10 Summer Activities to Do With Your Teen

Summer-Junior-High-SchoolerYour teens and pre-teens seem independent at times, but they still need some ideas to stay busy through the summer!

These frugal, fun activities will keep the brain cells growing, give an alternative to screens, and help change up the routine!

1) Video/Picture Scavenger Hunt.  Teens love competition. Send them out on a hunt  to find a specific list of pictures or videos. Create your own or find a list options here.

2. Meal Plan. Put your teen in charge of making dinner one night each week. Give them the requirements (meat, fruit, vegetable), let them be in charge of the meal from selecting the menu, doing the shopping, and making the food.  This is a great opportunity for them to learn a variety of skills!

3. Solitaire. Not on the computer…with real cards! Teach your kids to play solitaire. Once they get the hang of it, you can turn it into a competition of double and triple solitaire where they play with different style decks of cards and compete to build up the Ace piles. The winner is the one who has the most cards in the Ace piles.

4. Cut Out Cookies. Why reserve the fun of cut out cookies to the holidays? Summer is a great time to enjoy the process of making, cutting out, baking, and decorating cookies! Need a good recipe and practical steps. You can find that here.

5. Board game playoff. Choose a game you’ll play nightly as a family for a week.  Keep track of who wins in order to identify a grand champion!

6. Puzzle. Keep a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle out on a card table so your teens can work a little each day. If you have trouble with screens, require they put in 15 minutes on the puzzle to earn 15 minutes of screen time. (You can do the same with reading!)

7. Grandparents. Have your teen call their grandparents once a week to find out how they are doing and to ask them about one memory from their teen years. The first time they call, have your teen tell them they’ll be calling once a week to check in and hear a story from their teen years. That way grandma and grandpa can be thinking about stories to share. (If your teen’s grandparents aren’t living, an aunt or uncle could do the same!)

8. Maps. Teach your teen to read a map and to navigate by a map. Get a city map for day to day trips. If you’re taking a road trip, an atlas will provide the maps needed.  This will help them identify North, South, East, and West as well as the location context for places they go. (With the invention of GPS, too many kids have no spatial, location context. This is a skill they still need to know!)

9. Geocaching. Everyone loves a treasure hunt! Geocaching is the way to search for treasure! You can find all about geocaching at www.geocaching.com/guide.

10. Plan a trip. Have your teen plan a trip for your family. It could be a day, weekend, or week-long trip. You give the guidelines of dates, cost, number of days, and distance limitations, and then let them make the plan! As long as they’ve stayed within their guidelines, resist the urge to change up their plan.  This will give them an incredible sense of accomplishment!

What about you? What activities would you add to the list? 

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10 Summer Activities to Do With Your Gradeschooler

Summer-GradeschoolersWe’re a month into summer and you’ve already heard some “I’m bored!” comments.

We’ve got you covered!

Here are some fresh ideas for frugal, fun activities to do with your gradeschooler!

1. Plant. If you don’t have a garden, get a small pot and plant something they can care for and watch grow. Flowers like zinneas are easy to grow from seeds. You can also buy inexpensive seeds like spinach or lettuce that they can plant, tend, harvest, and eat!

2. Geocaching. Kids love to treasure hunt! This is a great activity you can do as a family or just one-on-one with your child. You can find all the details at www.geocaching.com/guide!

3. Food. Try a unique fruit or vegetable each week.  Make sure you include some different ones like Ugli Fruit (a mix between a grapefruit, orange, and tangerine) or Kohlrabi (a tasty member of the cabbage family). Have the kids keep a list or a journal of their tasting experiences.

4. Bingo Nature Walk.  Taking a walk is always a good idea, but adding in the game of Bingo and paying attention to the nature around gives it a different twist! You can find free downloadable Bingo cards for every season here.

5. Good Grade Freebies. If you haven’t already, cash in at all the places that give out free stuff for good grades! Although you may need to call your local business to verify participation, most allow you to cash in on grades through June. You can find a lists here and here.

