in, or have you tried it with it still a little warm (for example, if you make a custard based recipe)? Also, have you noticed it having any issues making the full 2 qts it advertises it can make with each batch?
Ok, now I promise I will leave you alone! Thanks again for the super fast response and the wonderful blog!
Sorry, I meant to include a link! It’s this one: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Snowie-Ice-Shaver-Premium/dp/B01MU08Z9C/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=little+snowy+2&qid=1572621393&sr=8-1
The Little Snowie 2.
I’ve never used an ice cream base while still warm in the Whynter maker. Usually it’s just ingredients from the fridge and by the time we pour it in, it’s probably close to room temperature. I haven’t actually exactly measured the output – it makes more than my old ice cream maker that I had to freeze the base first. And it makes more than what fits in my ice cream containers (they are 1.5 quart) so I’m guessing it’s pretty much right around the 2 quart mark. However, if I’m making an ice cream with add-ins, I don’t make 2 quarts of ice cream (does that make sense)? My recipe makes 1 quart – so if I’m using add-ins like Oreos or fruit, I make a 1 1/2 batch of the ice cream mixture which leaves room for add-ins.
Thanks again for the super fast reply! Glad to know we’re not crazy to be considering the Little Frostie 2 – I thought based on your description that it was likely what you had. Thanks as well for the further info about the Whynter. I had read some reviews of a different brand saying it struggled to cool a full batch, so I’m glad to hear that’s not the case with this one. It sounds like it would be a perfect fit for my family. Now we just have to figure out which of the two we want the most! Thanks again for the info and helping all of us random strangers out on our quests to be kitchen rock stars!
Just thought I’d let you know that we used your chore system last summer and we liked it so much that I decided to come back again so I can set it up for this summer. Thanks for your awesome ideas and delicious recipes! You are a lifesaver in our home.
What did you think of your shaved ice machine this summer?
We loved it! My only complaint is that it is so big and so heavy it’s hard to keep out 100% of the time (I don’t have space in my kitchen), but it’s not convenient to store either, really…so I don’t think we used it quite as much as we would have if I had a place to keep it out all the time. Even still, it was the hit of the summer.
Hello! I did up a daily/weekly chore list for my kids after reading this post. And we are 2 days into it and it is working AWESOME. Especially the daily chore list. It was already stuff they were expected to do for the most part (take compost bag out, take recycle out, empty dishwasher ..etc) but I was constantly having to tell/ask them to do it. Now it is on their daily list…they are both getting up in the morning and going through their list. Without me having to ask!!! So lovely. I had already decided to incorporate the daily list into the school year and this just reaffirmed that decision. So THANK YOU for posting this and giving people inspiration.
So happy to hear this, Melissa! I hope the rest of the summer is as awesome as the first couple days!
We have five boys and a girl at our house–our family looks very similar to yours! but we are a few years ahead of you. Our older boys are twins and will be home from missions in August! Our third just graduated from high school.
The only system that has consistently worked for us is similar to your rooms system. I’m not organized enough to have multiple lists so everything is included in each room! So for example whoever has the front room/entry has to keep it picked up, vacuumed and dusted at least once a week. They also have breakfast and chickens. Kitchen has to keep the dishwasher unloaded/loaded and sweep as needed and mop once a week and they also have garbages and lunch. Etc. Each ‘room’ job has a meal. They help prep and make sure its cleaned up. When I had to give five jobs I put other things in place of a meal like–read with Jackson (the youngest) for 20 minutes each day. They also have to practice piano and clean up their bedrooms.
The benefit I’ve seen from this is that the kids have learned to completely clean one room. I had to help them when they were younger though. But as they got older it was awesome to be able to just quickly assign out who had which areas if we needed to ’emergency’ clean the house! Now I only have my youngest three and I miss having the house full!!
I do like the weekly job idea too–for the extra things. I was trying to come up with catchy names like ‘wash-it Wednesday’ and ‘too much stuff Tuesday’ and one of the kids asked if we can have ‘saturated fat Saturday.’ Ha!
This is awesome!! Thank you Mel! My kids get out next week and I need to make a plan! I have 4 boys also! My boys for past couple years have gone and picked cherries at a cherry orchard and sold them. I made them take their own money to pay upfront for the cherries. It was almost painful for one of my boys to part with his money. Haha . But they made a great profit! Last year we offered the option of pitting the cherries for a fee. They pitted over 100 pounds of cherries! It was a mess! But it taught them a lot about money and work.
Thanks for the ideas. I have used a lot of them in my family (i.e. lots of WORK!) for years and everyone survives! One thing…might you be willing to put together a menu of easy meals that your kids can prepare through out the summer? We are going to be focusing on kitchen skills this summer and I’m pretty intimidated about it. Just an idea. Thanks for all you do already!
Great idea! I would love a list of Mel’s easy recipes!
Hey ladies! Sorry for the delay in responding. Here are a few of the meals my kids are making (in addition to a few new ones I haven’t posted yet like Instant Pot spaghetti):
–Creamy alfredo sauce with noodles
–Glazed Mini Meatloaves
–Mini Taco Cups
–Pasta al Forno
–Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
–Sheet Pan Balsamic Chicken and Veggies
–Crispy SW Chicken Wraps
–Skillet Fajita Nachos
–Skillet Taco Pasta Shells
That’s a pretty good start! 🙂
This is a wonderful posting! Thank you. My son is almost 28 now and long gone from the house, but you’ve offered great ideas for others! I’ve passed on your posting to my niece who has a young son and could benefit from your ideas and advice. I particularly like the ideas for work and responsibilities as well as for play and fun. All are important and essential to character development. Again, thank you! I think that, by posting your “Summer System,” you’ve really offered a service for many, many readers. Plus, your recipes are really, really good!
Love this! Thank you!
Wow, Mel! This post was just what I needed to read as I think about our summer starting in a few short days! I could have written every word you did about teaching kids responsibility, the value of work, and still making time for fun! And I think what you’ve got planned will not only serve them well, but will also make them appreciate all the fun activities and free time! I think they’re so lucky to have a mom who is not only preparing them for their lives ahead, but also showing them how to have SO MUCH FUN!!
Here’s my million dollar question, so I hope you’re still responding to comments on this post:
HOW DO YOU LET KIDS USE DEVICES FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES?! I love the idea of the kids using the iPad for art videos or piano tutorials or coding, but I know few of my children could resist sneaking onto other apps or just other videos. How do you prevent that or deal with it if they do??
Mel, long time reader, first time commenter here. You’ve inspired me in so many ways! You made me not afraid to bake from scratch, which is a skill I’m so proud of and love to share with my kids, I’ve referred many to your website for some of our go-to meals and always referenced your game and toys lists around the holidays! I’m also a homebody and think we share many similar values from what I’ve learned from your “Friday thought” posts. Loved the one recently about phone usage as my kids are now just 6, 3.5 and 10months so I have a bit of time, but I’ve struggled with how to cross that bridge that is inevitable in today’s society. And this post- Gold! I too need structure for my sanity and I believe kids need/thrive with it, I’ve been pondering our chore plan for weeks and love these ideas! I have a question and I hope you’ll have time to respond, at what age did you begin allowing screen time? My kids (6, 3, infant) have never had access to phones/ipads. We have a rare family movie night so they’ve seen a couple classic Disney movies (literally maybe 4). My older two do get to listen to podcasts (highly recommend sparkle stories) occasionally such as on long car rides. I think I’d like my oldest to start to learn some skills such as typing etc and she loves learning and would love math and spelling games I’m just worried about the addiction to/always begging for it factor. Ignorance is bliss now, she is an advanced reader and loves to read, plays creatively etc. . . So I certainly don’t “need” it to entertain her but thinking perhaps it’s “time.” Also, she attends a mixed age (3-6) Montessori school and therefore has no exposure to technology at school. Next year (first grade) will be her last year there and then she will begin a more traditional school environment, I know she will pick it up quick, but I also don’t want her to be behind in that element. I’d appreciate your insight. Thanks for everything, you are truly and inspiration and an awesome momma!
THANK YOU so much for this. I am planning on making a daily job/weekly job chart for my 2 children. I have been wanting them to be more independent of me telling them what to do all the time and this is it! It should help me during the summer a lot!
What do you use for Math Facts? A certain site? Thank you!
I make summer charts for my kids that have small prizes for every few things they complete. It includes the boring stuff like math facts, cleaning their rooms top to bottom, practice handwriting, as well as fun stuff like going to the spray park, growing crystal gardens, etc. I always include something new to learn as well. This is in addition to their regular chores, and the job list I give them most days to do. They love it! I have not finished making it yet for this year, but as we have another month before school lets out for the summer, I’m ok :). Thanks for all the ideas… gives me more variety for the summer charts!
Love those ideas, Kristi!
These are some of my fav posts of yours! Its like you totally get who I am and want to be. Thank you for sharing your tips, tricks and goals with us! Do your kids get to watch shows? If so how much? I have one kid who all her rewards are centered on wanting to watch food network.
Aw, thanks, Britney! That’s awesome and super cute that your daughter loves Food Network! We don’t do a ton of screen time (we never really have, so my kids don’t rely on it or expect it), but they definitely do love it when it happens. Usually in the afternoons in the summer, they end up with about 45 mins to an hour of electronics/screen time. They all choose different things (Wii, netflix, iPad games, etc). They have to have their jobs done before it’s allowed and it’s only for a set amount of time (I set a timer to keep us all accountable). We do watch movies on the weekend together quite a bit as a family.
You are inspiring, thank you!! I really hate to take more of your time but this question is for you and everyone that reads this blog, how do you manage screen time in the summer? I want to chuck it all out the window but am not sure that is the answer. Any feedback from anyone on what works would be greatly appreciated. Also made the giant cookie and it was fabulous!
