Summer SAHM help needed! by Sheri

Today was the first day of Lucy’s first ever summer vacation and I’m feeling both hopeful and overwhelmed. This was her first year in public school instead of preschool, which used to be year-round. In the past she’s at least gone to preschool in the mornings in the summer, but before I had tenure she went full time year round. I am teaching this summer, but only at night, so don’t need full time coverage. Plus, now there’s Clara who needs care. So we’re trying something totally new, and I’m scared shitless. The nanny who has cared for Clara very PT all semester will watch both girls about 15 hrs a week. The rest is all me. The things I’m most worried about involve Lucy, structure, and discipline. She’d happily watch TV or play with the iPad for 5 hours a day, but then she’d be cranky and misbehave. She has high social needs, and she gets bored very easily. And when she’s bored, she’s no fun to be around. Usually we have flare ups of misbehavior during school breaks of 4 days, so 3 months is looking daunting. I don’t know how to be home with kids so much without many breaks, and she doesn’t know how to live without going to school. I need some advice from wise mamas who’ve been there and done summer vacation with young and energetic kids. We’re going to sign up for a few weeks of camps here and there, and swimming lessons, but we can’t afford to keep her in programs all summer long AND have the nanny.

Do you provide a consistent structure for the days? (outdoor time every day after breakfast, or reading time after lunch, or go to the park for a standing playdate every monday, or whatever)
How much tv/screen time do you allow?
How much structured learning time do you require?
How many big outings (the zoo, the children’s museum) do you do a week?
How do you structure discipline and chores so that the nanny and I can both enforce them?
I have a hunch that there needs to be a general framework, with plenty of flexibility. So what are your tips for creating this?

Help a poor clueless soul out, please!


26 thoughts on “Summer SAHM help needed! by Sheri

  1. When I was a kid, my mother had us have about 90 minutes of “quiet time” in our room after lunch. I did that with my daughter, too, and it was great–allows everybody to have some downtime.

    Here are some of the things we used to do.
    –Usually, we’d go to the park every day, not always at the same time, but we’d go. It would depend on the weather, but we would always try to go when the park would be full of kids and take snacks or a picnic lunch.
    –Story time at the library; your oldest can probably sign up for a summer reading program
    –A couple treats during the week–ice cream or something like that (could be evening)
    –Zoo/museum or something like that once a week
    –Lots of playdates
    –Get a lot of craft supplies for projects (my daughter’s favorite thing at that age–a bunch of markers and a pile of stained glass coloring books)
    –Chores, make a list and check them off as they’re done–that way you and the nanny know what needs to be done.
    –Look into what kind of activities your local parks and rec or Y has. A lot of time there are single day programs that are free or inexpensive
    –We never did structured learning in the summer
    —lots of playdates
    –I’d teach Lucy how to do some simple baking. I have a great four-ingredient cake recipe my daughter learned to make by herself at that age–except for putting it in the oven. I can send it to you if you want.
    –How much screen time she got depended on what I needed to get done. Some days there was very little and some days there was a lot.

    Also, don’t worry too much about how to structure the days. Usually, after the first week or so, a natural schedule begins to emerge.

    • oh, I forgot treats. In the evening, around 8:00, me or my husband would take the kids down to the carry out and let them pick one treat. That was the reward for the day, and it also transitioned them into “coming in time” for the night.

      We are fortunate to live very close to one of our cities large metro-parks, so we went there at least a few times a week, too.

  2. when my kids were young, we did operate on a schedule during summer months. Now, I’m totally not a regimented person, so there was always wiggle room, but it went like this:

    Mornings were for getting stuff done. I had to clean house in the mornings, so they did, too. Small tasks that just kept them busy for awhile. Until about 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning, anyway, counting the time it took to get dressed. We had the advantage of having kids in our neighborhood, so after that, they could go out and play with friends.

    After lunch, we all had downtime. That meant that five or six year olds were in the house. I took a nap, and children Lucy’s age were allowed to either watch TV in the family room, or play quietly in their own rooms. I also usually had babies or toddlers, so it had to be kept very quiet as this was their nap time, too.

    After that, we all usually went outside for a good part of the remainder of the afternoon and evening. I would come back in to do dinner around 5:00-6:00, and kids could either play out or come back in and watch TV or whatever. After dinner, we all went back outside for awhile, usually. We’d come in around 8:00 and it was bath time and sorta quiet time until bed.