6. Scrapbook. Have your kids make a scrapbook from their best school work this past year. They can also make a photo album with their own captions and memories from photos you took since last summer.  You can make your own scrapbooks using the unused portions of school notebooks (they only used about half of each of those one subject notebooks you bought them last year!)

7. Write letters. Do you have some family members who live far from you? Grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins? Have the kids write letters to them letting them know how their school year went and what they are doing this summer. They can also include a picture they drew or colored, if they’d like. Make sure you have them address and stamp the envelopes themselves!

8. Interview. Have your child interview an older relative about what they did in the summer when they were the same age as the child. What did they do with friends? What chores did they have to do? What memories do they have?  Have your child give a report after dinner one evening.

9. Recipe. Give your child a recipe book with pictures (if you don’t have any, you can find them at the library.) Ask them to find one recipe that looks good to them. Take them to the store to buy the ingredients and then help them to make the recipe at home.

10. Scavenger Hunt. Do an A-Z scavenger hunt where they have to find something that starts with every letter. They can do the hunt around the house or in the neighborhood, whichever you prefer.

What about you? What fun, frugal ideas would you add to the list? 

(If you’re here for the first time, you can get regular mom encouragement  in your inbox. It’s free! Sign up over on the right!) 

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10 Summer Activities To Do With Your Preschooler

Summer-PreschoolersIt’s the lazy days of summer, but there’s nothing lazy about summer when you have a preschooler!

Need some ideas to change up the routine? Here are 10 frugal, fun summer activities to do with your preschooler:

1) Egg Hunt. Still have those plastic Easter eggs hanging around the house?  Gather them up and hide them either inside or outside. Give your preschooler a basket and let them search!

2) Hideout. Make a tent or a hideout with a blanket and some chairs. Let them have their lunch and their dinner in their hideout.

3) Bubbles. Carry bubbles everywhere you go. They are the great distraction. If you’re taking a road trip, they are also your secret weapon. Turn the air conditioner on high, hold the bubble wand up to the vent, and the car fills with bubbles!

4) Walk. Preschoolers are so inquisitive. Take a walk to discover colors, sounds, textures, and insects.  Anytime you can get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors, it bombards their senses.

5) Puppets. Make paper bag puppets for their favorite book. Small lunchbag paper bags make great puppets. Help them make the puppets. You can go simple with just crayons or more elaborate with yarn for hair and googly eyes.  Then read their book using the puppets to act it out.

6) Water. Preschoolers don’t need a pool. Just give them a bucket of water and a couple of plastic measuring cups. Don the swimsuit and the sunscreen and you’re set up for fun! (Remember, never leave a preschooler near water unattended!)

7) Shapes. Go on a shape hunt around the neighborhood.  Take a walk and look for shapes that your preschooler knows or is learning about.

8) Shaving Cream. Preschoolers love to create. If they are in a high chair, take the high chair outside, spray shaving cream on the tray and let them have at it!  You can also use a card table, plastic picnic table, or kitchen tray and do the same thing.  This is a great way to work with older preschoolers on identifying and tracing letters.

9) Tea Party. Kids love special things that you don’t get to do everyday. Pulling out special cups, plates, and a tea pot.

10) Make cut out cookies. We tend to think of this activity primarily around the holidays. Doing it in the summer changes things up. Need some strategies for doing this without too much stress? You’ll find practical ideas here.

What about you? What activities would you add for summer fun with toddlers? 

(If you’re here for the first time, you can get regular mom encouragement  in your inbox. It’s free! Sign up over on the right!) 

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10 Summer Activities To Do With Your Baby

Summer-BabiesGot a little one?  Life with a baby is usually one of routine. However, you can change it up to benefit both you and your little one!

Need some ideas?

Here are 10 summer activities to do with your baby:

1. Enjoy the grass.  Use the grass as a texture experience by putting her feet in the grass.

2. Enjoy the clouds. Find some shade, spread a blanket out on the grass and let him look up at the trees and clouds.

3. Build blocks.  Build towers of blocks and let her knock them down. If she’s not yet old enough to do it herself, you can help her do it. The action, sound, and experience are valuable stimulation.