Hey Tiffany – it’s a great question. Someone down below in the comment thread said she takes the “fight” out of it by establishing 11-12 every day as screen time. That’s the only timeframe it’s allowed so if chores aren’t done by then, the privilege is lost. I kind of like that idea because it takes the endless screen time requests out of the equation (or at least I think it would??). We’ve always been so limited with screen time since my kids were little, little that they just assume/know that our day isn’t going to center around it. We generally do about an hour in the afternoons after all the chores are done. They can choose to play the Wii (it’s super old, but they still love to play mario kart and super smash bros) or watch a show or play on the iPad. We set a timer, and if they haven’t shut things down when the timer goes off, they lose the screen time privilege for the next day. This isn’t really related, but I usually choose one day at random during the summer where they get unlimited screen time. They about lose their minds. They’re so excited. I just announce it that morning at breakfast. The funny thing is that usually after a couple hours, they’re all kind of done and they turn off all the electronics anyway. But they sure get excited about it!
The unexpected free screens day is an awesome idea! I’ll have to add that to the random fun things list!
I’ve been getting recipes from your site for 8+ years now, and I don’t know what I’d do without your site as a go to for all things food. I’ve never commented before, but this post made me want to be a better mom and I just couldn’t resist. Thank you for all the recipes and for your example of awesome motherhood. You and your husband are raising the type of boys I’d want my girls to marry. It gives me hope for the future. haha. So thanks for all you do, keep it up!
Oh, thank you so much, Julie! Your comment made my day (and made me smile!). Thank you!
I’ve never commented before, but thank you Mel for motivating me to kick things into gear! We had very unstructured summers growing up and although it was fun when I was young, as I got older, I wasted a LOT of time. I felt bored being stuck at home. I had no confidence because I had no skills and didn’t really know how to change things. I wish my mom had done a system like you, Mel. I would’ve felt much more prepared for living on my own and raising a family. I think being able to run a clean, efficient household when no training in your youth is the exception, not the rule. So I am similar to you. I want my kids to have the skills I never learned. Plus I’ve notice they really enjoy their free play time when they don’t have 12 hours of it every day 🙂
Thanks so much for your comment, Ashley! I feel so similar to how you do – I think my kids value their free time because it isn’t unlimited. Good luck with your summer plan!
Mel, you’re amazing!! I love these ideas so much!!! Thank you for the inspiration!
Thank you, Jessica!
I love this post! You’ve probably answered this somewhere along the way but do you do allowance? And is it for completion of these chores or is it a separate thing? And does it stay the same during the summer?
Hey Emilie – I don’t know that I’ve talked about that “officially” but yes, we do allowance. We do $1 for each year they are old per month. So, my 14-year old gets $14 and so on. They pay 10% to church tithing, 30% to savings and the rest is their own spending money. We don’t tie allowance to chores or jobs, and it stays the same during summer. For every week we are late paying, they get an additional 50 cents (so they hope and pray we are late all the time! haha).
Thanks for the post, you inspired me to do more for this summer. So this past Sunday, I sat down with my older kids 9,7,5 and we scheduled one thing per day: baking (it’s time I let go of control and let them enjoy baking/cooking), cleaning ( some jobs will be team work, others individual), math review (just 15 minutes), I work two weekdays during the day, so no scheduled thing for those. And of course lots of reading, yard work, walks/bikes to the park or mountains, pool, splash pads, family movies, etc.
Thanks again for sharing what works for your family, you are an awesome friend!
Thanks, Jocy! Sounds like you have a great summer plan ahead – good luck managing it all as a working momma, too!
Mel! I loved this post! And it got my wheels turning for how I can handle summer this year. One question though, how did you make the picture chore chart with the little cards? Is it fabric that’s sewn or poster board that makes the little pockets to put the chore cards into? I want to do something similar and simplified for my 6 and 4 year old, but I’m not super crafty and wondering where to start!
It’s just cardstock that’s folded into pockets and glued onto one of those large foam boards. Does that help?
Hi Mel, thanks for a fantastic post. My kids are 8 and 10 and I have gleaned a lot of great ideas from you and your commenters. My older child started doing her own laundry this year and it has worked great. I still do towels and bedding but she is in charge of her cloths. I put a list of instructions tapped near the washer for settings etc. She ran out of underwear once and learned not to do that again, life lessons are awesome! When I was growing up my mom did everything around the house and I didn’t learn how to cook or do laundry until I moved away to grad school at 22(I lived at home and went to local college for undergrad and my mom still did my laundry!!). I learned how to clean bathrooms at my first job when I was 19. It does take a lot more time and effort to teach kids household responsibilities and hold them accountable (rather than just plugging them into a movie and doing it yourself) but it is so worth raising people ready to face real life. As a kid I had lots of free time in the summers, and although I did have to take care of my own horse I wish I had been more prepared for other aspects of adult life. Summers are great for adding new skills without the stresses of the school year and I love your ideas for kid friendly summer jobs. My 10 year old just bought her own hampster including cage and supplies and she is in charge of buying its ongoing supplies so I have a list of jobs she can do to earn money. My younger son is more motivated by iPad games so he has to earn his time. Thanks for your thoughts, we are all just trying to do our best at parenting and it is so easy to second guess our choices.
Isn’t it interesting how each kid is motivated by different things? I love your take on responsibility and I do need to offload the laundry task! Baby steps. I’ll get there! Loved your thoughts; thanks for sharing!
I’ve enjoyed reading all the ideas the moms have put out there. I saw a lot of neat summer job ideas for boys. But how about girls? It seems like in a farming community there are always lots of opportunities for boys to find summer work. Not so much for girls besides babysitting. I would love to hear suggestions from readers on this.
This is a great question, Nadia! In our family, at least for now, my daughter helps out with the outside jobs, too. I’d love feedback from others on additional ideas for girls, as well! 🙂
As a “girl” with one brother, when I was growing up there were no “boy” jobs/”girl” jobs. We did all chores together … list from my father during the summer and we both learned to cook, clean, grocery shop.
I wasn’t a “girlie” girl but I’ve never liked the dirty jobs, but did them and learned and I’m grateful. I know how to use tools and do home maintenance, even though at this point in my life, I often hire those things done.
And, over the years there have been plenty of brother-sister, husband-wife teams that have done things for me: washed windows, pressure washed house and deck, yard work, woods work.
If a child (boy or girl) is not interested in “dirty” manual kind of work for summer jobs, I’m guessing that in this day, there are plenty of households that might be interested in baked goods, freezer meals, meal prep, light gardening vs mucking the stables :), dog walking or just playing with a dog that needs some kid time, sewing/mending, other pet sitting/caretaking, tutoring younger kids …
My 2 cents.
Can you give a few examples of the “goals” that your kids have accomplished? Especially at younger ages like 4 -6 ? I like that idea and am having trouble coming up with ideas to share with my son for inspiration! Thanks!
Hi Erica – a few of the goals my 4-6 year olds have set over the years: read two Magic Treehouse books start to finish (the book could vary depending on age/reading ability), learn all their subtraction (or multiplication) facts, read a simplified scripture story every morning (my older kids have had personal goals of reading a certain number of pages in the scriptures each morning), learn how to make a simple presentation on google slides and share it with the family, learn how to use a knitting loom or latch hook, draw a family portrait and color it (sometimes it has taken several variations, but this has been fun – and I help them frame it for their dresser)
PS – your picture reminded me that my husband cleaned windows with a friend all through high school. It was a super cheap company to start. Some good ladders, good squeegees and rags, a little Dawn and water. They actually made pretty good money (for a teen it was great)! Power washing driveways or fences is another good one.
Super great ideas!
You are amazing and your kids are lucky to have you. My mind is swirling with summer ideas too. My kids really 7, 4, and 1. Honestly my kids don’t have to be entertained all of the time, but they aren’t ones to pretend and play on their own much either. I’m thinking it will be exercise (some) mornings – it’s hot and humid here! Followed by chores. Then an outing (library story time, grocery store, community pool, play date with friend, or another activity). Followed by lunch and quiet time. Then maybe a family craft/game/activity, cleanup, get ready for dinner, then a bit of family free time and fun before bedtime routine.
As for chores…love your charts. Truthfully I think what I need done changes each day based on the condition of the house. 🙂 so what seems to work best right now is a list of chores for each child, taped to the counter. They wake up to the lost on counter, check it off as they go, then turn it in to me when it’s complete. Then they get paid a teensy bit when they turn it in (the immediate reward works better for my kids verses waiting until Saturday to be paid or whatever).
You are a rockstar cook and a rockstar mom!!
Love your plan and your thoughts, Trisha! Thanks for sharing!
I get all excited about this kind of schedule. My kids are still young-ish 7, 4, and 2. But I’d like to implement something similar for the older two. But my hang up is what do you to do make them accountable – I always get excited about them helping….but what do you do for consequences or accountability? That’s where I need help!
Yeah, that’s been a huge question in this thread. Bedtime is our biggest incentive. If they don’t get their jobs done by noon, they have to go to bed early (for every minute it takes them longer than that to finish). Also, they know they will miss out on fun afternoon activities (sno cones, swimming, sprinkler under the tramp, etc) if their jobs aren’t done. When my kids were little, I found positive rewards really helped them. Like, an M&M for every job they completed, or a sticker chart.
This is an awesome post!! I have 8 kids and summers can be so painful (for both me and the kids!) when we don’t have a schedule in place! I love your ideas you share and that they don’t involve video games!! Thank you so much for sharing!!
Thanks, Malinda! Good luck (8 kids! you are amazing!)
I love this post!! Can I send my kids to live with you this summer???! 🙂 ha!
I printed your boredom busters for some new ideas! Thanks!! I love chore charts too.. ours are different but have worked for us for years and I couldn’t do without them!