    We had a lot of out-doors things for the kids. Swingsets, bikes, kiddie pools, sandboxes, and often we just let kids bring toys outside. Kept them playing and gave them the space to sort of stay out of each other’s hair, too. And again, we had tons of neighborhood kids, so they were back and forth between our yard and their yards.

  3. We don’t have the same sort of summer holidays as you…but when we have long breaks, I often make them earn screen time. That can be for whatever you like. For my daughter, it is sometimes things like memorizing times tables. Sometimes it’s something like “one hour of nature play in the park or back yard equals half an hour of screen time”. Or a chore equals ten minutes (or longer).

    We made up tickets, and put them in labeled envelopes on the fridge. We used them like currency….if they were being awful or refusing to do something, I would take ten minutes out of their envelope.

    My daughter has the same sort of social needs as yours (and the same results when she doesn’t have them met). I scheduled a lot of playdates and “extrovert time”. Unfortunately, my son is the opposite, so it’s a juggling act!!! I tended to book her into craft classes and science days at the museum and things….that sorted out her need for people, but let me take the boy somewhere quiet for introvert time as well.

  4. Oh…and the structured learning time depends on your kid, I think. My daughter needs brain time pretty constantly or she gets nuts (like a kid that hasn’t had physical exercise….she needs some mental stretching). But that can be solved these days with a trip to the museum, lots of reading, or some board games. Other kids need the holidays off. You’ll have to figure out what works for you.

    • That’s Lucy. She LOVES school, she loves learning, and she gets cranky when she’s not using her brain. I do think she’s pretty flexible on what that looks like, though. I think an art or craft project with new materials may fit her needs sometimes, and sometimes she’ll need math flashcards or some kind of science project. I’m considering going to the education store getting a few workbooks or something. She’ll think those are fun. I realize this may well change as she gets a little older, but I want to go with it now.

      The tips are helping me formulate some ideas, keep em coming!

  5. Hmmm. I am going to need this advice, too, for about a month.

    My solution to “stuck at home with the kids” is “don’t be home.” Go somewhere damn near every day, and get out and go early if at all possible. A park is fine for most days, so hopefully you have one nearby.

    Museums are fantastic! We found it was totally worth it to buy memberships to the science museum and aquarium, even though they’re expensive, because we could go there every weekend all year and the kids wouldn’t get tired of it…

    I would say, for us, big outings once or twice a week work ok but trying more than that wears everyone out.

    Craft materials are fried gold. And my kids also love just going nuts with like, some paint, some tape, and all the recyclables in the bin. Building materials, too (blocks, tinkertoys, etc, the bigger set the better) but maybe that depends on the kid.

    • I wouldn’t worry about imposing a schedule ahead of time, but I think you’d definitely want to get one developed by the end of the first week. I am a person who will be anxious and spinning in depressed circles if I don’t have a plan for the week starting on the weekend. It’s cool to change it, but then I put that on the calendar. I make sure to discuss what we’re going to do for the day and week with the kids and give them some choices.

      What works for us (kids are 3 and 5):

      Get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, then DO SOMETHING. Usually leave the house to go to the park or maybe the library or possibly work on a household project/yardwork or go shopping.

      Get done with that and have lunch.

      After lunch used to always be DD’s naptime and DS’s quiet time, now it’s often quiet time for both. That means do something quiet, indoors. Usually crafts or drawing/coloring or building, sometimes computer games or reading books.

      In the afternoon we either have a playdate or go to the park or do something that follows up from the morning activity (organize and read the library books, bake cookies or make fruit salad with the groceries, try out the new bubble machine/t-ball set/water balloons, etc.)

      Then do dinner and baths and maybe watch a movie…

      Alternately go on a big trip, like to a museum, or the beach, and eat lunch there and come home and maybe nap have a really simple dinner and chill in front of the tv.

      DS is really into science and experiments lately, so I foresee a lot of that.

      For me, I have to have a plan as specific as “play outside,” and then we end up spinning off projects from the kids’ ideas, sometimes from grownup suggestions. Like DD randomly wanted to make a leaf collection, and I remembered we had a leftover foamboard, so we collected on kind of every leaf we could find in and around our yard and taped them all over the board and eventually put it up on the wall in the toy room.

  6. Our situation was totally different since my kids are the same age — no juggling the needs of two different age kids — and you’ve gotten lots of good advice/ideas already.