4. Scarf time. Take a light fabric scarf and hold it above your baby’s head to look at the colors. Then you can use it to play a game of peek-a-boo. You can also gently pull it across his face or body so he can experience a different texture on his skin.

5. Water fun. Use a small bowl outside to let your baby splash in or put his feet in. Let your little one feel the sensation of water pouring over their hand or feet.  (Remember the sunscreen and to never leave a child around water alone!)

6. Music. Look for free outdoor concerts that you can take your baby to. The music provides auditory stimulation for her.  At home, sing as much as you can. Sing rhyming sons, and sing the same songs with different voices like a growly low voice and then a lighter high voice. Don’t worry about whether you can sing or not…your little doesn’t know the difference!

7. Mirror play. Babies love their reflection.  Take a rattle or a bright colored block to the mirror and let him look at it both in your hand and in the mirror.

8. Walk. Load up the stroller and take a daily walk with your little one. It’s good for you and it’s good for them.

9. Picnic. Invite another mom to join you in a picnic. The change of scenery is good for you and your baby.  Your baby will benefit when you’ve recharged your mom batteries by being with another mom!

10. Browse the farmers market. Introduce your little one to different sights, sounds, and smells that are only found in the summer!

What about you? What frugal, fun summer activities would you add to do with a baby?

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

                                                                 ~Billy Graham

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Unleash Your Power To Lighten Up

Go ahead.

You have the power in you.

Third-Thursday-ThoughtsIf you’re like me, you might need to tap into that power more often than you do.

Sometimes we’re just too serious. Too frustrated. Too angry. Too tired.  And we just need to let go of the control, lighten up, smile, and laugh when things don’t go as planned.

Today’s our Third Thursday Blog Hop where other Hearts at Home bloggers are sharing their thoughts and stories about learning to lighten up. Need some encouragement in that area? Hop around and find some kindred spirits who are learning to tap into their often underused superpower of humor and fun. (If you get my blog posts by email, you can find the blog hop links here.)

And here’s a minute and a half video about a date night Mark and I had that didn’t go the way we planned. It was a perfect opportunity to laugh and see the humorous side of things!  I hope it brings a smile to your face!

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You’re Capable, But Are You Called?

Susie Larson is a favorite workshop speaker at Hearts at Home conferences. She’s also the author of the wonderful Hearts at Home book, Balance That Works When Life Doesn’t: Simple Steps to a Woman’s Physical and Spiritual Health.

I’m currently reading Susie’s newest book download (1)Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion, and Joy. I’m loving it and I asked her if she’d write a guest post to encourage you!

For years I’ve been encouraging moms to ask the question “I’m capable but am I called?” when considering commitments. Susie’s book confirms that and even more!

Too often we’re stressed out because we have said yes to too much. May you find Susie’s words just what you need today.

(Adapted from Your Sacred Yes, Bethany House Publishers, 2015)


download (2)Being a mom is a noble, profound, and sacred calling. And, it can be demanding, relentless, and downright exhausting. My sons are grown and married now. And you know? I marvel at how quickly the days that seemed to blur together back then have come and they’ve gone.

Looking back, I’m so glad I enjoyed lemonade stands, water fights, and bedtime prayers with my boys. I’m glad that amidst my endless pile of laundry, I took time to pray, read my Bible, and rest in God’s presence.

But I also have a few regrets. I regret certain seasons where I rushed and raced through life simply because I committed to more than God asked of me. I regret losing sleep over what others thought of me because I disappointed them. I so wish I would have understood back then what I know now about soul freedom, the preciousness of our days, and how quickly our kids grow up.

If you’re worn out by all of life’s ought-to’s and should-do’s; if you long to feel energized, inspired, and expectant in your faith once again, I have great news for you. God has more for you! First, allow me to ask a few thought-provoking questions.

Are you so bogged down with life-draining commitments that you’ve forgotten how good a belly laugh feels or how rich a time of quiet prayer can be? Do you relegate praise and worship to an hour on Sunday and thereby miss out on singing at the top of your lungs every other day of the week? Has it occurred to you that God longs for you to take more life-giving path than the one you’re on?

