June 3, 2014

Ideas for Surviving Summer at Home with the Kids

Great tips to help make long summer days at home with the kids easier!

Ah summer! - lazy days by the pool, cook-outs, water fights, reading books in the shade of a tree, hearing the sweet song of children whining "I'm bored!" or "I don't want to!" or "I barely touched him!" Yeah. Sometimes Summer is not so fun.

When I have our summer days planned out, our days go so much better, with less fighting and button pushing. Here are some things we do to help smooth out the rough spots that can happen in a home-together-all-the-time family.

(All families are different, but these suggestions have worked for my kids (ages 11, 9, 7, and 4) who are all of the rough and tumble, run-around-the-house-yelling type)

Don't Give Up Having a Schedule

It can be tempting during the summer to just let the kids get up whenever they want, get dressed whenever they want, do whatever they want . . . but we don't. For the sake of our family harmony, I give my kids (young ones especially) a schedule. Kids thrive on schedules. I don't have every minute of every hour planned out, but during the summer it helps us to have a plan of how the day is going to go and I share that plan with my kids. This helps them know what to expect, and helps my child who has trouble transitioning from one activity to another.  My kids need to move the pieces on their chore charts during the day in order to be able to do fun things with the family in the afternoon. You can click the link to read more about our Summer Schedule.

Have an Incentive for Good Behavior

Sometimes my kids need a reason to get along with each other. I've found rewarding my kids for showing consideration and kindness to their siblings works better than punishing when they are mean and selfish. We often use this Lego House to encourage positive sibling relations, and we will be bringing it out again when summer starts. Another incentive that has worked well for us is this pom-pom jar.

Have an Incentive for Summer Reading

When my kids are excited about summer reading, I am guaranteed to have some QUIET in my house every once and a while during the summer.

There are free summer reading programs at libraries and bookstores, but we like to do a family one too! I love doing summer reading with my kids. I usually create summer reading coupons that they earn by reading books. They write down the book they read and receive a coupon for money (dimes and quarters, usually), or ice cream, or a new book, or a prize from the prize basket, etc . . . We do something different each year. We've done game boards, a summer beach scene, a balloon popand bookworms. The kids love seeing what we are going to do each year!

Clearly this works best with independent readers, but for my preschoolers who were just learning to read and wanted to participate, I would do a literacy activity with them and let them count it as reading a book.

Set Summer Objectives 

I get overwhelmed when I think of all the fun options there for us to do during the summer. There are so many fun ideas for summer activities and sometimes when I look around on Pinterest I feel like I'm failing as a mother if I'm not doing them all for my kids.

To overcome this, I have to focus on what I really want out of the summer. For me, I just want time with the kids. I want to do something special with each of them, so I ask them for one thing they would like to do with me during the summer. If we get that done, it's a victory.

Another thing we do is come up with a summer fun list; some people call this their summer bucket list. At the beginning of our summer, we ask the kids for ideas of what they'd like to do and we add them to a list (if they're reasonable). We try to keep our list short. Some of these things we wait and do with dad, and some we can do at home. Once upon a time, I cut up slips of paper with some of our fun items on it such as "make ice cream sandwiches" or "make lemonade". I'd put these in our "summer fun jar" and when the kids were done with school and chores in the morning, we would draw one out and do that for our afternoon activity. It worked well.

Lower Your Expectations

Life with kids is always unpredictable. Sometimes my perfectly planned activities flop. Sometimes we only get 1/2 of our summer fun list done. My house is messier and noisier during the summer. I have to remind myself to just relax and go with the flow and then we will have a much happier summer.

Limit electronic entertainment devices 

I've found that relying on electronic devices to keep my kids occupied works against me. It makes my job as a parent HARDER in the long run, not easier. This is why:

a. Those activities are self-centered activities, and my kids come out of the experience feeling more selfish than before, which results in less tolerance for siblings and more anger centered on mom/dad who made them stop the entertainment. Some kids are more susceptible to this than others. My son is a different person after he watches tv or has been playing a video game for a while. He is less cooperative and meaner to his siblings. It's crazy how much it affects him.

b. Entertainment keeps kids from wondering and thinking and imagining. With TV, video games, movies, etc . . . the thrill comes easily, without much work on the kids part. When I've been sick and/or busy and have had to rely on electronics, and my kids are used to them, coming up with ideas of things to do on their own is harder. I am a lot more likely to hear "I'm bored" from my kids when they've had too much screen time in their life. It always takes them a while to adjust back to coming up with things on their own when we get rid of the devices again.

During the summer, we try not to do screen time unless it's a special movie day, or I'm sick and need to have quiet so I can nap. But really, there are so many other fun things to do that wasting time on devices is not how we want to spend our summer!

I hope some of these thoughts will be useful in helping your family get along this summer.
How do you help things go smoothly during the summer? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments! 

Great tips to help make long summer days at home with the kids easier!

This post is part of the "Summer Survival Series for Moms of Boys". All through the summer you can find tips, activities, and recipes over at "The Joys of Boys".

Also be sure to check out my Pinterest board for more parenting ideas and summer fun!

Follow Erin@Chicken Babies's board Summer Fun with Kids on Pinterest.


  1. Thanks for the suggestions! I'm gonna need them :)

    1. Whatever. I'm sure your little ones are complete angels, just like their mom. ;)

  2. Erin, I LOVE this post! So many great ideas. I especially love the incentive for reading and I have been trying to think of a way to keep my boys reading over the summer. Thank you for such a great post. And thank you for being a part of the Summer Survival for Moms of Boys series.

    1. Thanks so much! I am so glad you found them useful. And I was happy to participate! Thanks for the invite.

  3. I like your Lego House idea- may have to use that one! I love summer reading charts that are all over the wall too! I've been trying to figure out my theme for this year.

  4. Thanks! I'm still working on our theme for summer reading this year too. I need to have it up by friday so I better think fast! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Lower your expectations! Yes! I am doing that for the first time this summer. Last summer was my first one with my son at home. Prior to that he was in daycare year-round. After Kindergarten ended last year, it was him and me at home 24/7 minus a week or so with grandparents. I hate having to tell him, "Go away, let Momma work" etc. constantly. Especially when he comments on it. This summer I decided to be way more flexible and get up earlier or stay up later to blog, write, network, etc.

    Although we do rewards for chores completed during the school year, I am all about chores and NO specific rewards this summer. The reason being he will be receiving lots of rewards in the form of vacations, special visits, surprises, etc. over the next 2 months. I am big on him reading books and no electronic devices twice a week (year-round). Visiting from Wake Up Wednesday!

  6. I *love* the encouraging reading ideas! I think we may just put a "book worm" on our wall too!

    1. Thanks Emma! The bookworm was one of our favorites! We may just redo it this year.

  7. Great ideas! And thanks for encouraging reading!

  8. Great ideas! I love the reading chart idea.

  9. Oh the routine! Definitely important when it comes to kids. And definitely agree with the electronics, too!

    Love the reading chart idea -- we have 2 new readers, so I am definitely going to try that!

    1. Thanks for commenting! The reading charts have been great motivators!


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