Sounds like you have a good mix of fun and work!! (just like real life!) 🙂
Hope you have a great summer!!
Ps. We also have a septic tank– and we have our kids do all their laundry… no problems! 🙂 They usually do it all at random times during the week so it is all spread out… that’s what the septic guy said to do (ie: avoid all laundry on Saturday) It a huge thing to take off my list! Try it! You’ll never go back! 🙂
Haha, yeah, you would probably regret that when they learn all sorts of inappropriate behavior from my kids! 🙂 Thanks for the vote of confidence on laundry. I need to just let go of the control and let them do it!
Check out Read, Write, Type – especially for younger kids. It’s not just a typing program!
I love all of your ideas! My question is how do you keep them accountable for their responsibilities? Are there rewards if they do their jobs or consequences if they don’t do them? What does that look like? Thanks!
Our biggest incentive has been that their jobs have to be done by noon and for the time it takes them to complete AFTER 12:00 p.m., they go to bed that many minutes early (so if they don’t finish until 1:00 p.m., they go to bed an hour early). This rarely happens, because they are motivated to get their jobs done first thing. They really don’t get any friend/fun/play privileges until jobs are done.
I want to hear more about the trash can cleaning job! That is a great idea! Especially for my boys who aren’t quite old enough to mow lawns – especially the hilly yards of western PA…. what did they wear?? Did they use the owner’s hoses? How much did they charge? Did they just do the big outside garbage cans or kitchen garbage cans too? Those are definitely things i would pay a kid to do!
Hey Claire, I can’t take credit for it – my friend Beth helped her son start it a few years ago and my son helped him last summer (and then my two other younger kids did it on their own in a few separate neighborhoods including our own). They wore shorts, t-shirts and their muck boots (rubber work boots) and work gloves. I think they charged between $8-10 a trash can. They typed up fliers and put them on peoples’ doors or knocked and explained the system a few days before the garbage truck came around and the plan was that they would come by and clean out the newly emptied trash bins on trash day. In each neighborhood, we either had a good friend or family member that allowed the boys to use their house as the “base station” (and they used our house for our neighborhood and my friends’ house who started the whole thing for another neighborhood). The boys payed that person to use their hose/water (I think $5-10 a day) and we have a pressure washer they used and took to the “base station” house. They only cleaned the larger outside trash cans. So they would pick up the trash cans (2-4 at a time depending on how many kids were helping – they just wheeled them by hand), wheel them down to the house with the hose/pressure washer, clean them out, and then return them to the owner and go to the next house.
Expected to have a 40 hour a week job when they’re 16? Wow, intense. I’m certainly not one who thinks children should be pampered and waited on. But man, we have our whoooole lives to work hard and be responsible for all the things; I love watching my children play, read, swim, and generally decompress after all the hard work that is expected of them in the school year. There are no video games (at all) or much screen time at our house, so they’re definitely not being couch potatoes, but they’re being children, not adults in training. This is because I so appreciate the fact that I was allowed to do the same as a child. As long as I kept my room clean and did my part around helping with meals (set the table, load the dishwasher) and whatever occasional other chores I was asked to help with (which honestly were few and far between like weeding the big garden a couple times per summer) I spent the vast majority of my summer hours floating in our pool and playing pretend in our wooded area. Between three or four family vacations. And I still got an academic scholarship to BYU, graduated from there at 21, and have worked really hard ever since (after 10 years as a stay at home mom, I’m now a school administrator. . .and I make dinner from scratch every night and my home is nearly always somewhere between tidy and immaculate. . .not to brag, haha, just to paint a picture). Point being, unscheduled summers filled with play and being a kid did not make me a lazy bones with no work ethic. 🙂 Just a different perspective to think about. I’d be so sad if my kids missed out on that very rare (specific to childhood) experience of unstructured , carefree time. Most of us will never get another chance for that in our lives, so I protect it like crazy for my children!
Hey Kara – what’s so fascinating to me is how many of us are a product of how we were raised. I had very scheduled summers (haha, no surprise based on how I’m raising my kids), and I was also required to have a job every summer after I turned 15-16. The expectation was that I would pay my own way to college, and I knew I would have to save money before graduating to do so. So for me, I look back and even though it wasn’t always “fun” I am so grateful to parents who structured my life and summers that way – I attribute my work ethic to them. The cool part is that you are on the flip side grateful for parents who let you enjoy summer without a lot of responsibility. I really do feel like there is space in this world for all kinds of parents and all levels of responsibility for kids. At the end of the day, most of us are just trying to do our best even if that looks completely different from each other. My kids have quite a bit of carefree unstructured time during the day, but I’ve found with them (maybe it’s just my kids??) that TOO much unstructured time and everything kind of falls apart. I’m glad you’ve had so much success! I would never be able to claim my house is anywhere close to tidy or immaculate, so I DEFINITELY applaud you for that. That’s awesome! 🙂
I love this. I have been really bad about keeping on my girls and their chores. They help out when I ask them, but I think a more consistent system is something we all need. I have been thinking about our summer lately. My girls still have about 3 weeks left of school. We had a fantastic summer last year. While we did take our big yearly vacation, most of the fun was just here at home. I tried to devote one day per week to something in particular (library, swimming, etc.), so most things cost very little, if anything at all. With that in mind, though, we always made sure to spend a large amount of time outside. Being outside almost all the time, paired with our daily activity, made for a fun summer!
Love this, Christie – we also spend a ton of time outside, and I agree, it just makes for a fun summer, even if there are a lot of jobs, too. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I’m inspired Mel! Thank you
Thanks, Cheri. 🙂
I think your plans and aspirations/expectations for your kids and summer vacation are fantastic! As an educator, I wish more parents would focus less on all the summer camps and instead develop a schedule with expectations for reading, typing skills (love this especially! – no time to teach in schools anymore), regular chores, extra responsibilities, work, etc. You are doing the right thing and your kids will be better for these experiences. My youngest son started working part-time in a pizza shop in our town near the end of his 8th-grade year. (His older sister worked there and she was his “in”). When he was 16 and got his driver’s license, he had enough money saved to buy his own pickup truck that he paid for in cash, and he is still driving that truck today as a 22-year-old. He learned so much about the value of money, a good work ethic, etc. Matt always says it was the best thing for him, and he still managed to be active in school sports and other things that he chose to do. Good luck with your summer. I’m sure it will be hectic, but fantastic! Deb
Thanks for sharing that about your son, Deb! That really inspired me! All your thoughts were timely and what I needed to read!
You. Are. My. Hero.
Thanks for breaking it down. Don’t hate me for saying I’m still overwhelmed 🙂 This is something for me to work towards because I love a good schedule and you’re awesome for raising productive kids!!
Also I love your dress in the last pic…can you share where you got it? I love a soft, long dress 🙂
Haha, I would never hate you, Heidi – especially because I am still overwhelmed! Seriously, I think maybe I gave the wrong impression in this post that our summers go super smoothly, no one gets stressed, and everything runs like a well-oiled machine. That’s hardly the case, but I guess I kind of like a plan. So for better or for worse, it felt therapeutic to type out my plan. As for the dress, I’m pretty sure it came from either Lucy Avenue boutique or Mindy Maes. 🙂
I love your method of requiring a certain number of hours of work for kids! We too have talked about wanting out kids to work/start businesses. Could you do a post talking about that more? Specifically idea for jobs that young people can do?
Hey Meredith – I’ll definitely keep that on my radar for future posts, but until then I can share any details if you have other specific questions. First and foremost, we don’t really know what we are doing. Haha. We are just trying to inspire our kids to find something they love to do and create business-wise. As for specific jobs young kids can do, last summer we found that my 9- to 13-year olds could all do the trash bin cleaning business. That worked great. They made their own fliers, took them around, and stayed in our neighborhood or close by so I could monitor where they were going and who they were talking to (I don’t let them go inside any house to talk to adults). Another great business for younger kids is making and selling cookie dough. My kids have done that several times. They include instructions for baking on the container (they portion out the cookie dough into cookie dough balls) and presell using a simple flier.
LOVE your ideas here Mel (and all the great ones from your readers too!). My kids are already loving the art for kids hub youtube channel!
We too had “zones” for jobs for MANY years. Then last year I spent a week with my 18 year old daughter in a hotel room in NYC and discovered that this child (who is incredibly smart, responsible, and my very best cleaner) was NOT good at picking up after herself! As soon as I got home from that trip I decided I needed to teach my kids to become great at cleaning up after THEMSELVES! Rather than just being great at cleaning up a room. So we implemented “Leave No Trace”. It’s been a year now and they are definately doing better than they used to (but still need reminders).
In March we decided to tie in allowance with their effort around the house. AND we wanted them to receive and spend money consistently. So now my kids pay for their own cold cereal, treats for lunch, hot lunches, ice cream, clothing, sports, and whatever other “non-needs” they have. It has helped them be more accountable for keeping their rooms clean, “leave no trace”, and their daily kitchen job. They’ve also been more selective about what they want to buy and consume.
It’s actually been working great for our kids and I’m excited about what they are learning! I shared all the details here:
https://fabulesslyfrugal.com/kids-allowance-teaching-money-management-chores-and-responsibility/ (feel free to delete this part if you feel it’s an inappropriate share). I’ve just been loving this system for me and for my kids too and I get excited to share it!
Much love to you and thank you for your amazing work!
Thanks for your thoughts, Cathy – always love hearing them and gaining from your advice and expertise!
Thanks you for all your great ideas!! I love them all! Can we get the name of the cookbook the donut recipe comes in? Laura
Hi Laura, it’s called “Baking School” but it’s really focused on artisan bread recipes and much fancier baking than my kids ever do…however the donut recipe is the best one we’ve ever tried!