    One thing I will throw into the mix — when my kids were about Lucy’s age, we bought some SpongeBob computer program that consisted of different games that taught keyboarding skills. That summer, I made the kids play it just about every day — 15 minutes a day to start with, and then once they sort of had the hang of it, 30 minutes a day. They could not play on the computer at all until they had done that. We also had a really fun logic based game called Zoombinis. They loved that game and just thought of it as something fun rather than mental exercise.

    We also enforced the “quiet time after lunch” which was usually reading time. And did the summer reading programs at the library and at the local B&N — both provided a prize for reading a certain number of books [seems like they were like $5 gift cards to the ice cream place, or something similar].

    Swimming as much as you can is essential here, since our summers can be unbearably hot. And everyone sleeps great at night after an afternoon of swimming.

    good luck!

  7. I would pretty much second everything the ladies here have already said. When I’m at home with the kids, I felt I needed some structure, too, so it worked out for everyone that we had a schedule and some general expectations.

    Lonespark was on it when she said the best way to be SAHM is not to be at home. With Clara, however, I realize that may be harder for you than it was for me.

    Our school district does summer school so that covers 4 weeks worth of mornings. By the time we get home and have lunch the kids (now kid) need some quiet time and by the time that was done it’s already mid-afternoon. Our local library does a great summer reading program and we have a small local pool that has a very reasonable rate for memberships. We do one of those things most afternoons. I also hunt around for cheap/inexpensive fun things to do and we only do a couple “big” outings each summer. On the days that William has a baseball game in the evening we tend to have stay at home afternoons because I do think that kids need some down time/time to figure out how to entertain themselves, etc.

    We don’t generally do screen time during the day over the summer. Like your experience with Lucy, we found it created more problems than anything. This makes it something of a treat so we can either pull out a movie on a rainy day or else go see a movie and it was a big deal to the kids. It also helped that we made that rule for me as well – kept me more productive, too.

  8. Okay, here’s something we’ve come up with that I thought I’d share. The nanny told me about the kids wellness initiative that’s 54321. 5 servings of fruit or veg a day, 4 servings of water, 3 servings of dairy, 2 (or less) hours of screen time, 1 hour of physical activity. Seems simple enough. I’m going to make a chart and let Lucy mark off each of these things as she does them each day. And I think I’ll let her save up her extra daily screen time to use on weekends if she wants.

    • :) In Aussie land you get “Go for 2 and 5”. That’s 2 fruits and 5 veg. I think it’s really interesting how the public health messages differ in different countries.

      And two hours of screen time a day sounds huge to me…but then we don’t do a lot of screen time at all, so maybe I’m out of touch. I’d probably switch the physical activity (and I’d call it green time) and screen time. I like the 54321 aspect of it though…good marketing.

      I liked this concept from Nature Play WA (I used to work for them). It wouldn’t work in our house, but it’s a cute idea.

      • I agree that 2 hrs sounds like a lot, but today it didn’t seem so when computer games and ipad games are added in. She gets up EARLY, and usually watches about 30 min of TV while we’re getting ready, plus maybe 15 min of iPad then. Then it’s about the same at the end of the day when I’m cooking dinner. I realized today that she’s also used to screen time when I’m feeding Clara. During the school year that’s never adding more in the middle of the day, but now it is. But even with NONE while the nanny is here, she reaches 2 hrs pretty easily. Today she was begging for more and tearily saying, “I HATE 54321, it’s stupid!” Thank god we don’t have a wii or any other gaming system to be adding to this mix.

        • Hey…with a newborn in the house, you do what you have to do. I found that the “baby” shows really sent my daughter into a bad behaviour spin. Things like Dora, and in fact most PBS shows aren’t good for her in large chunks. I’m not entirely sure why…but they certainly lead to a hyperactive, whiny, pain in the a$$ kid. David Attenborough specials, Horrible Histories, Bill Nye the science guy, and other such “educational” things seemed to cause less of a problem. Oh and shows like “Rough Science” and “Mythbusters” were also hits.

  9. i’d get two things: a reciprocal children’s museum membership and a family pass to the closest amusement park.

    here’s a silly way to take baths: when you fill up a little wading pool in the yard, put bubble bath in it. the kids love it.

    that’s all i’ve got

    • We have childrens museum and zoo (ours is so awesome it’s like an amusement park). The former is an easy outing that we can do as a quick in and out. The zoo is a bit more of an ordeal, but we still go for short visits pretty frequently. In fact, I’m thinking of going tomorrow am for a few hrs.

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