Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

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.

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Summer Routines

Avery-sleepThe day I have been dreaming about for years arrived this summer.  My children are sleeping in.

First, we achieved this much-anticipated milestone with my 11-year-old. She has to be pulled out of bed around 9:30 each morning, which makes sense because according to research sleep patterns change during adolescence. Then for reasons I don’t understand but do appreciate, my boys who are  8- and 6-years-old are following suit and sleeping in much later.

While I am enjoying this slower start to our mornings I am concerned about getting back on track when school starts. I am already dreading the fights that will ensue from those 6:30 a.m. back to school wake up calls.

I was torn between letting them have freedom to make the most of their summer—schedules and rules be damned—or keeping them on track, allowing them to better ease back into the school routine.

They work hard during the school year to stay on track and they deserve a break. However as a seasoned parent I know that children need routines and boundaries and if we ditch those completely the entire family will suffer.

I decided we could have both. We kept the routines that mattered most to us and eased up on the others.

The routines that matter most to us are bedtime, mealtime and reading.

Bedtime: nature isn’t doing parents any favors with the extended daylight hours. It’s really tough to get your kids in bed when it’s still light outside. We do push bedtime back later in the summer and we let them stay up extra late on special occasions but it is important to my husband and I that they do have a regular bedtime.

Mealtime: As someone who fully admits to bouts of erratic behavior when “hangry,” I don’t like to mess with mealtimes when it comes to myself or my children. We stick to a regular breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner schedule as much as life allows.

Reading: I like to keep my kids stocked with books that interest them and ask that they read for at least 20 minutes a day. When I find books that interest them they read for much longer than the minimum.

What do you do to make sure your kids enjoy their summer—and are ready for the transition to school in August? In your family, is summer a time for complete freedom, sticking to routines, or a little of both?


It’s Superboy!

Who’s that diving in cold water to retrieve pool toys for a kid who can’t reach them himself? Is it a dad… a big brother? No, it’s Superboy! Also known as my son, my hero.

Empathy is the ability of one person to perceive the emotions, needs and desires of another person and to be able to respond in a nurturing way. That’s not only a definition, it’s a tall order. But recently my son rose to the challenge.

My children are water babies. Usually they don’t give the 3’ side of the pool a backward glance as they walk really fast toward the deep end (the lifeguards know us well and have finally drilled the ‘No Running Rule’ into their heads).

Levi is not only a water baby; he’s a freeze cat like his mom. On weeknights we don’t head to the pool until around 7:00, after I’ve had my necessary power nap. By this time it’s cooled off a little. Fearless, Levi usually dives off the board about forty times in a row. Then he’s done. He comes over to me with his teeth chattering and his skin all prune-y. I wrap him in not one but two oversized beach towels and he half dozes and half watches other swimmers, including his sister (she’s not coming out,  prune-y or not) while I continue reading my weekly poolside novel.

I truly don’t know how it came to be that the two of us were lounging by the shallow end the evening he came to the rescue of a boy in distress. Maybe it was just coincidence. At any rate, there we were.

“Mommy, I need my goggles,” he informed me in his little boy/man voice.

Now this was an interesting development. Levi never gets back in once he is done. Still, instead of questioning him, I handed over the goggles and followed his gaze toward a boy standing in 3’ of water. He looked older than Levi’s six years but obviously couldn’t swim.

I’d noticed him playing with several pool toys earlier, but now he stood empty handed. And upset. He had no idea how to get those toys back.

Without saying a word, my heroic son, still shivering I might add, walked down the steps and dove under seven or eight times until he’d retrieved every last toy and restored them to their rightful owner. (I tear up just thinking about it). In return for his good deed, he was rewarded from the boy’s valuable collection – with a cool turtle that sprayed water.

As a mom who tries to teach by my good example, it was amazing to get a glimpse into how my child interacts with his peers. I got to witness how he dove right in to aid a stranger, despite the fact that it took him out of his comfort zone.  Hmm. Maybe we weren’t sitting near the shallow end by coincidence after all…

Going back to that definition of empathy. Levi perceived the emotions, needs and desires of another person. And he was able to respond to them in a nurturing way. I’d like to believe that he’s empathetic partly because he sees empathy modeled in the way I respond to him when he’s distressed.

And because he really is a Super Boy.

– Tammi

Photo by Chris Hall.