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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer Is Almost Here!

   As much as I love teaching when we get into the month of May I go back in my mind to being a little 5th grade girl sitting in my classroom.  In May our teacher would raise the windows to cool the room and although my body was sitting at the wooden desk lined neatly behind someone else's, my mind was outside under the big trees that lined our school.  I wanted so much to be out enjoying the warm breeze, the newly leafed trees and playing--not doing school.  I'm sure I wasn't a very productive student in the springtime because my heart and mind were already on summer break!
  Well, not a whole lot has changed.  I truly feel for my children when they have a hard time concentrating this time of the year.  I give them the standard lectures on how the end of the year grades are SO important so they need to focus on those last few tests, but inside I'm with them--dying to close the books and get outside!
   My husband says that the reason I love children so much is because I've never quit being one myself.  I don't argue that point because the last week as I go to sleep at night I try to think of what the children and I will do this summer.
  Sometimes I'll try to think of a theme.  I love the camp theme for kids in the summer.  You can have "cabin clean-up" each day and have a winner at the end of the week--boys against girls.  You can have a canteen and when they do good on chores and projects they earn reward money that can be spent at the canteen.  It can be chips, candy bars, granola bars, cheese crackers or coupons "good for a McDonald's ice cream cone" (each one having a value put on it in your fake money) but kids love spending money at the canteen.  By the way, the canteen is only open at certain hours of the day!
  You can have craft projects you do together.  These can be carefully disguised jobs that you're wanting to get done.  I'm trying to figure out how to slip in my "sand and paint" the little table for the front porch into a craft project for the kids this summer! 
  You can have badges that the kids earn by carrying out their craft projects or doing a nature project.  You can teach them how to make lanyards, how to sew a simple skirt, baking 101, make and paint your own birdhouse, backyard garden, etc.  All this keeps the kids busy and happy and teaches them something new at the same time.  I don't know about anyone else but I enjoy these projects just as much as my kids do.  I've been a mama long enough now that you can do just about anything with a kid and if you're into it with them wholeheartedly they're going to have a wonderful time!
  One year when I was at Alicia's helping after a baby (I believe it was Macey Joy) I brought "camp in a suitcase" with me when I came to watch the children while Alicia recovered.   I had scarves (like the boys scout and girl scouts wear) that we sewed badges (special buttons and beads) on when they earned them.  We had canteen, morning devotions, game time, craft time and rest time. (that last one was Grandma inspired and needed!)  We had cabin cleanup contest, special treats to make and eat and we even designed and made our own camp flag. On each Friday evening we had "awards night" where the kids earned their choice of $1 gifts from Dollar Tree for being the one with the most initiative on their chores or the most cheerful or that learned all of Psalms 100.   The camp was called Camp Tamarak.  (My name is Tamara Kaye and I was really pleased with the name of the camp. :)
   Something else kids love is being out at night in the summer.  My kids and I have always loved building campfires and sitting by it after dark.   You can chase fireflies, play flashlight tag, find the summer constellations and tell them stories by a campfire.  You can teach them to make S'mores, try making some hamburger packets or other campfire food, and if you're really brave you can even camp out with them in the backyard.  I have actually built tents with sheets and clothespins over a swing set and had a wonderful time camping out with my kids. 

  Children love games and adults seem to draw back from games with children because, well, because kids can sure complicate games with their playfulness and their argumentiveness with one another, BUT they love games and they need games.  So I plan a game night and make myself do it.  I've found once I get into it I have a wonderful time and it if you make rules and stick to them everyone learns about cooperation and taking turns and you learn all kinds of new things about your kids!
   When I think of summer and kids I think of several things that you cannot fail with.  Eating outside is one.  Set up a table outside and roast some hot dogs, throw the chips on the table and have popsicles or ice cream cones ready for the end of the meal and you've got happy kids!  Summer is such a fun time for outdoor meals and snacks.  I've made my kids sack lunches or bought the little plastic trays at WalMart and let them carry their lunch outdoors to eat in the treehouse or fort.  Makes it so special!
  Another sure winner is water to play in!  Rather it's just a large tub of water they're allowed to play in with toys and cups or a small pool you keep carefully maintained ,(and I know what a job this is as we had a wading pool almost every year we lived at the Swan Pond parsonage that I cleaned manuall.) kids and water love each other on a hot summer day.  One of the funnest $1 investments I ever made was a bunch of water balloons with the little gizmo that goes on your outdoor water faucet to fill them with.  So fun!  Get a big trash barrel and let them spend an hour so filling them and then let them go at it. (with you in the middle)  Makes for a good half day of fun!
   Another fun toy that kids love to play with is sheets and/or refrigerator boxes.  Have your hubby stop by an appliance store and get a couple refrigerator boxes and then you and the kids can cut, paint and play.  I've made a Noah's ark out of one for Asher's third birthday, made nice big long tunnels for the kids to play in, made a castle, a fort, a pirate ship and a playhouse out of refrigerator boxes.  You can even let the kids cut up scrap fabric and make curtains for it.  You can attach it to the side of a swing set for a huge fort or hideout.  My kids have been detectives, spies, Civil War soldiers, pirates, and the list goes on and on and a refrigerator box has been part of the props many times.  As far as the sheets, you can make a wonderful tent over a clothesline, you can create instant shade on their swing set, and you can drape them over tables to make hideouts!  I remember having the kids completely convinced that we were hiding from Indians that were attacking when we were under a draped table!  
  I know there's more but the last one I can think of is taking a walk.  Where we live now it is beautiful and it is so enjoyable to walk the neighborhood.  My kids and I take penny walks sometimes.  You take a penny along and when you come to a corner you toss the penny to determine if you're going straight or turning!  We've forgotten the penny at times and so we'll throw the water bottle or something else we find to decide is is left, right or straight!  I also turn walks into scavenger hunts.  The kids get a certain amount of points if they see wildlife, a certain color of flower, an insect, children in a yard, a clothesline and the list can go on and on.  Last year I threw in that they would get 500 points if they saw a bear!  Much to my surprise a house had a wooden bear on the porch and one of the kids got the points!  Another time it was a frog and some people had a yard full of fake frogs!  You can reward the one with the most points however you wish.  You know, the losers have to wait on him all evening or something like that!

   This summer gas prices are high, my husband is working off hours where we will be home almost every day but I am looking forward to summer.  Years ago a lady wrote in a book I read how blessed you would be if you learned to find joy in those things that were God-given and were free.  Watching children play wiffle ball in the twilight, telling stories as you sit on the porch swing and watch fireflies blink.  Bathing a baby and teaching them to play with bubbles.  Being thrilled with watching your coffee perking on a counter with dappled sunlight mixing with the steam.  There is so much to do with children that is free or almost free.  If you're struggling financially right now it isn't the time to mope because you can't run to the amusement park with your kids this year--make your own amusement park in your own back yard and have fun!  If you ask the Lord to help you see this summer through the eyes of a child you can make it the most memorable summer your kids ever have and years later they'll say, "Mom, do you remember the summer when....."  and that will make it worth it all!

With love,



1 comment:

Niki said...

Oh, Mom, this brings back so many memories! One of my favorite things was washing and rinsing ALL of my baby doll clothes in the galvanized tubs we had, and then hanging them on my little clothesline. I am sure I was soaked, and I doubt that the clothes were any cleaner, but it was fun! I also loved catching fireflies, and putting them in a jar, and making them my "nightlight". I'm sure you just loved having a jar full of bugs in your house ;) Thank you so much for teaching us to have fun with simple things, and for enjoying them with us. I hope to do the same things with my kids!