Laura, the donut recipe can be found online. Search “bread ahead bakery donut recipe”. The donut guy is Justin Gellatly.
I have a slightly different take on the cookbook “Baking School: The Bread Ahead Cookbook”. The bakery and school are very well known in the UK. The book has recipes from classic and artisanal baked goods from around the world, so while not focused on US only, most recipes are approachable and the book could be used as an educational tool if there was interest in world food history baking wise.
It is a big book and not inexpensive but a lot of fun if you’ve ever wondered about other country’s baked goods. I read a LOT and am always coming across some food item that I haven’t heard of …
I don’t have littles at home anymore, but I agree with having a plan. When I had kids home for the summer they were expected to do jobs as well. Every child in my home had a room in the house they were in charge of. They also had a part of the yard they were responsible for weeding. I have eight children so this worked really well. One would have the island one might have the front flowerbeds several of them might have a couple of rows in the garden. Besides their assigned chores they needed to draw two from the chore bowl. This is just strips of paper with odd jobs on it. Things that take under ten minutes. It may be a drawer in the kitchen or one shelf in the fridge. I know this sounds like a lot, but because they knew the routine, this all took less than an hour.
Lest you think I am a task master, we also had a lot of fun.
Monday’s we called “dig out day”, You know the day after Sunday’s day of rest. This was the day that we vacuumed and dusted, change sheets, etc.
Tuesday we called “Tightwad Tuesday” because in our area we could go to movies for a dollar.
Wednesday was “Water Wednesday”. We would go to a water park once out twice a month. The other Wednesdays were water balloons or floating the river or going to the lake.
Thursday was our errand day. I hate shopping, but it is a necessary evil. This day we ran all our errands, did the shopping, and went to the library. Ironically my kids loved it.
Friday was “Field Trip Friday”. It is pretty self explanatory. We do a lot of camping in the summer, usually just one night so we could be home for Sunda. But most times this was a picnic up the canyon, a bike ride somewhere, hiking. Rarely did it cost money.
My kids still had tons of time to play with friends. In fact most of the timer the growers came with.
Sorry for the long post. I loved summers and was always sad when my kids went back to school.
On a side note, we have the blue shaved ice machine, best purchase I have made in a long time. We have had it several years and in the summer it is used several times a week. We will have neighborhood kids come over and ask if we are doing shaved ice that day.
Thanks so much for your comment, Jill! I LOVE your summer plan – and your grown kids are so lucky to have had such a productive and fun system! I’m going to incorporate parts of it in our summer schedule, I think. Also, glad to have a vote of confidence on the shaved ice machine. We’ve used it the last two days, and I think we are hooked. 🙂
Wow! That is an impressive summer plan. I haven’t even thought about a plan but I like schedules. I have a 3 and 5 year old and my 5 year old was just in school 3 half days this past year so we are used to just playing at home a lot anyways. But I want to enjoy this last summer before kindergarten starts. However I like the idea of chores. What are good chores for 3 and 5 year olds?
Hi Mary – when my kids were right around 5-years old, I started having them help with the jobs I was doing…great jobs for that age in our house have been emptying bathroom trash cans and putting in a new liner, wiping down mirrors (yes, sometimes I have to redo), dusting, etc.
one word – WOW!
I admire how you aim to get your kids to work! Still working on that over here… Ha! My 11- (almost 12-) year-old just learned how to use the lawnmower, so I’m hoping he’ll want to try earning some money by selling his services to the neighbors.
Lawnmowing is such a great job for younger tweens and teens to do!
I always love to read your Friday thoughts. This particular one had some things I have been thinking about, but haven’t taken the time/had the energy to compile. So thank you! I am probably more like the mom you talked about that flies by the seat of my pants. I TRY to have a schedule/system. I am great with making the plans and not so great about following through. Don’t get me wrong, our lives aren’t chaos, but I would love more order. So thanks for sharing! My thoughts, particularly on teenagers working, are on the same line. My oldest thinks I’m taking away his free time and life, but he doesn’t realize that real life demands it, especially once he graduates. I know that he wants to serve a mission, but as much as we tell him how much work that’s going to be, unless he starts applying himself now, it will be too much then. Anyway. I got carried away. We all love you in our house. You have brought excitement back to my cooking life and praises from all of my children and husband. And all your advice is definitely noted and referred to. You are a rock star to me!
I agree with you, Jennifer – I’m not trying to make my teenagers’ lives hard…I’m just trying to help prep them for the life skills they need in a world that demands work. And we try to do it gradually instead of telling them at 13 they need to be working 40 hours a week. But it has had some painful moments as they think they have it harder than their friends (and maybe they do?? I don’t know). I had so many parents last summer tell me we were being too hard on our then 13-year old making him work 6-ish hours a week – several grandma-age women that I admire SO much told me even 16-17 year olds they know couldn’t or wouldn’t do that and I shouldn’t expect it of my 13-year old. I wish I could say it didn’t bother me, but I definitely had moments of feeling insecure about it and wondering if I was stealing his childhood. Ultimately, though, looking back, it almost makes me cry thinking of the skills he learned last summer, how much free time he STILL had, and how he’s mentioned at least 4-5 times since last summer ended that someone has told him he’s one of the hardest workers they know OR he’ll comment that he’s glad we’ve been willing to help him start a business and believe in him. I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers – we’re just muddling through like so many other parents, but I guess every parent has their thing they get fixated on, and teaching work ethic is one of ours. Phew! I got carried away, too. Sorry! 🙂
Thanks for this post. It has me inspired to get my act together for our summer. I have never been a “super efficient-stick to a schedule” kind of person and I greatly admire people like you who are! We have 5 kids, ages 11-3, so many of your chore ideas fit us perfectly. Here’s to a productive and joyful Summer!!
Good luck, Branwen! And let me assure you that I’m probably not as efficient as I appear. We definitely have those days where it all kind of falls apart, and that’s ok! 🙂
I dread summers because I live in Arizona. Summers, for me, are what winters are for the rest of the country. We’re having “mild” time right now (hovering upper 90s; has already been 103). I know 110, 111, 112 are coming soon.
With no pool in our yard…we get a little stir crazy around here.
I was just pondering redoing our chore lists (I’m a dedicated toilet scrubbing mom, too)…might try the “weekly” thing for the summer!
My friends in Arizona have said the same thing!! Summers are so brutal there! Good luck!
Man….reading this and some of the comments am I thankful for the parents I have…. I get making kids work and have some chores but they should also be able to be kids and have fun especially during a break adult life is hard enough I think kids need to be kids for as long as they can. I had chores and small jobs growing up but my parents wanted me to enjoy childhood and as an adult now those are my happiest memories. I now have a great paying job, college degree and family of my own so I did not end up being a slacker because of enjoying my childhood. To some of these moms, since your brood cleans your whole house for you and does outside work and helps you cook dinner what do you do all day long?
Hi Jay – that’s wonderful that you had a great upbringing. Your parents sound like they hit the awesome middle ground of teaching you to work AND encouraging fun! I’m sincerely glad you’ve been so successful. Each family has their own way of doing things, I guess. My kids work really hard, but they play really hard, too, and I definitely don’t think they are lacking when it comes to “kid time” or having a lot of fun – they basically play from noon until bedtime.
Thankfully because they help clean the house during the summer, I’m able to watch TV all day and eat my bodyweight in bonbons. Oh wait, that’s still just in my dreams. I can only speak for myself, but I feel busier than ever in the summer – double checking chores and jobs (and working from home) is not for the faint of heart! 🙂
Jay, hopefully you did not mean for your comments to sound as unkind and as insulting as they did. All parents have different methods of raising children. We can have different methods of parenting but still be respectful and nice.
As a mother of 5 children ages 26-11 I have much experience (positive and negative) and know what I speak of. Trust me, it is much, much, much harder and time consuming for a mother to teach a work ethic than it is to just “let kids be kids” and do the work for them.
A mother teaches children throughout their lives while in her home. You are teaching constantly by your example. Whether you are teaching that everybody pitches in to make a home happy and clean, or the parents do it all.
Please remember that the end goal of raising children (or a mother’s job) is to make sure her children do not need her, not make her children dependent on her for life.
Oh, and please talk nicely! 🙂
Laura, I agree! It’s much harder for me to take the time to teach each of my four children to do a task properly than to just do it myself. But that would be self-defeating, so I teach, I help, I supervise, and I check (as they progress in their abilities). As for “what do you do all day”, Jay, I can assure you that summer really means I have almost no time to be alone, and therefore the things that take concentration and quiet focus get pushed aside. We make time for the fun things, like swimming at the pool and getting popsicles, but it’s also good for kids to know that life doesn’t revolve around them or their summer break! I still make sure to get in my workouts (they have to come with me or I get up super early), we have to grocery shop, I have to cook and feed all these people every day, I have to do the laundry for six of us…it’s endless!
My children are grown now but when they were young our summers were always very unstructured. Lazy mom’s guide to summer fun? An author from my hometown once commented that she was raised in “wholesome neglect” and that really resonated with me. In hindsight there are things I might have done differently but I did love the relaxed feeling we had in the summer.
I was always trying something new for chores and ended up with a (theoretical) bucket full of unfulfilled dreams in that department. One thing the children liked was a set of jars–one with small jobs, one with bigger jobs, and one with prizes. They would draw out of the job jars never knowing what they would get and they liked the mystery of that. When the jars were emptied I would cycle the jobs back in and add new things whenever I thought of them. The prizes were things like “choose a treat to make” or similar, not toys and mostly free or inexpensive.
I think my biggest successes with chores were when the children thought we were all on the same team, not me against them. Chores are tough! I think I didn’t succeed the way I hoped to but for sure the things I regret most are when I forgot to let the love shine through.
