I love when summer arrives and our daily routine gets turned upside down, breakfast get’s eaten anytime before noon and our laundry room (but really any flat surface) get’s piled with wet towels and swimsuits. That being said, there is a fine line between easy summer living and a total free-for-all. One allows for spontaneous trips to the pool or park and the other has me pulling my hair out while the kids complain of boredom and have death grips on their iPads. One of the things that helps keep the latter at bay is to add a dose of structure with a healthy helping of wiggle room. More important than anything though is being really clear with expectations and then sticking to them!
I’ve spent the last several weeks working on a chart that makes it easy to do both and I’m excited to share it with you today as a printable download (below!)! You can of course make it your own (the last few pages of the PDF are blank!) but I’ll explain a little more how we use it. Here’s to finding your summer sweet spot between buzz-kill mom and frazzled mom!
THE EVERYDAY STUFF, like getting ready, making their bed and contributing to keeping our home somewhat tidy-ish (with an assigned cleaning zone) allows them to earn an allowance but also frees them up to play with friends or get a craft or activity out to play with! So if at 10am a friend comes to the door, they want to build a fort or they have sea shells that they’re dying to paint, when they ask permission I’ll say, “Are you dressed and brushed? Did you do your chore? Is your bed made?” This is where checking their work is important (but not always convenient). They’re pretty good about it now, but I used to have to give an extra chore to any kid that fudges the truth :) Luckily they’re quick learners.
Regarding the cleaning zones; At the beginning of each week the kids pick an area to be in charge of. This is something I stole from a friend that homeschools and have been doing it for about a year now and I love it. So simple and keeps negotiations to one day a week, lol. Our current zones (it can change with the seasons!) are: organize shoes, sweep downstairs, tidy playroom, empty dishwasher, tidy bathrooms and tidy back yard and water plants. Again, super simple (and maybe a little wimpy compared to what others have their kids do!) but it works for us and is also very helpful because there’s very little micromanaging.
Poppy’s still a little young to complete most of those chores without help so she usually teams up with one of her sibs to help them or she can pick a zone and I’ll help her.
EARNING PRIVILEGES, which for our kids is screen time and friend time (I mentioned above). Again, this will be different for different ages and situations, but for us the kids have to read for 20 mins before they can have screen time starting at 7pm. If for some reason the kids read more than 20 mins one day, they can mark it off on their chart but that doesn’t carry over for screen time the next day — instead they can read more or do one of the other 20 minute activities. What usually ends up happening is that 7:30pm rolls around and they haven’t read yet so they get ready for bed and then cozy up to read and before you know it, it’s almost 9 and they’re sleepy so they either go to bed or get 30-ish mins to play before we tuck them in, lol. Which is the best case scenario if you ask me! Also before you think I’m running a tight ship, I’m wayyyy more lenient with screen time in the mornings while I work, especially for the early risers! Wigggggle room is my friend!!!
*SIDE-NOTE: 20 mins might seem like a lot to some and nothing to others but for us it works — it’s easy to enforce, no one complains and even Poppy can look at books that long if no ones available to read to her. However, if reading is a battle, start with 5 mins! Or cross it off the list… the intention is always to help and not discourage and there really is no wrong way to “summer”.
MAKE IT FUN, with stamps or stickers and of course a reward at the end of the week! I mentioned above that they have to read and or code (we love the Bitsbox subscription!), play the piano or do some watercoloring before they have screen time in the evening (usually not before 7pm) but giving them stamps or stickers to load up their chart keeps them motivated and engaged (small wins, FTW!) while they continue the week and work towards earning an allowance. Then for their reward we chose to do an allowance with the potential for bonus money because it works for all of our different age groups and is the easiest to keep track of. In the past we’ve also given prizes or planned outings (like ice cream dates!) as a reward.
*PARENTING HACK: Do yourself a solid and get 100 $1 bills in an envelope from the bank. It’s the only way we’ve been able to make this work because we don’t ever have cash hanging out in our wallets. Now that the kids are earning money they’re able to spend it on the ice cream truck or concession stands at games, but before we started this little system we used our envelope of $1 for stuff like that or fro-yo/popcorn days at school. It’s a true lifesaver!
ACTIVITIES THAT KEEP THEIR MINDS SHARP + HAPPY, I have honestly never been successful or consistent at this over summer break and I always regret it when back to school season arrives. This year instead of trying workbooks and learning/quizzing web sites I opted for more hands on activities and it’s been working so well! For coding we enjoy Bitsbox. For piano we’ve been using Jamzone (thank you to Phillip for sharing via DM!). And as another option I signed the kids up for my friend’s online watercolor class, too! All have been so fun and entertaining!
Last but not least is practicing gratitude! Depending on our schedule the kids can write their thoughts down in a journal or they can verbally tell me 5 specific things and then earn a stamp on their chart. Again, so simple but also effective! We did this last summer with one of the kids who had struggled with anxiety during the school year and by the end of summer they were a new person. Highly recommend!
EARNING BONUSES, isn’t something we’ve done much of in the past but because this is the first summer in a few years that we haven’t had a regular babysitter I figured it would be a good way to use the “leftover” budget :) If they do all their reading and fill up the other activities (coding and piano or watercolor) to the “yay” they can earn an extra dollar or two by doing more chores or activities. It’s again, another way for them to contribute and help with family life, but I also love how it can transfer over to adult life, too!
Ok you guys, that was a lot of info but if I missed anything please comment and I’ll be sure to respond.
And be sure to scroll to the last few pages if you want a blank one. Also, I’m happy to make minor edits if there’s enough need for it so leave a comment with your requests.