Sometimes we over commit for all the wrong reasons (pride, insecurity, fear, hastiness). Other times we have the best of intentions for giving away our time (a good cause, a great need, there’s nobody else). Either way, we need to ask ourselves some probing questions:

  • Do the vast majority of your yeses increase your faith and fill you with a greater expectancy of how God is moving in your midst? Or, do they drain you to the point that you find yourself weary, simply rushing from one thing to the next?
  • Are you captive to your commitments, or free to respond to God’s invitation to do life with Him?
  • Is your current path a catalyst to increasing joy and faith or does all of your rushing make you more prone to worry and fear?
  • When you assess honestly the time you give away to your various commitments, do you find behind it all, a divinely inspired soul growing in grace and strength? Or are you a spent and weary soul, losing steam by the day?

Nothing drains us more than signing up for things God never asked us to do. Yet, all too often that’s exactly where we lose our way. When we live shackled to others’ opinions, expectations, and requirements, we give away our yes because of a lie. We commit to things in order to save face, and as a result, we miss out on God’s invitation to fully entrust ourselves to Him.

Days will fly by and sacred moments will continue to elude us until we decide to hit the brakes and take inventory of what’s driving us.

Consider this an invitation to break free from the bondage of others’ opinions, over commitment, and the un-appointed obligations that drain us dry and steal our joy. It’s time to reclaim our days so that our moments matter in the greater scheme of things. Both our nos and our yeses matter to God because He loves us best and He’s the One who can make the most of our days and our moments.

How do we know if we’re driving too hard in a way that God never sanctioned? We pay attention to how our efforts impact us and those we love. Take a look at these life-draining motivations and see if any resonate with you:

  • External pressure without internal conviction
  • To impress
  • To save face (to manage others’ opinions of you)
  • To gain acceptance
  • Fear of rejection
  • To fill a gap or role that God didn’t ask you to fill
  • To postpone conflict
  • To compensate for shortcoming in another area of life

It’s time to stop our rushing and racing through life so we can better know how for us God is. And the only way to do that is to start today by truly, deeply, profoundly knowing and believing that He is God (and we are not), and that more rests on His shoulders than on ours. May this, for you, be the start of a new and sacred pace, one that’s sustainable and life-giving.

God’s will for you is your best-case-scenario.

What about you? Do you need to take an inventory of your commitments? 

Posted in Taking Care of Me | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Push It My Way

ThinkstockPhotos-465922325Mark says: Jill and I were helping some friends sort through a marriage challenge the other day.  He admittedly can be a bit spacey when driving. He’ll be driving he and his wife to the store, but because his mind is on other things, he’ll end up missing turns and be absentmindedly heading to their church instead. At some point she will pipe up and ask where he’s going.

Jill says: Sometimes he’s just driving a different way than he usually does and sometimes his mind is on other things and they are not going to end up in the right place if she doesn’t say something.

Mark says: The problem is, she never knows which situation she’s dealing with: an in-tune husband making a strategic decision to drive a certain way to their destination or a distracted husband with a lot on his mind who is not paying attention to where he is going.

Jill says: If she speaks up and he’s in-tune with where he’s going, she’s accused of being a “back seat driver.” If she doesn’t speak up and he’s not paying attention, who knows where they’ll end up.  She’s stuck trying to figure out when to say something or pulling information from him. Honestly, she can’t win either way.

Mark says: I wish I could say that we don’t understand this situation, but unfortunately, we can. Sometimes I’m the spacey guy and sometimes I’m the strategic guy. Jill just never knows which one she’s with.

Jill says: Mark, however, started doing something a couple of months ago that was a complete game-changer. Instead of me pulling information from him, he started pushing information to me.  When we would get in the car and to drive somewhere, he started telling me his plan, “I’m going to take GE road up to Main Street to try and miss some of the Veteran’s Parkway traffic.”

Mark says: Letting Jill in on my thought process did several things:

1) It helped her to trust me.
2) It provided natural accountability when I stated what I planned to do.
3) It kept frustration from happening.
4) It communicated value to Jill.