Hi Gwen, I loved reading your thoughts. I actually really, really admire and enjoy hearing from moms who are wholly unstructured. It’s awesome. I wish I was wired a bit more like that. You sound like such an incredible mom…so focused on letting the love shine through. I loved that so much.
My oldest likes Dance Mat Typing.
Thanks for the recommendation!
Our summer system is a little but looser goosey around here. When our children were small, until our youngest entered kindergarten four years ago we had a much more rigid summer system, Fridays were beach days (We live on Lake Ontario) Tuesdays were our trip to the library, Thursdays were baking day etc. Now my children are all in school and I am back to work. My husband and I both work six days a week, every week, so fitting in summer activities is hard. We still find time though and usually decide the week before what family activity we would like to do on our Sundays together, sometimes it’s a day trip to the city or a theme park, but usually it’s the library or beach like we used to do. Aside from that our kids are at a babysitters some of the time. If my husband and I work alternating shifts and the children will only be home for an hour or two by themselves we leave a chore list to be completed by the time one of us gets home, after which, if the chores are finished there is some time to relax together as a family. It’s exhausting at times and while I used to love summers with the kids when I could be home with them I don’t so much now, with work and juggling schedules. I wish I could take some time off in the summer to spend with them again.
Thanks for sharing the perspective of two full-time working parents, Caitlin! I think it’s remarkable that you still try to fit in family activities on your one day off each week.
I’m a full-fledged grown up, recently a college grad (AHHHHHH). Not going to lie, I’ve been floundering a lot in these past couple of months with job hunting and having way more free time on my hands than I know what to do with or like. That job chart is inspired. I’m going to borrow it and tweak it for myself to hold myself accountable. My biggest problem has always been that when I sit down to plan out schedules like that, my mind blanks and I never get think of what needs to be done, especially for tasks that are weekly or monthly. I’m hoping this will help with that.
Between this and your Kitchen Rockstar pdfs, I’m hoping that I can get to a point where I’m adulting semi-reasonably. Thanks for all of your help! 🙂
Haha, it sounds like you are adulting WAY better than probably most people your age. 🙂
We bought a sno-cone machine last year. Ours is smaller – a Hawaiian Shaved Ice brand. But I was surprised at how much we used it! We broke even on the store bought sno-cones vs. homemade last year. This year, we don’t have to replace any supplies (except water) so it’s been totally worth it. Thanks for the ArtHub videos!
We watched one right away! Our summer plans consist of the community pool (Vegas is a hot, hot town in the summer!), chores, and reading/math skills. I love how you have things set up, I may copy some of that. Thanks for sharing!
I’m happy to hear you loved your sno cone machine! I hope we feel the same. Not sure yet. Glad you loved ArtHub!
Mel! Completely unrelated to summer schedules – but I did have a very happy Friday thought – that included you. I recalled you recommended Jambu shoes a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money. Lo and behold, on my weekly Costco trip today – there they were, the exact same ones, for $17. A very happy Friday thought and purchase indeed!
Serious??? That’s so awesome!
I LOVE Jambu shoes! That wide toe box is just what my daughter needs (she inherited my feet). But they’re tough to find in Canada; I’m so jealous of your Costco find!!
Thanks for the ideas. We have 3 weeks to go, and I was dreading summer. Now I have a few ideas to keep us all sane. Does anyone have ideas on on-line summer math programs? What do you do to keep up with math during the summer? (3rd grader and 6th grader here)
Khan Academy! Free and great for all school aged kids. Not just math either.
We like Khan Academy, but my kids LOVE prodigy (also free). A mixture between math and a battle game. When you get the answers right you succeed, but when you get them wrong, well, you lose. I also really like Xtra Math (also free). It tests you on quick math facts.
Hey Emily, I just use some old school math flashcards and a few math fact apps on the iPad. I haven’t ever had the energy to delve into full-blown math in the summer…we just do math games and math facts.
I love the idea of opening a little donut shop- what is the plan for making that happen? I have looked into my son selling cookies or something like it (he LOVES to cook and would be all over that idea for the summer), but it seems like in order to be a part of a farmer’s market or summer festival, there’s a pretty big price for setting up a stand to even get started. I know you can’t just sell from anywhere and I suppose I should look into what the rules are as far as selling at the park, or in front of Walmart or something…I’m wondering if you’ve found any good ideas for how to make that work…Love your summer schedule- I am much like you in how I like to organize- always fun to hear another mom’s ideas!
Hey Laura, that’s a great question. We should probably flesh out the business plan a bit, but he was going to keep it simple and create a flier with his business name and the details so people can preorder the donuts and he can deliver the donuts to each home fresh on Saturday mornings (or whenever he decides to do it). So I think the plan is that I’ll go around with him while he goes up to doors (probably starting with family and friends) and sells preorders of donuts. Does that make sense?
Haha you’re a great mom – not in spite of making your kids work but because of it! I make my kids work too. We do very similar things to you. There’s a job chart on the fridge that’s just a spreadsheet I print out each week. We do this year round. There’s also other jobs they’re expected to do each day like empty the dishwasher and clean up every meal. Part of the chart has a zone they’re in charge of having clean by the end of the day. So it’s similar to your room wheel.
I’m really liking your ideas. Given me some things to think about.
In the summer I also have some of the kids do a couple pages in a workbook each day. Summer Bridge and Summer Brain Quest are our favorites. I’m doing those for my 6-10 year olds. A few years ago I started giving my kids summer book boxes. I got them each a plastic box and I put their workbook in it along with several books they haven’t read (about 8-10.) I search Amazon for highly rated books for their ages. An easy way to find new ones is to search a book they’ve loved and look at the suggested books that come up or books others have purchased along with it. Most of the books I put in the boxes are from the library (I make sure to request them a few weeks before school is out) and I sometimes buy them one or two new ones (usually classics.) I got this book box idea from a blog but can’t remember which one! I present them their boxes the first Monday after school is out and they are always super excited about them!
Hey Maria, I LOVE the idea of that book box! Thanks for sharing that!
Love all of these ideas! My kids are a little younger – 6, 4, and 2. And a new baby arriving in the next few weeks. 🙂 This was the first year I had one in school, and with a new baby, I am not setting super high expectations for lots of accomplishments this summer. I want to put some sort of routine/schedule in place, and definitely keep up with some of the school skills, especially with my older two, but I think I’m going to be flying by the seat of my pants some days. And that’s ok. When my brain is a little less foggy from pregnancy and newborn sleeping schedules, I will have to come back and re-read this.
Oh yeah, Rachel, TAKE IT EASY this summer. I spent several summers after having new babies literally just surviving one day at a time. Most of those days, none of us ever got dressed, and I’m not even kidding. GOOD LUCK!!
So many wonderful ideas!!! Thank you!
When our kids were younger, we had a fantastic paper airplane book that involved a lot of measuring, cutting, and taping or gluing – kept the boys busy for hours! Last summer, two of my grown sons (ages 22 and 25) each bought another Norman Schmidt book and had great fun reminiscing and making paper planes again. They ordered this book https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1895569834/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 and this one https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1895569117/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.
Thanks for the idea! My boys will love that!
Thanks so much for the recommendations, Christine! Those books look awesome!
I found these books at my local library!
Great post Mel! I love the boredom list. I’m definitely making a copy for our board at home. Your system reminds me of the one we had growing up. I’m one of seven so we had rotating weekly chores so my mom could keep cleanliness and sanity in the house and also instill some responsibility and work ethics in us. It worked because I was always babysitting then got my first real job at 15. We definitely weren’t bored in the Summer, that’s for sure! Now my life is a little different. My husband and I both work so our Summers include camps for our girls but I try and mix them up with different activities to keep it fun and creative. We also make up a reading program to keep up with school and practice math facts. I’m definitely going to check out the typing website. Have a great weekend!
Thanks, Patricia! Sounds like you have a good system going!
You’re speaking my language girl! Structure all the way for us! Checklists, charts, schedules…all that stuff makes my heart happy. And honestly, for our family, our kids are much happier (in the long run) with structure.
I have a question for you. I have four kids age 5 and under. I love the IDEA of chore charts and daily chores and all that. But right now I’m sort of just trying to keep everyone alive and making sure our house is not a disaster zone. So what age was your oldest when you started this idea of chore charts and things like that? My oldest (5) is definitely capable of small chores (making her bed every day, putting dirty dishes in the sink). But sometimes just trying to keep the toddlers’ and baby’s physical/emotional demands met is so much work I can’t handle starting the chore system. I would love any words of wisdom you have about this 🙂
That’s a great question, Ashley. Remembering back to when I had the same situation (four kids ages 4 and under), I definitely wasn’t this structured. Not yet. We had this super simple chart with pictures on it for only my 4-year old that had things like: make bed, say prayers, put breakfast dishes in the sink. Things like that. He would put a sticker on the square when he did it and that was it. I would involve his help (and the younger kids as they could…but obviously, they were too little to do much) during the day. Picking up toys, etc. But I think it was when my oldest was probably 8 that we started with more of the structure. Does that help at all?
Thanks for all of these wonderful ideas. I really admire all that you do, and how you are able to make my own life easier and better in SO many ways!
Thank you! 🙂
If highly recommend listening to the summer survival series at the Lazy Genius Podcast. She is so great at breaking it down. Her first episode was more about expectations and not setting ourselves up for failure and re-framing your mindset so your summer works for your family. It’s a great listen!! She’s 2 episodes in and i cannot wait for the next one!!! I listen to her while I’m cooking your recipes Mel
Thanks for the recommendation! I’m always up for a good podcast and this one sounds great!
