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LBSRS Tips: Summer Parenting Game Plan

Sunshine, beach days, long walks outside and kids who bring you iced lemonade as you tan on a pool floaty. Sounds like an ideal summer, huh? In Parent World, we all know the reality looks a bit different - more like too many video games, lots of noise at home, and somehow managing to spend both too much and not enough time together as a family simultaneously.

We are now on the precipice of summer…the kids are about to be let out of school. If you don’t already have a parenting plan of attack ready for when all your kids are spending extended hours at home together, grab that glass of iced lemonade (spike of vodka optional) and take a look at my guide below to make the most of your summer. I have spent a lot of time with kids like yours at PJTC’s Louis B. Silver Religious School, and have my own at home. As a working mom, rabbi and teacher, I have gathered a few tips and hacks to help you enjoy a smooth, sunny summer with the kids.

Create a daily plan.

Listen, I know we’re not all natural-born planners. But whether your 2021 calendar is still freshly wrapped in plastic or your planner is bursting at the bindings, without a daily plan, your summer will melt away faster than the ice cream dripping down your kid’s arm. Creating a plan for the day allows you to think ahead and get prepared in advance for a fun time with the family.

Not sure where to begin? Here are some tips:

  • Include your children in the creation of the plan. Discuss priorities for you and for them. What does everyone want (or need) to get out of the day? Then, discuss everyone’s activities and responsibilities and how they can affect each other. When you involve your children in a discussion around balancing priorities, you manage to achieve compromises that were their ideas in the first place…or feel like their ideas. (For more on how to get someone to think an idea is theirs, try this out 😉:
  • Include time for physical and mental exercise. While the park down the street is a great idea, exercise doesn’t have to be just physical. In addition to outdoor adventures, think games, puzzles, escape rooms, etc. You’ll sleep better at night after tiring out both mind and body.
  • Include time for downtime. No one is particularly nice or thinking clearly when they are tired. Our minds and bodies need breaks during the day, and this can be a nap, some light reading, or even…yes…I will say it, television or a little video games (in doses). Sometimes we need to go a little brainless so we can recoup from all of the productive, smart things we do the rest of the day.
  • Allow for “messy” time and make sure to include the consequential clean up time. Let’s face it, making a mess can be fun, especially for kids. But remember that responsibilities exist over the summer too! Let your kids know that it’s okay to make a mess, but it is their job to clean up after themselves. But, for this to work, you need to plan that clean up time into the day, preferably before any new activities are started. Otherwise, the day will get away from everyone, and it will be you cleaning it up after they go to bed, when you should be sitting down with a glass of wine and your own version of “video game time.”
  • Include responsibilities. While we are at it, let’s take the responsibilities beyond messy-time clean up. We can separate them into three categories: chores that take care of your child’s own bubble, chores that help the family (you) out, and chores that allow one sibling to help the other. Try to include a balance of all 3, because teamwork really does make the dream work! And, kids that help each other tend to push each other less…tend to.
  • Make sure there are learning opportunities built in. No one wants their kid to lose everything they worked so hard to learn during the school year on their watch over the summer. But, let’s face it…school’s out for summer and most kids don’t want to be educated again on anything – except maybe how to make it down the full length of the slip and slide without sliding off to the side - until they go back to class. Some children will respond well to reading time when it’s a book they choose and online learning games/platforms. However, summer is about experiences and most kids will be stoked to dig in with some practical and fun hands-on experiences. Example: teach them about the lifecycle of plants by growing plants from seeds. Here are ideas for middle/high school [] and some ideas for elementary aged kids []
  • Make sure there is family time built in. Set aside certain days where you have meals together, go for walks, play catch or play family-friendly games. You could even start a mini book club together! Summer can be a great opportunity for family bonding, and even though everyone can get busy, it can be a fun treat for kids when parents devote dedicated time to just enjoying them.
  • Include “free choice” time. Your kids are going to want a little freedom, too. It’s a great way to give them some responsibility in a controlled setting. After all, it is the summer!

Set alarms, so no one goes down their own silo rabbit holes.

Unfortunately, the day can get away from us way too easily. One minute you’re doing your morning work and the next your kids are asking what’s for dinner. To keep yourself accountable for all those fun plans you came up with, set alarms to keep you on track.

