Planning fun activities to keep the kids busy this summer

School has been out for the past 10 days. That means it is time to write my annual “What we are doing this summer” post. The kids are now 10 and 13. As they get older, it gets harder and harder to find things that they want to do. But if left to their own devices, they would…be on their devices or the Xbox all day. So, to give them a break from the electronics and to put an end to the bickering that always seems to crop up lately, I have come up with some things we will be doing this summer.

Water Park/Pool

I love the free option of our neighborhood pool, and we plan to go there a few times a week. I prefer to go in the morning because we often have the place to ourselves, but if we go in the afternoon, we have a better chance of running into classmates or friends. Either way the kids have fun.

We also have a season pass to Six Flags Fiesta Texas. While it is too hot to enjoy the theme park rides during the hot summer days, the water park offers a fun afternoon.

Zoo/Bowling

In addition to the season pass to Six Flags, we also have a membership to the Zoo. As the kids get older, the zoo holds a little less appeal, but we will make it there at least once this summer to see the new dinosaur exhibit. We also have a membership to a local bowling alley that allows us to come every day if we want to bowl up to three games a day. That sound like a little much but a weekly trip is in our plans.

Life Skills

Two summers ago, we went over some “life skills” which included laundry, bank/credit cards, renting vs owning, cooking, and other things to help them survive out on their own. Since, they need the practice, we will continue with having them do laundry and some additional cleaning chores. And Jase has expressed an interest in doing some more cooking lessons.

Violin/Typing/Cursive lessons

During the summer, getting Jase to practice his violin instead of playing video games can be hard but luckily, he still has his weekly tutoring sessions, and Dr. K will certainly expect him to practice between meetings.

Jase also has decided that this summer he wants to learn to touch-type. I have found a few online free programs, so we will be working on their typing skills. And lastly, I want to work on cursive writing, which we tried to work on in a previous summer break. While Lexie likes writing her name in cursive, Jase doesn’t see the point. But neither kid is good at it, and neither one can read cursive so time for more lessons.

While in the past, I have had them do school work in the summer to avoid the Summer Slide, I don’t have any concrete plans this year to have them do school work, but I figure we might get a bit in here and there.

Trips

And in between these activities, we do have two trips planned. The first is a short three-day trip to Bastrop, Texas. This is a work trip for my husband as he attends the annual city attorney’s conference. While he hears lectures, the kids and I go to the water park, ride bikes and enjoy the other amenities the resort has to offer.

And then in August we have a family Alaskan cruise planned. This trip will be more than just our family of four. My parents and brother are also coming on the trip. We have some fun excursions planned, plus the kids are just excited to be going to Alaska. I will be sure to post more about this as it gets closer.

Overall, I think I will have enough option available to keep the kids busy rather than bored…or more importantly off their electronics for some of the summer.

 

Cooking with the kids

This summer I worked on teaching my kids what I called Life Skills. We worked on doing the laundry, discussed money, banks and saving for the future, and we cooked. I wanted to teach them the skills that they will need when they go off on their own – even though they have many years before that becomes necessary.

And one of the skills I think everyone should know is the basics for cooking. They need to know more than just how to use the microwave. I wanted them to be able to read a recipe and plan out a home-cooked meal.

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Jase (age 2) making scrambled eggs.

Now this summer wasn’t the first time the kids have helped in the kitchen. They had washed dishes before as well as stirred or added ingredients to a pot. Jase loved to beat eggs for scrambled eggs when he was a toddler even though he didn’t eat the eggs.

And started them off at young age is really the best way for them to learn and be comfortable in the kitchen. Yes, it is easier to banish them from the kitchen so that you can cook in peace. But there are many benefits to inviting them to help.

  • Helping in the kitchen can encourage them to try new things. Kids often are willing to try a meal that they helped prepare.
  • Working in the kitchen also helps them learn planning ahead. Not only do you need to have all the ingredients, you need to plan it so all the dishes in a meal get down at close to the same time.
  • Cooking in the kitchen helps reinforce reading (the recipe) and math (adding and fractions).
  • It teaches them to appreciate the chef. Putting a home cooked meal on the table takes time and effort.
  • It builds their self-confidence and self-esteem as they learn a new task.

