OK, so my house isn’t literally full of children, but with the loud play, running, chasing, jumping, laughter, bickering, and (sometimes) crying, three kids can easily feel like a very full house (or chaos, here). I’ve had several summers to try out ideas of how to keep them busy, while allowing myself some practice time. My goal has been to try to get practicing finished in the morning, which gives us the afternoon to play, swim, hang-out, or whatever crosses their energetic minds. This year, as the academic year was wrapping up, I came up with some other ideas to help deal with the occasional summer boredom, summer “brain drain”, and helpful other “distractions”, or redirection, as needed. Enter the Wheel-of-Activities, Wheel-of-Chores, and Treasure Box. Since I’ve had some success with these, I definitely wanted to share them with you!
Wheel-of-Activities. I wanted to create something that included the children’s favorite unplugged (non-electronic) activities, but at the same time had an element of randomness to it. This way it’s not just “mom’s idea” (booooriiiing), but feels more like a surprise to them. So, I created a 6-wedge pie that lists one activity in each wedge with a corresponding number as you go clock-wise along the pie, 1-6. They can either spin a game spinner or roll a die to determine what activity they are going to do. The whole process actually creates enough excitement (anticipation?) that they go directly to the determined activity. I especially use this when I feel a boredom complaint coming on, or when they’ve been stuck inside too long due to weather and are getting a bit too rowdy. It keeps the fun going and redirects the brain from potential conflict.
Wheel-of-Chores. The wheel-of-chores was born naturally out of the wheel-of-activities. First of all, I do want to say that I have mixed feelings about using chores as any sort of punishment. My thought is that pitching in with the housework is something that all able-bodied family members should do (in my house). Using chores as a punishment can attach too much of a negative quality to the process that it mentally can become something someone only does as a punishment, instead of a rewarding necessity (I say “rewarding” because a tidy home has many, many rewards in my book! …That can be difficult to achieve in a full house, though! 🙂 ). My wheel-of-chores only includes chores that are feasible for my youngest child (5), that way it doesn’t become unfair or unmanageable. I do use the wheel-of-chores as another method of redirection as needed, but I also try to gauge their mood first. If I’m fairly certain it will be met with a lot of resistance due to grumpiness, etc., then we’ll just go for another method. However, the anticipation of what number will be rolled or spun is exciting to young children, so that does help. One of my boys was excited to spin the wheel-of-chores, but the youngest did start to bulk when I asked him. I explained why we all need to help contribute to a tidy house, and, because he is so young, I did offer to help. Once they got started, we ended up having some fun, and some tidy rooms at the same time!
Treasure Box. So, my older two children were having a conversation about how the “treasure box” reward system worked in their respective classrooms. As I listened to their conversation I suddenly thought that it would be a great idea to do at home and use it as a reward system for completing school grade/year-appropriate worksheets every day or every other day. So, I went to the dollar store and bought their favorite trading cards, sticker sheets, Matchbox cars, and the like (small, inexpensive, fun items) and put them all in a box labeled “Treasure Box”, which they are excited about decorating. This turned out to be a really great idea! I gave them the rule that they can pick out a prize for every 3 worksheets that they complete correctly (math, grammar, writing exercises for my youngest, etc.), and they ask to do them nearly every day! It’s been a great teaching tool, and a fun way to maintain or even build their skills! I think I’m going to have to re-fill the box soon, actually. You can find free sample worksheets online through your favorite search engine.
The above three methods are fantastic for helping to maintain some peace and sanity around the house, but they may not necessarily help with getting a lot of practicing in. I’m going to admit that I do let them have more screen-time over the summer than I allow during the school year. I know that there are mixed opinions on screen-time (specifically, video and computer games), but they do help to build problem-solving skills, and possibly even math skills, but more research is happening on that front. So, I don’t mind it. I do monitor what they play and how they play, which is very important to me. So, they get their allotted screen-time in while I practice. That has been working very well!
So, even though you may have a loud, more active house over the summer, try some of the above methods for helping to organize it. Oh, and don’t forget to have a good sitter/family member around for in case you suddenly get called to play! 😉 Enjoy your summer!!!