I love reading how you do things Mel- we would so be friends if we lived by each other. I do a very similar system during the summer. Last year I put them into categories of “building”- I had a theme of “we build because we are built to last!” And had categories: “building heart” “building home” “building brains” “building body”- each of those had a few tasks under it (under heart would be secret service and personal scriptures- Home would have their weekly and daily jobs and bedrooms —under brain would be school oriented stuff and music—- body was for exercise and creations made with hands) we also had a giant butcher paper up on our door leading to the garage that said “building together”- where we wrote stuff that we did together- watching sunsets, taking hikes, service together, temple trips, books read, new places we visited, etc etc. We loved having the theme all summer- my sister in Eagle, ID did it too so we bonded with the cousins despite living apart (we live in salt lake) what a special time we all have to share and learn together for a few short weeks, on our own schedule and in our own way! priceless! Enjoy your summer together everyone!
Wow, Sarah! That’s awesome! You take it to a whole new level…I love the the theme idea and I super love writing down the things you did as a family.
I am a single mom and back in the days when my girls were young, I started planning for summer in April. I made a 3 month calendar with their activities, vacation and daycare (which I tried to keep at a minimum both because of cost and impact on them). It was hair-raising for sure and a source of stress but it kept me sane at the same time.
When I was able to be home with them in the summer, I was determined to have slow mornings because school mornings were a zoo. When they were bored, that’s when I would decide what we were going to do.
Thanks for your thoughts, Becky! I think adding the single mom factor makes it even more of a juggling act; I like the thought of having slower mornings as a change to the craziness of school mornings!
I do a very similar schedule with my 5 kids, ages 10-1. They each have a summer checklist with chores, piano, math facts, etc., I even put toothbrushing on there as a (hopefully) freebie. I like the idea of using bedtime as an incentive. For us, once our kids fill their whole check list (usually about 7-10 days depending on what is going on), they can pick a DVD at the library. We are screen free, so this is a big incentive for them.
I saw on Instagram that your oldest has achieved Eagle Scout! Congrats to him and you! I’d love to hear more about how he was able to do this at such a young age (and how you and your husband encouraged him to complete the badges). It seems like completing eagle before high school might be easier in the sense that there are fewer demands on time.
Hey Kate! Thanks for sharing your summer schedule thoughts! And yes, my oldest did phase 1 of his Eagle Scout project today (that’s why I’m just barely checking in on this comment thread; it’s been a crazy day). He’ll do phase 2 next week. My husband is pretty passionate about scouting – in that, he likes to move the boys along at a quick pace because he remembers as a teenager losing some love for scouting as he got older, which makes earning the Eagle Scout harder (and I think you are right, once high school hits, which is this fall for my 14-year old, the demands on their time are harder and different). Anyway, my boys have thankfully been part of an active church troop with great scoutmasters over the years who have been diligent at getting them on the necessary number of campouts, having board of reviews, and generally keeping them progressing – and we (mostly my husband!) do the follow up to make sure the home requirements (like family life and personal finance and such) are being done at home. It is a TON of work. But I’m excited that my oldest will have his Eagle Scout at a relatively young age before his life gets busier.
Your kids are so stinkin cute! Your boys are so grown up and handsome! I was hanging onto every word in your post because I have been having anxiety just thinking about summer lol. I did a similar “system” last year where they had a list of jobs and life skills that needed to be done before they went outside. It worked pretty good. My kids just want to be outside from sun up until sun down so that’s where I struggle. All that time in the sun… Part of me wants to let them go play outside until noon and then come in for chores during the hot part of the day 🙂 But I love all your suggestions and tips. Especially for the older kids and work ethic. Maybe we need some chickens and cows 😉 We need to step up the work load for sure! Thanks a bunch!
I hear you! I’ve thought about flip flopping and doing chores in the afternoon – but so many of our jobs are outside because of our property that they’d still be in the sun. I am crazy about them wearing suncreen, which they hate sometimes. But I actually think it’s awesome your kids want to be outside so much! I think that can be rare these days.
I have done lots of different summer systems. How I feel about it fluctuates from year to year, often depending on the age of the youngest child/whether I am pregnant. This year will probably be pretty chill, because I have a 9-month-old and 5 other kids and I just need chill, rather than a lot of structure. I always pick out a couple of books to read aloud to the kids sometime during the day. Last year we read Snow Treasure and Number the Stars; this year I’m planning on Caddie Woodlawn and The Hiding Place. And if we can somehow manage to scrape the money together, I want to get a family pool pass and teach my 6-year-old to swim. We’ll do jobs together as needed, work in the garden as needed, and my oldest 2 (11 and 13) will have daily chores, as well as working together on dinner. But the rest will probably be free time. I feel like they get so much structure during the school year, it is good for them to have lots of free time in the summer. So that is the route we take…at least this year. 🙂
I love this approach, Anna. And I love that you can be flexible year to year. Good luck this summer! Six kids (with a baby!). You are amazing.
Update (now that it’s actually summer): since I remembered how much easier it is to keep kids from killing each other (and how much happier they are) if they have work to do and if they work WITH ME for part of the day, we are back to doing our previously perfected(ish) routine of dividing the house into zones and doing one zone per day all together. That and their individual chores have to be done before screen time (which is limited to half an hour per kid per day and can be done on the computer or the kindle), but otherwise the days are pretty open. It feels better to me than just waiting until things get super messy or chaotic before going into Drill Sergeant mode. And each day’s responsibilities are manageable (for them and me), and there is still lots of time for playing and being creative and getting bored. 🙂 Thanks for getting me thinking about this, it really does make a difference if I am purposeful about how we do what we do.
Love this! I love your site and loves so much of what you say, could I petition you to consider removing the part of this post that discusses not needing to seek counseling for your children? (where you are discussing that they complain they don’t get to do with their other friends do over summer ) Some kids counseling despite great parenting, and this is not a sign of failure. Using the lack of need of counseling as a sign that someone has made an acceptable parenting choice can lead other parents to think that seeking out counseling for their children as a sign of weak parenting, which I am absolutely certain you did not mean to say. People look up to you and if they see that you equate not needing counseling as a sign that you’re doing everything OK, I fear that will make them personally less likely to seek out counseling for their children even when it’s needed, regardless of what kind of parenting that child has received. And feel free to delete this comment! You are super awesome and if this is not an issue that’s touched your family I’m sure it did not even occur to you.
Kate – just wanted to chime in and agree with your post here! I know that Mel meant this in jest, but totally agree that we need to de-stigmatize counselling and this is one way we can all contribute. Thanks for speaking up. 🙂
And Mel – love your summer plans. I always get such great ideas from your posts, even though our summer looks very different from yours.
Kate and Jesse – thanks for the comments. You are right about this – I should have been more aware and thoughtful in my words, and I am sorry if I caused any hurt or upset because of my unintentional, lighthearted comment. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Hey Mel, What an awesome job you and your husband are doing raising your kids! Kids do need some structure and it sounds like you have a great balance of chores and free time! What you are teaching your kids will help them grow into productive adults. It is such an asset to send them off to college, knowing you have given them the tools they need to succeed! Learning to cook is a huge life skill because it has such far reaching effects into their adulthood. My husband and I have 3 sons and have done the same as your family. It is rewarding to see them turn into adults that know how to work, know how to cook, can do a great job of taking care of themselves and are just so much fun to be around! Our youngest just graduated from college, so I feel like we have done our job as parents to get them to this point. Parenting is not for the faint of heart, but definitely so rewarding.
Thank you so much, Lavonne! How rewarding to see your sons grow up to be wonderful, functional adults!
I have been reading your emails for years now. I have made a bunch of your recipes! So scrumptious!! Love reading about your trips too! I have 2 boys 12 and 15. They are home alone for the summer during the day. I always have given them suggestions each day as well. One old fashioned game I played with them, that your kids might like is “hide the button” . Cold if they’re not close and warm, hot, hotter, boiling if they are close. One person hides the button somewhere in the house while the others stay together in a designated spot. And I made obstacle courses outside. Thanks for all your great ideas for summer, games over the holidays and recipes! Have a great Summer!
Great ideas, Jane. Thank you!!
Hi there! Thanks for sharing your summer plans – it is motivating me to get a her chart in place for our young boys. Can you explain the wheel to me a little more? I see the names of the kiddos in the middle but what do the jobs mean? There is a smaller and bigger wheel that both rotate? Is the larger wheel areas of the house to be cleaned? To what extent do you have your kids clean these areas? Pick up of daily mess or a more detailed cleaning? Thanks for your help! You are an inspiration!
Hey Erin! So the only wheel that consistently moves is the names and they rotate around one space clockwise on Sunday mornings for the new week. Technically, I made it so the other wheels can rotate, too, in case I want to change things up, but we don’t often rotate the other wheels. The middle green circle is mostly animal jobs, also a space for garage trash (if we throw boxes out there that need recyclying), and wiping down the guest bathroom. As for their big “room job” – they just walk through it, pick it up, and make sure it’s mom-approved. Very rarely I’ll ask them to vacuum it, but usually it’s just a pick up and quickly organize type of thing. Does that make sense?
I’m glad I’m not the only one who comes up with a summer schedule/system for my kids. Thanks for the ideas!
You’re welcome, Brittany!
I am absolutely AMAZED at the similarities between us! 5 kiddos nearly your’s ages, schedule freak, concerned about work ethics… I could go on and on!! Are you also a first born? I think we could be great friends!! I’ve been following you for a few years now and never get tired of reading your blog, no matter the content.
This post has encouraged me immensely…given me a sense of being on the right track and courage to implement a system. Also love some of your ideas and want to try them, especially getting the children involved in cooking and using early bedtime as a motivation. We own a mobile donut business so the 13 and 11 year old get to help out about 3 days a week during the summer which helps in a number of ways, but I still need to work with the younger ones. I wish I had ideas to share but in reality you’ve far surpassed all the ideas I had thought of!!! Thank you seems inadequate!!