And don’t think your toddler is too young to help. Even small kids can help tear lettuce for a salad or smash crackers to cover the chicken. Here is a link to a list of age appropriate tasks for kids in the kitchen.

There are also plenty of websites and cookbooks out there with kid friendly recipes and tips for introducing your kids to the kitchen and to cooking.

As for my summer lessons with the kids. They went well. Both of them made a dessert – frosted brownies from scratch for Lexie and cookies for Jase. They learned how to make their favorite meal – Zippy Beef & Mac Casserole.

I also had them each pick out a recipe, shop for the ingredients and prepare the whole dinner. Jase made chicken drumsticks that were a hit with Lexie. He loves French fries so that was part of his dinner though we just used the frozen type. Lexie made cracker chicken and skillet potatoes – two of her favorites.

Yes, cooking with the kids might mean more of a mess in the kitchen and it might take twice as long to make a recipe but I firmly believe the benefits certainly outweigh the negatives. With school starting we have slowed down on cooking together but maybe I will start having them help on the weekends.

 

Teaching my kids life skills

My kids are 8 and 11 and while they do some chores around the house, I know there are many things they don’t know how to do that are just part of living. When in college, there were many students who had never had to cook or do laundry before. And don’t even get me started on the amount of people who have little knowledge of how to handle money.

So to better prepare my kids for life (or just to have them help out around the house more), I decided this summer we would work on some “life lessons.”

There are tons of websites out there that list what type of activities kids should be able to do at every age. I started there and have been adding items to my list as I think of them.

Money

As I said, my concern is that they will not know how to handle money. We currently give them a small allowance which has let them learn about saving up for bigger purchases and only buying what they can afford. But they see us all the time using debt or credit cards. I just didn’t think they had a good enough understanding of how that pays for the items we need.

budget discussion

Budget worksheet for the kids…we used monthly incomes of $1200, $1800, $3000 and $4000.

So far, we have talked about bank accounts and debit cards versus credit cards. We have talked about the difference between a want and a need. And we even worked with budgeting our money using Monopoly money (see photo for our worksheet). The top of the page had them first putting money aside for savings. This is a point I plan to stress to them a lot – you don’t spend everything you make. You need emergency money. And of course that you buy the things you NEED before the fun stuff.

Household Chores

My kids have washed dishes, swept, vacuumed and cleaned windows before but there was still a whole bunch of additional cleaning chores that we went over. We did the sorting, washing, drying and folding of the laundry. They changed the sheets on their bed, learned how to start the dishwasher, set the table and the basics of sewing – threading a needle, putting on a button, fixing a small tear.

Cooking

One of my favorite sections (and the kids’ favorite) has been cooking. I have shown them how to use the can opener and microwave. We have followed a recipe as well as bought groceries (which included price comparisons) and learned about expiration dates and reading labels.

We have made brownies and cookies from scratch as well as ice cream, and each child has made dinner by themselves.

General

And last but not least there have been discussion on things that didn’t seem to fit into any of the above categories. We have practiced making 911 calls, discussed making calls to businesses and taking messages for incoming house calls as well as giving a firm handshake when you meet someone. I have drilled in our phone numbers (house and mobiles) as well as our address (including city and state). Lexie still has trouble with this but Jase has known his since he was 5.

Just last week we also talked about general first aid information even though both kids have been doctoring their own cuts with bandaids for a few years.

It has been a productive six weeks, and I will continue looking for more things to introduce them to during the rest of the summer. Of course, I don’t expect to stop when school starts. I think I will always be on the lookout for more things to share with them. It just is amazing how often we do stuff for our kids rather than spending the time to explain it to them or better yet having them help us. And then we wonder why they don’t do anything for themselves!