Mark says: I’ve started to notice Jill doing the same thing in other parts of our life. For instance, instead of getting to the end of the day and wondering when she’ll be home, what’s for dinner, and when it will be ready, I’ve noticed that she’s pushing information my way. I might get a text that says, “Hey, I’ve got chili in the crock pot and I’m planning on being home by 5. Eat at 5:30?”

Jill says: I tend to be an internal processor which required Mark to pull information from me. I’m starting to pay attention to what’s going on inside my head and push information his way more intentionally like, “This Saturday, I’m thinking about taking a couple of hours to organize the attic and identify things up there that need to go in our garage sale next month. Do you think you could help me?”


Jill says: When I push information to Mark,

1) It communicates value to him.
2) It helps him to plan his time.
3) It let’s him in on what I’m thinking.
4) It keeps conflict at bay.

Mark says: When you push information, the sentences tend to start in certain ways, such as:

I’ve been thinking about…
Just so you know…
I want to let you know…
I’m planning…
I already…

What about you? Where could you head off conflict in your marriage by pushing information to your spouse?  

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Our goal as parents:  we must not transfer power too early, even if our children take us daily to the battlefield.”

                                                            ~Dr. James Dobson

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When Mom Is Sick

ThinkstockPhotos-124627607It was one year ago today that I finished six months of treatment for triple-negative breast cancer.

Twelve months later, my hair has returned, my body is no longer swollen from steroids, I’m declared cancer-free, and I’m able to bring encouragement to others who are on the same journey I’ve been on.

A couple of months ago I dropped something off at the home of a friend who was facing a similar treatment plan. Her children, all grade school age and older, assembled in the living room, seemingly eager to meet someone who understands their now-new world of mom being sick. “I cried when I saw my mom’s drains after her surgery.” “What’s it like when you lose your hair?” “I don’t like needles, do the needles hurt?” Their questions rolled out faster than I could answer them.

When mom is sick, especially for the long haul, it’s hard on the family.

It’s especially hard on the kids.

In a blog post he wrote several months into my treatment, my 17-year-old son said his first thoughts after we received my diagnosis was, “How’s this going to affect my life?” He wasn’t particularly proud that was his first thought, but he shared honestly that it was. I appreciated his authenticity.

Even my older kids, who were out of the home experienced fear, worry, uncertainty, and especially for my girls, the long-term consideration of what this means for their own health.

Illness affects more than the person being treated. Four steps that can be remembered by the acronym CARE can help you help a child process a parent’s illness.

Chat—Talk freely about the realities of mom or dad’s illness but also talk about their life outside of sickness. They need to know it’s okay to talk about what’s happening at home but they also need to know that what’s going on in their life is important, too!

Affirm—Acknowledge their feelings, or help them identify them. Let them know those are normal feelings for what they are experiencing.

Reassure—Reassure them that life will return to normal at some time. It may be a new normal, depending on the reality of the illness, but it will not always feel like it does now.

Encourage—Encourage them to be helpful during this time, but to remember to talk about their feelings rather than keeping them inside. Offer to listen whenever they need it.

One of the best gifts to give a child when a parent is sick is one-on-one time where they can talk, vent, and just know that someone cares.

What about you? Would you add any other wisdom to help kids when their parent is dealing with a serious illness? 

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When Marriage Counseling Doesn’t Work

ThinkstockPhotos-178280024Mark says:
Jill and I have always been proponents of marriage counseling. We’ve talked about it openly in our marriage and tried our best to help couples know that “asking for help” is an important part of the marriage journey.

Jill says: 
We’ve sought out counseling as needed through our nearly 33 years of marriage. Even more than finding the right counselor, we’ve found that having the right attitude makes all the difference in the world.

Mark says: 
That’s why Jill and I resonated with Justin Davis’ blog post over on RefineUs.org last week. We were so moved by it, we asked him if we could share it here.  Justin, who coauthored the book Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enoughwith his wife Trisha, gave us the green light. We hope you find it as helpful as we did.


imagesWhen Trish and I started our first church in 2002, we had a lot of faith, very little money and even less people. I put together a business plan of what I thought was our budget and timeline and started meeting with as many people as I could, asking them to support this new church.

