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.

 

Summer is here…now to keep the kids busy

The kids had their last day of school on June 2. Now we have the whole summer ahead of us.

What to do to keep them busy rather than fighting with each other? I have some ideas…

Swim Lessons

Last summer, the kids took an 8-day swim class put on by Swim America. They really enjoyed it and asked to do that again this summer. From Monday to Thursday for the last two weeks in June, we will be at the pool each morning for swim lessons. Maybe this year, Lexie will get to level 4 – the level needed to be considered a proficient swimmer.

Camp

A flyer came home from the kids’ school at the end of April, which listed some week-long camps offered through the school. Some are all day camps, and some are just morning or afternoon camps. Jase didn’t do a camp last year, so I was hoping to find something he would like.

He chose a Video Game Design camp aimed for kids age 9 to 13. Lexie who loves to draw and loves dogs found the perfect camp with The Secret Lives of Pets art class. She will learn how to draw anything with feathers, fur or scales.

Both camps are in July but unfortunately are not the same week.

Water Park/Pool

DSCN0132It is awesome that our neighborhood has a pool as that is free entertainment. We typically head there a few times a week. I like mornings because we 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 and can practice their swimming.

We also have a season pass to Six Flags, which includes their water park. We usually hit this about once a month.

School Review/Life Skills

OK, I am the type of mom who likes to make sure my kids don’t have that summer slide – this is where kids lose some of the knowledge they learned in school. We will practice math facts and of course do some reading. (Both the school, the library and a few book stores offer reading programs.) I am not talking about a lot of work – just a few minutes (or half an hour) here and there to help them retain those facts or work on areas recommended by their incoming grade level teachers.

Another thing we hope to go over this summer is some life skills. We are going to work on cooking (which we started over Spring Break). I want them to be able to read and follow a recipe. We will work on making sure they know how to do laundry, understand banks and credit cards and just be able to do some of the things that they take for granted as being done by me (or my husband).

Other Activities

IMG_4339We fill in our other free time with visits to the park, my parents’ house, or places that have offered deals on Groupon. With Groupon, we have gotten discount tickets for laser tag, bowling, the children’s museum and archery. Lexie also is continuing her weekly gymnastics class. Jase like going because he gets to hang out with a friend during that time. And of course we have just staying home and playing games, doing crafts or science experiments.

Any way you look at it, we will find ways to have a busy, fun summer. And before we know it, it will be back to school time.

Keeping the kids busy this summer

It is always a challenge to keep the kids busy during the summer so they don’t spend all their time squabbling or watching hours of TV. I usually try to have something planned most days. If you are looking for some ideas, here is what we have going on.

Free Activities

The best things are always free but there aren’t too many things nowadays that are free. We will spend some time at our neighborhood pool, visiting my parents or stocking up on books at the library (which sometimes offers a craft). If it isn’t too hot, we also may hit one of the parks on our way to the library.

Paid Activities

IMG_0022With season passes or memberships to a few area attractions, we will also be going to the zoo, Sea World and the Doseum, San Antonio’s new children’s museum. As a family we also finally made it to Natural Bridge Caverns in June. We also have a Groupon for an afternoon at Pump It Up, a local inflatable/bounce slide place, and Lexie is signed up for mermaid camp in July.

Home Craft Activities

What better way to stop the TV/iPad watching then a few afternoon activities. I have a few plans I have pulled off the Internet, including – sponge ball fights and chalk rockets. I found lots of great hints on this list for June and this one for July. Many of the activities are aimed for the smaller kids, so I am going to have to find those that will interest a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old. If I need more ideas there is always Pinterest.

School Work

Yes, I am one of the moms out there that makes my kids do some school work during the summer to avoid that summer slide (where kids spend 2 1/2 months forgetting most of what they learned.) We will be doing reading, math and writing each week to keep their minds active.

Home Projects

We have some projects we want to get done this summer. In June, we have been cleaning and organizing the kids rooms. All the broken and and unused toys were out and the rest of their belongings organized. This is all in preparation for July’s project of painting each kids’ room.

Lexie has chosen two different pinks (with sparkles, of course). The dark pink will be on the bottom half of the room and the lighter pink on the top. We have also bought an awesome Elsa decal for the wall.

As for Jase, he is going with just blue walls. His current walls are blue, but the paint job is 12 years old so time to freshen it up with a newer shade. His big thing will be getting a huge Star Wars wall mural. It will be quite the focal point.

Free time 

And it wouldn’t be summer vacation without some down time where the kids can play in their rooms, read a book or even perhaps just veg in front of the TV for a little while.

Not every minute of the summer needs to be planned, but it helps to have options to keep those kids busy rather than bored.

Avoiding the Summer Slide – school work in the summer

schoolwork“Ahh, mom, do we have to?”

This is the typical response I receive from my kids when I announce we are going to do school work today – during school vacation. Yes, this summer I am making them review school work and read books so all the knowledge they learned last school year stays “fresh” in their minds.

Experts call it the “summer slide” and it applies to young minds that sit idle during the days of summer vacation. It usually is applied to reading.  Studies have shown that kids who read during the summer gain in skills while those who don’t often slide backwards. This causes them to have to spend the first few months of the new school year being “refreshed” or “relearning” up to two months’ worth of knowledge.

Now as you may know from my other posts, Jase is already having problems with reading. He is not up to grade level, so I can’t afford for him to experience the “summer slide.” Lexie is a beginning reader, so she certainly needs practice too.

Every summer, we have participated in our public library’s summer reading program where the kids earn a free book for reading (or being read to if they were not yet reading). In fact, in the summer, we go to the library every two to three weeks to check out new books.

But I can see the summer slide happening in other areas besides just reading. I mean with three months of not practicing their writing, how is Lexie going to get better and stop reversing some of her numbers? She isn’t. In fact, her teacher actually sent home a work packet for her to complete during the summer. Of course, it is purely optional, and I suspect many parents tossed it when they received it or started it with good intentions at the beginning of summer only to forget about it later.

It is hard to find time in the summer to do school work. We are busy with vacations, summer lessons, summer camps, hours spent at the pool or at the zoo, museum or park. It is hard to decide to sit down and do some learning – no matter how fun you make it.

One previous summer, I had tried to have Jase practice some handwriting only to have those sessions drop off as the summer progressed. But this summer I was determined to do something different. So after our vacations and trips were over, I wrote a lesson plan for the next few weeks. We would work on Mondays and Thursdays for just thirty minutes. (It typically has taken us an hour each day.)

I picked three to four activities for each child to work on and tried to change it up, so they wouldn’t get bored. But one thing that has stayed the same is they must always read a book. (Lexie’s teacher also sent home 15 books that are at her reading level for her to read this summer.)

So for Jase, my focus has been on math, reading and writing. We have done word problems and flash cards. I have had him go over vocabulary words to strengthen his reading. And I have had him write sentences using those vocabulary words or just write about what we have been doing. Honestly, I think his handwriting needs a lot of work, but I don’t know exactly how to correct it.

As for Lexie, there is always reading but most of her time is spent doing the sheets her teacher sent home or ones that I find on the internet. Those sheets cover everything from math to reading and writing.

I know the kids complain each day that we do school work. But I think it will help them retain that information and be prepared when school start up again in August.