Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Vacationing With Young Children


I only remember having one family vacation as a child growing up and that memory has stuck with me my entire life. We went on a camping trip all over Ohio. As a family, we want to give our children the same experiences and memories. We had reservations at first of how our children would react to sitting, traveling, restlessness, and a tight environment. We wondered what to do or where to go. We worried about all the stuff that we would have to pack, carry, and repack. We set all this aside and focused on the experience rather than the barriers.

We recently traveled by car to Florida for a 10-day family vacation. I had prepared for a “National Lampoons Vacation” to Walley World in my mind, but honestly, it was a great experience that brought our family closer together. We simply wanted to get away and get to the beach. Our two children enjoy playing in the sandbox at home, so the beach seemed like a perfect destination. The look on my son’s face was priceless when he saw more sand than he could have ever imagined or move with his little dump truck. I thought they would enjoy the ocean, but surprisingly they both were not interested. We went on a boat ride and my son pointed out and saw the “fishes” (dolphins). My son did not want to leave the Daytona International Speedway with all of the cars. The gift shop was positioned well near the exit and was difficult to leave. We tried different foods, especially fresh seafood, which is difficult to find in Ohio. While at dinner, we experienced a bird “pirate” some fresh french fries from a neighboring table.

In the beginning, I saw the difficulties. The drive, how the family with two children would all sleep in one room, what we would do and where we would go and eat were all problems in my mind. In reality, I was surprised about how our children were up to the challenge and so much more. I am so blessed to have children who love to “do.” They will do anything, try anything, and seem to enjoy so many things. They are sponges and I love watching them soak up as much experience as we can share as a family. It will be these memories that will last their lifetime.

Summer Fun on a Budget

family-summer-funWelcome to our special guest-blogger: Fequita Simmons! Fequita and her daughter attend 4C Play & Learn groups. Thank you to Fequita for sharing this story with us!

The end of the school year is always an exciting time. My children are bubbling with joy at the prospects of not having to be in school all day and the possibilities of going to bed late at night, sleeping in in the mornings, and endless hours of video games. All the while I’m filling my head with deep cleaning the house, getting rid of old toys and clothes, summer reading programs and hours of play outside. Needless to say, my children and I are not on the same page with our summer goals.

I manage these different expectations by letting my children be part of the process. So I generally tell them the agenda for the day over breakfast. I always start with the things they must do like chores, followed by the reward or fun stuff they want to do. They will give their input on what they want to do and we come up with a plan for the day together. They get really excited and are actually eager to do the things they need to do so they can quickly get to the things they want to do.

The cost of entertaining a family of six can get expensive really quick. During the summer I like to take advantage of as many free and reduced-price options as possible. Here is a list of the ones we’ve used over the last few summers:

  1. Kids Bowl Free: This is a program where children can play two free games of bowling all summer long. There is a cost for bowling shoes.
  2. Visit Parks: Take advantage of parks in your area. Often times you can find hiking trails, bike paths, or basketball courts to use free of charge. Also, kids love just being outside playing. On a really creative day, we do nature walk scavenger hunts where the kids have a list of things to look for while we are at the park.
  3. Movies: Check theaters in your area for discount movie tickets. The movie normally is not a new release but kids just love theater experience. Also, check with area parks or community centers. Sometimes there is a “Movie in the Park” schedule where they show movies outside on the big screen.
  4. Visiting the Library: there is always something going on at the library. Puppet shows, story time, kids crafts, etc.

Slow down this summer!

This past week I spent quite a bit of time with the four loves of my life – my niece and three nephews. Instead of taking a family vacation this year, we made a decision to spend five fun-filled days “stay-cationing” in Cincinnati. Our goal was to fill-up the time with as much activity as we could – Coney Island, Newport Aquarium and Kings Island were three of the chosen outings. Golf, swimming, grilling out and a Reds’ ballgame completed our plans. And oh what fun we had!

Take advantage of summer's long days by spending them with your family!

For the most part, we were able to participate in the activities we had planned.  The rain caused us to change our itinerary slightly, but this did not cast a cloud on our time together. What made the “stay-cation” perfect was all of us being together. To mimic advertising from Visa:

  • admission to King’s Island – $38 dollars
  • souvenir at the Reds game for my nephew – $45 dollars
  • admission for 6 to Newport Aquarium – $137.00 dollars
  • sharing stories and making memories – PRICELESS

I realize that most parents get it. They know the value of spending time with their children. What I appreciate about summer is that often families do a better job of taking time to slow down, find time to relax and have fun. It must have something to do with more hours of daylight, no homework and activities that draw us together – like summer fairs, cook outs and sleeping outdoors! And it’s at these times that we are better able to recognize what is really important. The crazy schedules, the long work hours and the constant chatter from cell phones and computers become barriers to us being present in the moment, while summertime can help us to re-engage with ourselves and our families.

Summer days provide us with so many opportunities to engage with our children. There is so much attention given to summer learning and making sure our children do not lose what they gained in school. And though I agree with that focus, I also think that summertime fun is just as important. Our kids also need time to relax, have fun and connect with us.