One morning I sat down with a very successful business man, seeking his advice but also his financial support. He had a huge heart for God and years of business experience. A friend had set up the meeting for me, and I didn’t want to blow it. I was nervous that I’d say the wrong thing and he would think I didn’t know what I was doing (which I didn’t) and not contribute to our vision.

I gave him a copy of our nine page business plan and began walking through it. My voice was shaking and my palms were sweating because there was so much at stake. I finished my speech and felt that even though it may not have been a great presentation, I swung for the fence. I closed my copy of the business plan, took a big drink of water and looked up to see his response.

“This is a great presentation.” he said.

“Thank you.” I replied.

“What is Plan B?” he asked. “If this plan doesn’t work, what is your Plan B?”

Inside I began to panic. I didn’t have a Plan B. This was my only plan. We were risking everything to start this church. I didn’t know if I should try to come up with an impromptu plan b or just be honest and tell him I didn’t have one.

“I don’t have a Plan B, sir.” I said. “I’m banking everything on this.”

His response still echoes in my heart and mind, “And that’s why this will work. If you had a Plan B, I’d question your commitment to this plan. This is going to work because you’re all in.”

A few months ago, I was sitting with a couple and the wife said to me, “We are going to try this (meeting with me) and if this doesn’t work we’re going to separate.” My response shocked both of them.

I said, “Well I can save all three of us an hour of our lives…you should just separate right now.”

Marriage counseling doesn’t work if a couple goes into it with a Plan B. The only way marriage counseling can work is if both a husband and a wife are all in. If you have a contingency plan or a a back up plan, you are already assuming that it will fail. You can’t hedge your bet and go ALL IN at the same time.

Marriage counseling is game-changing. It can save a shattered marriage and make a good marriage great. But what it requires is more than many people are willing to give: 100%.

download100% commitment

100% honesty

100% vulnerability

100% forgiveness

100% ownership

100% grace

Because so many of us go into marriage counseling with this thought, “When this doesn’t work then I’ll do this….” we never allow our hearts to fully engage. Our Plan B robs us of experiencing the transformation and change we desperately need.

Going all in is risky. Pursing your marriage with no contingency plan means you could get hurt in the end. You become vulnerable. But God shows up when we’re at our weakest point. Maybe we don’t experience God’s power to transform our marriage because we’re so busy hedging our bets.

Complete surrender. That’s where life-change and marriage transformation is found.

Go all in.

What about you? Have you kept a Plan B in the back of your mind? Do you need to surrender fully and go all in? 

Posted in Marriage | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“When your past calls, don’t answer.  It has nothing new to say.” 


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10 Summer Sanity Savers Every Mom Needs to Know

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It’s the first week of June and for many of us, the first week of summer break.

Every mom needs some strategies in place to make the summer a positive experience for everyone.

Today I offer you 10 sanity savers you can put into action to make this summer the best it can be!

Sanity Saver #1: Take care of yourself.
What will you doing to keep your emotional fuel tank refueled? What activities refresh you? Proactively plan those into your daily/weekly schedule. Don’t wait until your tank is empty…fill up regularly!

If you are at home, your kids are with you 24/7. Create a moms night out once a week with a friend, or trade “days off” with another mom whose kids are close in age to your kids. If you are working full-time, it takes a lot more effort in the summer to make sure the kids are busy and where they need to be. Make sure you are taking care of yourself in order to really be able to take care of your family.

Sanity Saver #2: Create a routine.
It’s hard to go from the tight routine of school to very little routine in the summer. While it’s important to not schedule every minute, a loose routine can give structure to summer days. Maybe Monday is swimming day, Tuesday library day, Wednesday friend day, Thursday house and laundry day, and Friday free day. A schedule can guide planning and give some sense of security to our kids.  It also answers the most asked questions, “Can we go to the pool?” “Can I have a friend over?” “When can we go to the library?”  Those don’t have to be the ONLY days you do those activities, but those are the days the kids can count on.