  • For you. Set alarms for the things you hope to squeeze into your day (a nap, a quick read, a bucket list item), but also set alarms to finish the things you’d rather not do too long (a looming work project, chores, the bills, etc.). This will keep your productivity level high while also giving you time for the things that bring you joy. And happy parent means happy kids!
  • For the kids. Self-sufficiency promotes self-pride, and self-pride promotes a desire to do more for yourself. This might actually keep you from having to nag and be the bad guy... again. You can use a digital wristwatch, kitchen timer or alarm clock to keep them on track.
  • Alexa can be your best friend. One of the best things Amazon did was allow me to yell instructions out from the middle of my living room and have an alarm ringing 20 minutes later. It’s too easy!
  • Keep a visible calendar handy where all can check in. You can color code this for the different members of your family, too. Representative pictures for activities work well for younger kids that aren’t reading on their own yet. You’ll be able to keep track of where everyone is, or is supposed to be, during the day much easier. And, you’d be surprised how kids can take to the independence of following a schedule, especially when there are rewards for sticking to it.
  • Try out a reward system! Yes…you could tell where I was going for this bullet. If your kids stray from keeping the schedule on their own, they may just need more oversight and gentle assistance to stay the course. But, if your kids are able to give it a try on their own, why not set up simple rewards for making it through the day’s schedule as scheduled all on their own. A little extra screen time…a Hershey kiss and a smooch from you…10 minutes of extra special cuddle/story time at bedtime. Each kid is different, and you can play around with what works for yours.

Plan for “break the monotony” moments.

Summer is supposed to be a fun break that feels different from the rest of the year. The best way to keep energy levels high is to find a few new experiences that leave you and your children wondrous and excited for the next new adventure.

  • Set goals for scheduling playdates – virtual or in person. Everyone’s busy and if you don’t plan ahead, summer WILL get away from you. Try creating a reminder for each Friday to set some kid, and maybe even some parent, hang outs for the following week. If you are a true planner, knock yourself out and set them for the month. 
  • Find time to try new family activities. Maybe this looks like planting a backyard garden, doing a DIY home improvement project together, building a fort, making an art project (self-portraits, building a birdhouse, Diamond Painting, etc.), or designing a brand-new board game from your own imagination.  
  • Go to new places. Visit places that you can learn from, such as a factory, a walking tour, or a cooking class. You can also go places that let you get some exercise such as hiking, long beach walks, horseback riding, or climbing walls. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, let your kids research and pick some places… and then just say yes (within reason, of course)!
  • Master a new skill together. Becoming a master baker or “Lego Master” by the end of the summer can be fun for both you and your children. The same thing goes for juggling, bike riding, “cups” from the movie Pitch Perfect, slacklining, gardening, etc. Pick something none of you knows how to do and embark on the learning journey together. Or, pick something you can teach your kid or your kid can teach you.

Find food for the soul experiences.

Nothing creates a productive and enlightening summer quite like finding those food-for-the-soul experiences and conversations to bond over. It can be eye-opening to experience charitable work from your child’s point of view, and it engages them in activism and big-picture thinking from a young age. Kids grow so much when they step out of, or at least peek out of, their own bubbles.

  • Discuss the world problems that matter to your kids. Research charities you can get behind or age-appropriate ways you can support different movements or causes.
  • Then, get behind them. Figure out how your kids can volunteer, donate or fundraise to support the cause, even if it means raising money through a lemonade stand (yes, a very fitting idea for summer and, no, you don’t have to squeeze fresh lemons…no one expects kid-sold-lemonade to be farm-to-table fresh).
  • THEN, enlist friends. Sharing the experience with others is a big motivator and makes it more fun…and may even help you share the charitable workload with other parents.

If you’ve finished that glass of lemonade by now, pull out your calendar and set that agenda for your summer-planning family meeting. Your kids will thank you (and you’ll thank yourself) later.

And, if you want to dig even deeper into your summer game plan together, join me for a free webinar on Thursday, June 24, 2021 at 8:30pm. Click here to register.

Wishing you a wonderful and sunny summer season!

Rabbi Aimee Gerace, Education Director

Fri, December 9 2022 15 Kislev 5783