Commercials come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of ludicrousness. Whether it is an ad for some sort of must-have techno-toy or some must-see TV program, we are bombarded night an day. And while I can tolerate all the ignorant beer commercials during Frasier and the insane previews for Fear Factor, there is one that drives me nuts. You know it. It starts out in a peaceful rural setting of kids riding bikes down a dirt road and swaying on a tire swing over a pond. Then you hear a kindly voice reminding you that, "This year, summer has only 83 days, so enjoy every minute.", while a pitcher of Countrytime lemonade fills the screen.
Eighty-three days?!? With my kids!?!
There is not enough unspiked lemonade on the planet to make that scenario enjoyable.
Like all parents, I began hearing the age-old chorus of the "Iím bored" blues being sung at approximately 9 am the day after school let out for the summer. And I suppose it makes some sense. These same little creatures who loudly complain about school while it is in session, are suddenly stripped of all routine and left to fend for themselves. They are faced with an empty void (known to you and me as DAY) and no clear ideas as to how it will be filled. (My initial suggestions, that of laundry, vacuuming and toilet scrubbing resulted in several sprained eyeballs when they rolled them too far back in their little heads.)
So how will you keep the kids occupied and still manage to hang onto several shreds of your sanity this summer? Well, pour yourself a glass of lemonade and read on...
Christmas In July: Why wait for December 1st to roll around? You know your kids will want to give a gift to everyone they know, from the music teacher to the check out clerk at the video store. Start now. Whip up a simple batch of Salt Dough (1 cup flour, Ĺ cup salt, 1 cup water, 2 tsp cream of tartar, 1 TBSP oil - stir over medium heat for two minutes till a dough forms - roll out like cookie dough) Give the kids cookie cutters and VOILA! They will be making ornaments, frames, magnets in no time at all! Dry them overnight on the counter or in an oven set to 200 degrees. Once they harden, they can be decorated with paint, markers or crayons, so even the youngest Picasso can be involved!
Water Works: All kids love to play in water. A whimsical sprinkler can be had for less than $10, a more elaborate favorite - the Slip-n-Slide - for under $25. They will play for hours (just donít forget the sunscreen)! Also, some sponges, a couple buckets of water and squirts of dishwashing soap will have the entire neighborhood washing your minivan in no time! Now granted, the van will only get cleaned up to the four-foot mark, but they all had fun and were occupied!
The Great Outdoors: Most kids complain if you ask them to walk from one room to the next to put their shoes away, but pack a lunch in a backpack and say, "We are going hiking!" and suddenly they can walk for hours. Even if you just explore your own neighborhood, kids love getting outside.
Gardening: Children as young as 1 and as old as 12 enjoy getting dirty. Let them plant a small garden (herb, flowers, tomatoes, etc) that they will be responsible for tending as the plants grow. They will take pride in their sprouts and establish a daily routine at the same time.
Reading, Writing, Arithmetic: School may be out for the summer, but learning should not be. Set aside 15 minutes each day for journal/diary/letter writing, and also time for reading. If your child does not own a library card, let them get one now. Establish one day a week as "Library Day" and GO. When grocery shopping, test your older childís math skills -- let them try to mentally track how much you are spending. (Rounding off is ok!)
Fashion Show/Play: Young girls especially love this one. Assist them in putting on a play or a fashion show, complete with rehearsals, costumes, music, etc. Not only will it occupy them for up to a week, when we did this last year, sixty neighbors were in attendance. We followed with a Pizza Party for the cast.
Summer Party: Allow the kids to plan a Summer Party! Some bright napkins, plates, simple refreshments and the blaring sounds of íN Sync are all it takes. Kids are always more excited by the idea of a party than what actually takes place at one. They simply like getting together to "party." Parents will love you because this is one party invitation where no GIFTS are needed!
In addition to these time-consuming ideas, here are a few sanity savers no parent or caregiver should forget!
Suncreen: Make it part of the daily routine, just like brushing their teeth. And donít spend a fortune on name brands. A large bottle of SPF 45 no name lotion is just as good as the designer kind. SPF is all that matters when on the kids.
Popsicles: Next time you hit the WalMart or grocery store, look for the 100 count box of popsicles. A box costs less than $3, and you will always have a refreshing treat on hand.
Earplugs: I did mention íN Sync, didnít I?
Exercise Daily: Physically, well, the benefits are obvious. But the mental dividends are even greater. Work WITH the fact that you have kids at home. Put the smaller ones in a stroller and hit the streets each morning before it gets too hot outside. Older children will love to ride their bikes and be your "trainer" as you race walk or jog beside them.
Momís Nite Out: Do this! Even if it is only one or two nights a month, go out with other frazzled friends, relax, laugh and recharge your batteries. You will be a better parent for it.
Momís Nite IN: If you cannot escape your home, let Calgon take you away instead. Draw a bubble bath, grab a good book (I highly recommend Stretchmarks On My Sanity, by... ahem... Me), and pour yourself a beverage.
Just donít make it lemonade. You still have 82 days left to drink that stuff.