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I hate to break it to you, but summer vacation is upon us. The end of May brings the beginning of June, and the beginning of June brings the end of the school year for most of our kids. Having school-aged children with nothing to do can be a stressful time for us parents who work at home. Spending gobs of money on summer camps or paying a babysitter could work for a week or two, but for the majority of us, it's not in the budget.
So what do we do with the kids at home while we're still responsible for getting our work done? Here are three ideas I have that actually work for me and my kids.
At the beginning of summer break, take a trip to the teacher's supply store. As a former teacher, the draw for me to spend my month's grocery budget in one day is strong. There are so many things at the teacher store that I think will make my kids smarter than all the other kids, that I can easily load down my basket with way too many learning tools. But you're there for the kids, so pay attention to what they are drawn to. Whatever they take an interest in picking up as you shop around are most likely the things that will keep your kids entertained without your direct attention.
My kids are workbook junkies and can run through a Kumon book in three days if I let them. But who am I to question how they choose to spend their quiet time if while they're being quiet they're also keeping up their math skills? Once we get home from the teacher supply store, I set up a chart for my girls to complete as they work through their workbooks. They see their own progress as the weeks go by, and I make sure they're keeping up with their school skills.
Increasing game-playing time is an excellent motivator for good behavior.
Buy A Few New Video Games
Video games do not have to be the bane of our existence. If we are proactive as parents and set an expectation of time limits, allowing our kids to have access to video games can be a very good way for them to entertain themselves. Do your homework and find some games that are age-appropriate. (I highly recommend Common Sense Media as a resource to consult for content.) Allow your kids to have input into which games they want to play, because there's nothing worse than spending hard-earned money on a piece of plastic that sits on the shelf. Once you have the games you all agree on getting, agree on a time limit for playing the games. An added bonus: Increasing game-playing time is an excellent motivator for good behavior.
You may be surprised to find a few other families in the same situation as yours right there in your neighborhood. Towards the end of the school year, send out an email to the parents in your kid's classes offering to do a kid swap. It could be as little as once every month or as much as twice a week. Setting up a schedule that guarantees you a whole day to get work done without the distraction of kids at your feet can be a huge relief. Of course, you'll be devoting a whole day to watching your co-op partner's kids as well; but make it a fun day at the park or an afternoon at the pool. The more days your kids have other kids to play with, the better behaved they're likely to be leading up to the co-op play date. And when your kids are busy entertaining their friends, that gives you some time to get some much-needed work done.