Sorry about the testament! Maybe should have sent you a private email?! Just want you to know you’ve been a blessing to me today!!
Haha, no, I’m 2nd born, but I’ve always been a little bossy and high strung like some first borns. 🙂 My son would DIE to be in your family with the mobile donut business. That’s such a great way to get your kids involved working. I love that! Thanks so much for your sweet comment, Julianna. 🙂
Love your ideas and for sharing what works for you. I have 3 boys ages 12, 10, and 8, and I think half the battle is keeping the system fresh each summer. I’ve also found for us that it needs to be flexible, as some days/weeks some of my kids have more free time than others, depending on if they are doing a camp, have a baseball game, etc. CHORES: A system a friend recommended to me works for us: I made a bunch of cards with the common jobs we have, then “laminated them” with packing tape to make them durable and waterproof (because, boys). It is super easy and fast for me to change what the needs are each day. I keep one card as “Mom’s Choice” for anything that comes up out of the norm. I posted an example pic so you can see what I’m talking about: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/255649716333383722/ . SCREEN TIME: All chore/reading/active time cards must be done and flipped, then you get 30 minutes with a timer. if you watch your brother on screens, that time counts against your 30 minutes. WORKING: We make our 10 and 12 year olds contribute significantly towards their sleepaway camp cost – our hope is that it helps them appreciate it more that they EARNED the right to be there. They spend the first days of summer working on their plan for how they are going to raise their money, and I usually help them make flyers, etc. They have done lemonade stands, sold homemade protein bars, and done pet sitting. They’ve already been brainstorming their ideas for this year, including picking up pet poop for neighbors (there is a market for this believe it or not!). I was looking for typing ideas for my 12 year old, so thanks to all who have shared ideas! Looking forward to hearing ideas from others – thank you for this post!
All of this resonates with me, Elena! Thanks for including a picture of your cards. I like the “mom’s choice” idea – we did that with our laminated cards a couple years ago, I but I might include that this year, too. Thanks so much for your thoughts!
Melanie I want to more like you! You are one amazing mom and I want to thank you for all the hard work you do to keep your blogging up and going! I loved this post and it has given me many ideas for my boys. Just last night I was thinking oh great school gets out soon what are we going to do? I kind of dread summer but always sad when they go back to school. So thank you again for this very insightful blog today! I love you Melanie I am so glad we are friends!
Haha, you are way too sweet, Meri. You know me in real life which means you know I am FAR from amazing. It’s scary, really. 🙂
Wow Mel. Clearly you already have this very well thought out.
My kids are raised and cleaning their own bathrooms now(!) but we approached things similarly, with some responsibilities and plenty of down time too.
One “job” you might consider adding is what we called “see what needs doing”. Part of growing up and being responsible, in our way of thinking, was taking initiative and noticing a need without being told. It was sometimes interesting what they found to do…clean out the Tupperware cabinet, dust all the ceiling fans, pick all the weeds from the brick walkway. Sometimes they see at a different level than we do, and notice things we wouldn’t.
One little nag Mel….I know this was said for humor : >I console myself knowing we haven’t had to seek counseling for any of them (yet),<
However, as a parent who did need to seek counseling at an early age for a daughter with an anxiety disorder, this kind of stung. Some things are out of our or their control, and mental health shouldn’t be a laugh line…to me. I do pray that your kids continue to be well-adjusted, happy, and never bored!
“See what needs doing ” is a great chore idea!
Kendra, thank you! Love the idea of “see what needs doing”- for me as well as the other family members. Spelling it out as a chore helps share the mental work as well as getting the job done. I am going to start doing this right away.
And, totally with you on the counseling note. Very grateful for professional care to help our family and loved ones heal and thrive.
And Mel, wow. You rock. Your loving and practical words are such a gift.
Happy Summer to all!
Tina and Kendra – I’m sorry if my lighthearted, misplaced comment caused any hurt or upset. I should have been more aware of my words, and I am very sorry! I agree that counseling and therapy can be intensely helpful and a huge blessing…and I shouldn’t have made light of that. My kids certainly are not perfect or 100% “well-adjusted” – we definitely have our own struggles, and because of that, I should have been more careful with my words. So very sorry!
Thank you Mel. I never thought you presented your kids as perfect, and I admire the way you keep it real. Have a great weekend!
Thank you, Mel, and bless your heart, as my grandma used to say. You help so many everyday, and not just with cooking (though that’s no small feat!), but with your great sense of humor and grace.
I’m so pumped to see that part of your routine is to practice math facts! I’m a middle school math teacher and this is so important to help kids stay fluent in math. I just wrapped up my year and told all my students the same thing. You’re an amazing mama with such practical ideas that I’m going to steal. Thank you for creating such delicious meals for my family!
Thanks, Kristin! 🙂
We have the blue model snow cone maker you linked, and we love it! It’s the perfect cool treat during the summer, and since we just use concentrated Crystal Light/store brand drink mixes for flavoring, it’s not even a sugar bomb of a treat. 🙂 Also, it automatically makes you the cool mom with any friends that come over. Our kitchen is not big by any stretch but we make room for it on a tiny table in the corner all summer long. Hope you guys love yours!
And I’m with you, giving kids structure during summer saves my sanity!
Oooh, great idea on the mixes for flavoring. I hadn’t quite figured out what to do about that. I was thinking I might need to set up a permanent table in the corner of the kitchen. 🙂
You are way more organized than I was when my kids were young. My guys worked hard in a strict private school so I basically gave them summer off with a few stipulations. At the time I felt they would be working most of their adult lives and I wanted them to have the freedom that only children can feel in the summer. At least that’s what I had when I was young and I still remember how wonderful my childhood summers were. So, they did have to read and practice violin and piano and play outside…no TV’s or computers in bedrooms! Plus they did their own laundry from the age of 10 which my sisters thought was horrible. I say if they can work a DVD player they can manage a washer and dryer. Enjoy the summer! The time goes by so quickly.
Thanks for your thoughts, Teresa! I actually really like the idea of “summers off” especially if they have such a strict school year. I wouldn’t say the schools here are very rigorous, unfortunately – even my middle schoolers rarely had homework during the school year, so maybe that’s why I justify so much structure? Who knows. Anyway, I always love hearing from you and what you did as a mom!
I love this post! I’m sorry if you’ve already shared in the past- or purposely avoided the topic ha- but would you mind sharing how/what you do to manage tv/video game time? It seems like your family always has so much non-screen time fun!!
Haha, I haven’t avoided it (at least I don’t think so). I kind of touched on it a few Friday Posts ago about smart phones for teenagers, but screen time/video games/tv is still something we “manage” during the summers. We are definitely not screen-free, but I would say my kids are pretty limited – mostly because we’ve never really centered life around a screen. Meaning, my kids don’t expect it. I guess their expectation is actually “mom probably won’t let us have screen time” so when I DO, it’s highly exciting. Usually in the afternoons when it’s super hot outside or we all need a little break or downtime, if they’ve done their jobs well, quickly, and without a lot of hassle, they’ll get 30 minutes to an hour of screen time. The only video games we have are super old school Wii games, but they still love playing them. Thankfully they don’t give me a lot of grief when I remind them screen time is over. They just pick up with what they were doing before. In the past, I’ve picked one day every summer (without telling the kids when it will be) where after jobs are done, they get unlimited screen time. It sounds crazy, but they go NUTS when I tell them. Basically, I’m like, if you approve through me what you are doing/watching, you can do it for as long as you want. They think it’s awesome and like they won the lottery. And I laugh a little every year when after a couple hours, they’re all kind of bored and they turn off the TV/Wii and head outside to play basketball or pick up a book or whatever. We do a lot of family movie nights on the weekends all together, too.
Thanks for taking the time to answer! My kids are still little but I’m really hoping we can find a happy medium with screen time. I missed the other post and will have to go back and read it as well :). Also about the unlimited screen time day. So fun!
Laura, not sure if this is helpful or not when it comes to how to manage screen time. Just thought I’d share (feel free to delete if this isn’t an appropriate place to share). https://fabulesslyfrugal.com/how-i-use-chores-to-keep-my-kids-motivated/
Oh summer, I definitely have a love/hate relationship. Our summer looks fairly similar, I have 5 kids about the same age as yours. In the morning we do chores, 30 min of reading, 30 min piano/cello. Each kid is also required to come up with a summer project. Something they can work on each day, like a sewing project or my son wants to do a coding project. Also I help each of my kids spring clean their rooms the first week or two. It is a good time to help them donate clothes that don’t fit and toys they don’t play with any more. Plus get rid of all the papers and random things that collected over the year. We also go to the pool once a week and we usually meet up with my sister about every other week to go hiking, or to the zoo or a museum.
My 14 year old boy is working at a scout camp this summer. Since he is not 15 he can only be a counselor in training but he will be gone for 4 weeks and he is super excited to be on his own and doing all things outdoors which he loves. Next year he will be old enough to work the whole summer at camp. My goal for the summer is hiking. I used to take my kids hiking several times thru the summer until my youngest. It was fine when I could pack her but when she got too big for the pack I realized she is the worst hiker ever. She is 5 which I know is young but she can not go more than about a dozen steps with out crying and complaining that it is too hard. We live at the base of a mountain so my goal is to take them up the trail each week. Each week we are going to try to go farther than the last time. I would love to make it to the top by the end of the summer but it is 4 miles and I don’t know that the 5 year old can make it. But I love to get out into nature and the other kids do too. One last thing we are doing is having an 80s movie night once a week. I think it would be fun to introduce them to some of the movies I loved watching as a kid. Plus when I was a kid my Dad used to force us to watch old westerns that he loved and I am passing on the tradition 🙂
Oh yes, we do the room cleaning thing the first week of summer, too, and it is liberating. It’s so nice to get rid of all the junk lurking in the corners and the closets. I love, love your emphasis on hiking. I need to do more of that with my kids because I know they would love that. Maybe that gradual approach will get your cute 5-year old all the way up the mountain by the end of summer! Good luck with that! And I am loving that 80’s movie theme. We had the kids watch Karate Kid and Flight of the Navigator a couple months ago. Those movies were epic.