Sanity Saver #3: Set boundaries.
Kids are more likely to stay within boundaries if they actually know what those boundaries are. How much television is ok? How long on video games? We found the kitchen timer to be helpful with video games or TV with our 1 hour on/1 hour off boundary. The boys would set the timer before they would get on the game. (If I found them playing video games without a timer set, they lost video games for the rest of the day.)

Sanity Saver #4: Rest every day.
If you are a stay-at-home mom, this is really important…for you…and for your kids! Even if your kids are no longer taking naps, a rest time is really important to give them time to play apart from their siblings and kids in the neighborhood.  This is when my older kids learned the joy of reading or building with Legos.  We usually set the timer for 1 hour. When the timer went off, they knew rest time is over.

Sanity Saver #5: Make summer drinks easy.
When the kids are playing hard in the summer, they are always thirsty. I discovered one summer that a cooler full of ice water that I set out on the deck was such a time and mess-saver! Each morning, I filled a 5 gallon water cooler with ice and water.  I put a tray next to the cooler with cups labeled with their names (including the kids in the neighborhood!). When they wanted a drink, they were able to get it themselves without a mess in the kitchen.  I’d use the tray as a place to put fruit snacks, granola bars, or cookies for a morning and afternoon snacks.  It allowed them some self-serve independence!

Sanity Saver #6: Give opportunities to learn something new.
Summer is a great time for kids to learn new skills like cooking, gardening, or laundry. Take the time to teach them how to do a new skill and then give them ample opportunity to practice. If you have junior high or high school age children, they can be in charge of one meal a week. Grade-schoolers can learn to do laundry and be in charge of a couple of loads a week. This gives kids ownership and a sense of pride about contributing to the family. It also teaches them lifelong skills.

Sanity Saver #7: Lower your expectations.
Our frustration with our kids usually happens when our expectations intersect with reality.

  • Expect messes in the summer. They will happen.
  • Expect sibling rivalry. It’s a part of having more than one child.
  • Expect whining. Kids do this when they are tired.
  • Expect boredom. It’s actually healthy for them to be bored because it cultivates creativity.

When you lower your expectations, you’ll be far more content with reality. If you need a little more encouragement in that area, you might pick up No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are for some summer reading!

Sanity Saver #8: Learn to be a “Yes!” Mom
A couple of summers ago, I started the “Yes Mom Challenge.”  When I started to pay attention to how much I said no and why I said no, I discovered it usually had something to do with my selfish reasons. I didn’t want to deal with a mess. I didn’t want to be inconvenienced. I didn’t want to have more work to do.  That’s not fun to admit, but it was true. My selfishness was robbing my kids of some of the joy of just being kids!  Learn to be a yes mom and you’ll find the summer more enjoyable for everyone!

Sanity Saver #9: Make an “I’m bored” jar
At some point we all deal with “I’m bored.” When that happens, I usually tell my kids that they can find something to do or I’ll be happy to find something for them to do. It’s interesting how quickly they find something to do!  However, if you have younger kids, an “I’m bored” jar can also be helpful.  Simply fill out slips of paper with activities they can do like these:

  • Color a picture for Grandma
  • Write a letter to Grandma (and address the envelope!)
  • Make a fort
  • Build a castle with blocks
  • Put together a puzzle
  • Do “Winter in the summer” and cut out snowflakes
  • Have a tea party
  • Write a story

If you don’t want to do an “I’m bored” jar for the kids to pick a paper out, you can also keep an “I’m bored” list that puts suggestions at your fingertips.

Sanity Saver #10:  Let go and enjoy
We all want the “perfect summer” for our kids, but rather than activities and schedules making up the perfect summer, it’s actually the not-scheduled spontaneous activities that make memories: running in the sprinkler, having picnics on the porch, laying on the ground and looking for shapes in the clouds, catching fireflies after dark.   Sure, have some plans in place, but let spontaneity lead the way.

Prioritize relationships over tasks.

Be creative and make some messes.

Lecture less and laugh more.

These are the elements that make up a beautiful summer.

What about you? Would you add any more “tried and true” strategies to this list? 

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