While on “stay-cation” I had a chance to talk to one of my nephews about his upcoming entry into high school. We talked about friends changing and starting football at a new school. He shared his hopes and excitement with me. My other nephew is in the midst of becoming a young man. He and has dad do not see eye-to-eye on his most recent hair style choice. He asked me what I thought his dad meant by calling him rebellious. We had a wonderful conversation about choosing battles and also his decision to keep his hair the way it was because the “girls liked it”.

This time to connect, for me to show them that I was interested in their lives and what they were dealing with – also PRICELESS.


Summer is for Families!

 “Summer afternoon – Summer afternoon… the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James

Now that schools have closed their doors until next year, many children would agree with this sentiment. But what about parents?  If the hilarious Meijer ads that hit the screen and airwaves during back to school season are any indication (you know the ones: they encourage parents to “relax by the pool while your kids are at school” while the theme from “Welcome Back Kotter” plays in the background), it seems like for some parents, the kids’ summer off from school can’t end soon enough.

Now, I’m not knocking parents for feeling this way. It’s not that we don’t enjoy our children, but the challenge of keeping them safe, actively engaged in activities other than watching TV and from slipping into an academic relapse over the break can make summer seem long and daunting for even the most adoring parent.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized summer isn’t long. These summer afternoons are fleeting, so I want to make memories that last. Does that mean spending a fortune on the latest and greatest camps or breaking the bank by taking vacations to exotic destinations? Not necessarily. Though there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m talking about being with our children when we can because these three precious months really do fly by.

Last week I got home a little early to find my seven-year-old playing by himself. When I asked where his sister was, he explained that she was asleep before claiming, “Now you can spend some mother-son time with me.” For the next hour, I just spent precious one-on-one time with my son. Since we were the only ones eating, we set the table together. He rambled on about whatever popped into his mind and reveled in my undivided attention.

After dinner, I let him lead me in how he wanted to play. He handed me a foam sword and shield and we fenced on the kitchen floor. After several rounds of touché, I switched gears on him. The look on his face when I hiked up my maxi dress, assumed my ninja stance and yelled, “Whah!” was priceless. Finally, we grabbed our “shields” and wandered out to the deck. Levi made up a variation of hopscotch where he laid the foam pieces out in various patterns and I had to guess where he was allowed to jump.

At this point my oldest stepson and my husband joined us, and then my daughter Liv woke up from her nap. As glad as I was to see them all, their appearance and the setting of the sun signified the end of what I hope my son will remember as a perfect summer afternoon. I know I will.

– Tammi

Photo courtesy of micagoto.


Summer Fun Has Begun!

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, it was clear to see that summer had arrived in all its glory: the sun had returned to the Greater Cincinnati area and families were out enjoying all the warmth and festivities. I, along with many others, was doing just that! I ran in a race, went to the Taste of Cincinnati, biked at Miami Whitewater Park and by Monday was sitting poolside at Coney Island. And through it all I saw parents with their children, enjoying the weather and the activities. At least for the most part!

One highlight of my weekend was the Kicks for Kids race. This annual race supports Kicks for Kids – a charity that helps to level the playing field for local children at risk. I run in lots of races and what is special to me about this race is that kids run the race with the adults. Families run together! And as I ran the race, I witnessed some inspiring parents and kids. I saw a parent encourage her son to “run his own pace,” while another encouraged his son not to quit on a hill. I saw a boy crying as he whimpered, “I’m hot,” and his mother respond with “OK, it’s important that we finish, but we can walk for a while.” And at the end, as I pushed myself up the last hill, I heard a parent say to his teenage son, “You aren’t going to let her beat you, are you?” The son responded by picking up his pace and crossing the line before me! (KIDS!!)

What really struck me was that these parents “got it.” They encouraged their children to persevere, encouraged them to do their best regardless of others around them. They were teaching them to give to an organization that is trying to make a difference – at the same time they were enjoying an activity together.

Later that same day, I wandered through the Taste of Cincinnati. It was a nice warm evening so it was plenty crowded and the food was great! Again I noticed families, parents with kids trying to enjoy the event, but this event differed greatly from my experience earlier in the day. Kids and parents did not seem to be having fun: toddlers crying to get out of strollers and young children clinging to adult hands. From their vantage point these children could only see adult legs all around them, with no way to get out! Parents responded by trying to soothe their children while pushing themselves and the strollers through the crowd. It wasn’t working and I had to wonder, did these parents really think it would work? Was this really an event to bring their children to? I get that parents get overwhelmed and need some time to enjoy themselves. I understand the importance of filling up your own “bucket of joy” so you have something to give to your children. But my sense was that this event caused both parents and kids to feel completely overwhelmed.

I am sharing these stories to encourage parents to be planful and thoughtful. As parents we are responsible for the well-being of ourselves and our children, and I have found that planning for the needs of children before attending an activity or event can be a critical factor to the success and enjoyment of the day. Thinking through whether the time and type of event will be enjoyable for children is vital. Summer can offer so many opportunities; it is a great time to enjoy each other, to share in activities and create memories. I plan to make the most of it!

– Carolyn

Photo courtesy of Kymberly Janisch