What typing software/learning program are you using for your kids? My daughter will definitely be doing this over the summer.
We just use typing.com but it is definitely no frills and kind of boring. There have been some other good recommendations in this thread, though!
These are awesome suggestions! Thank you! What do you do about consequences if a child does not complete the assigned jobs? My kids are bit older than yours 10-16yo, and we’ve struggled in years past with this issue.
Hmmm, great question, Melissa. Our standard has been that their bedtime moves up as they continue to prolong doing jobs (so for every 30 minutes past noon, their bedtime moves up 30 minutes). That has been motivating for my kids.
You amaze me. I was overwhelmed reading your post. I have five boys 16 to 6. The oldest will have a full time summer job, and the next two mow lawns for neighbors and take care of the landscaping at a family owned business.
I am super simple when it comes to chores. I like a schedule, but I just need simple. Each of my kids has a dish night once a week where they must clean up the whole kitchen after dinner. They each have a laundry day where the laundry room is theirs and they must get all their laundry done and out for the next person the next day. Then we have a list of “Zones”. Each person has a zone assigned to them that they need to keep clean. We rotate the zones every 2 months.
In the summer we have our big cleaning day on Mondays: all their zones, rooms, bathrooms, get cleaned, garbage taken out, etc. (during the school year this day is Friday. Chores done before playing)
I need to be better about making them make beds and keep room clean everyday, but sometimes enforcing that once a week is all I can handle 🙂
They have a list of small things to do before play time (and after chores) such as reading, math facts, and doing something kind for someone.
I love how you set goals for the summer. I am going to do that with my boys!
And, again, you amaze me and make me tired 🙂
I think YOU are amazing, Jessica! It’s funny how just reading someone else’s system can be overwhelming. That’s how I felt reading yours. Maybe we actually are just doing things similarly? Haha. I don’t know. Anyway, it sounds like you have things really together and not just in the summer!
I love your summer ideas!! I just wanted to quickly comment with a typing website my 9-year old son loves. It is nitrotype.com, and it is a car racing game. The faster you type, the faster your car goes.
My kids do that one too. They love it!
Thank you! We need a fun one.
As soon as my boys learned the keyboard through typing.com, they fell in love with using Nitrotype.com to increase their speed. Nitrotype does not teach the keys and finger placement.
Thanks for the recommendation, Elizabeth!
Thanks for sharing all of your ideas! I would really like to get my kids (15, 12, and 12) doing more jobs around the house this summer to keep me sane. They always empty the dishwasher and take turns setting and clearing off the table. In the summer the past couple years they have had to sweep and mop the wood floor, pick up their rooms, and each clean section of their bathroom. There were other daily chores that they had to get done. As their incentive , they had to get them all done before they could play games on the computer or iPad. That part worked great, except for managing the amount of time they play and watch. I noticed you don’t mention much about this, it is my BIGGEST challenge and makes me dread the summer. They get one hour a day, but it seems to drag on way longer. Either they are waiting for things to load or…I don’t know what… It always seems they play longer than the hour. We have tried all different things to keep track. A timer, writing it down, etc, and nothing seems to work well. Do you (or anyone else) have any ideas for this? It makes me nuts! Thans again for all your ideas though. I will see how we can implement some of them into our summer schedule!
We use an app called Screentime. It works great for monitoring phones and ipads! It has a feature for extra rewards/time.
We use screentime too! LOVE IT!!! (screentime labs)
We use Disney Circle to manage screen time and it works great!
I don’t think you are alone, Rebekah! I think the screen time issue is a challenge with so many of us moms! My kids have limited screen time – similar to how you describe. About 30 minutes to an hour after jobs are done and usually in the hot part of the day when we all need a little down time. It sounds like there are some good recommendations for managing the time aspect. I usually just set the timer on the microwave, and they know if they go over or don’t stop on time, they won’t get screen time the next day. But it’s definitely not a perfect system.
I don’t like keeping track of screentime or being asked all day if they can have some, so this summer I’m going to make the 11:00 hour screentime hour. Whoever has finished their list (chores, dressed and ready for the day, reading, some outside time, etc…) can be on the screen starting at 11 and off by noon. If they’re not done with their list they can’t start screen until they’re done but it still ends at noon. This gives motivation to finish chores early. We often do “screen free” weeks so if they aren’t sticking to the plan (still asking for screen at other times, not getting off on their own at noon, fussing about wanting more) then we will start a screen-free week.
This is a great idea, Jill!
YES!!! My kids are 12 & 13 and with both of us working outside of the home they will have quite a bit of alone/free time on their hands this summer. I already printed out “chore” charts to provide weekly but your ideas to have them typing, planning meals, cooking, baking, etc. never really crossed my mind (maybe because I’m so excited to come home to a clean house? Ha!). Great topic, thank you!!
Haha…good luck, Melanie!
Sometimes I feel the planning and organizing of a project (charts, lists, research) is more enjoyable than the project itself…am I alone here?!? As much as I love my schedules, they were ALWAYS interrupted by LIFE! Living in a neighborhood full of kids, I always said yes to invitations for my boys to join a friend for activities we weren’t planning for them…day trips to a beach, kids museum, amusement park or to enjoy a new activity we did not have access to such as sailing, horseback riding, etc. (I think living so close to other kids is a boredom-buster in itself!)
Yeah, this can be so true, Sandra. We don’t live by any neighbor kids – we’re kind of in an isolated spot in our little town – so my kids don’t have the neighbor kids to act as a boredom buster, but I can see how that does interrupt the schedule a bit more!
Yes, Sandra! I feel the same way. Things sometimes come up during the day in the summer, whether it’s friends calling and asking to play, relatives stopping by, errands that pop up that need to be done. I’ve had to make peace with only doing a summer schedule some days and not every single day. It makes me feel better if I just expect that unexpected things happen and it’s ok if the kids don’t do their chores/math facts/piano practice a few days each week. I just aim for this kind of schedule 2-3 times a week or so and that’s good enough for me. 🙂
Mel, you continue to amaze me!!! Thank youfor a very timely and well- written post! Just last night I was laying in bed, wondering how on earth I was going to set the summer up for my family. We’re moving from the littles stage to the school age stage and it’s a new chapter that I’m not sure how to write yet. Thanks for sharing all your awesome mothering advice and experience! Happy Friday!!
Thanks, Amy! Good luck this summer!
Great ideas! I am particularly curious to know how you handled chores and schedules when your kids were younger. I have four boys ages 9, 7, 5, and 3 with a 6-month-old baby girl. They have daily chores, but it seems like some days all I do is nag them to get them done and then there’s no time for fun and they’re mad at me. Anyway, just wondering if you have any sanity-saving tips to get chores done quickly in this phase of life! Also curious as to what ages you had your kids start doing certain things, like making meals, etc. I never know if my expectations are too high or too low.
I hear you, Julie. I’ve done (and continue to do) my fair share of nagging. We’ve always had a simple system: jobs done by noon or you go to bed 30 minutes early for every 30 minutes extra it takes you to complete the jobs. That has seemed to motivate them pretty well, and I’ve really really tried not to say ANYTHING to them besides gentle encouragement in the morning (even if they are rolling around on the carpet doing nothing!) so that I don’t spend the morning nagging. When my kids were ages 5 and younger, I gave them very, very simple jobs – ones they could do on their own (pick up their room) – and then jobs they could do to help me. I’m trying to think of ages my kids have done certain tasks – for meals, we’ve done it ever since my oldest was 6 or 7, but him “making dinner” was really just being in the kitchen helping me or Brian with simple things (cutting olives, putting fruit on a plate, etc), and then as they’ve gotten older and wanted more independent cooking responsibility, we’ve let them. My 10-year old right now requires less assistance with his meals/cooking than his older brothers just based on interest level, so each kid has been different (but by the time they are 12, I expect that they can make a simple meal by themselves if I’m close for questions).
This is what I was thinking. My boys are 8, 6, 3, and 1 and I’ve been trying to come up with a summer plan. This post was timely and inspirational, and yet at the same time had made me want to crawl in a hole and die. But really, mel I appreciate all your tips! I want to be a good mom who does the hard work of helping my kids learn to work. I have to remind myself it’s just one day at a time!
Thank you for the awesome recommendations! They are fantastic as usual. I was wondering what you use for practicing typing?
I want to know as well! I have a 10 and 11 year old and this is a GREAT idea!
Oh shoot, I meant to include this. In the past, we’ve used Typing Instructor for Kids (actual software you buy) but it didn’t play nicely with my mac, so now we just use typing.com. It’s a little boring (no frills and games) but it gets the job done and every time they finish a level, they can play a game (tons of free ones online, but here’s a fun one they love: http://www.abcya.com/kids_typing_game.htm)
Would you be willing to share the name of the donut book your son uses?
I love all your chore scheduling and encouragement to teach good work habits. I want to be that organized!
It’s called “The Baking School” – it’s an artisan bread book, so I’m not sure it justifies the cost just for the donut recipe, but if you love bread making, it’s a great book.
Who is the author on that? I’m looking to buy it for my sister (for the breads and the donuts both!) but can’t find it. “Baking School: The Bread Ahead Cookbook” comes up and maybe that’s it? Just want to make sure! 🙂
yes, that’s the one! Mathew Jones is one of the authors.
Thanks for the all suggestions! Some of these will work for our cross country road trip (pray for us!)
Oh wow! Fun!