Friday, June 1, 2012

Free (or nearly free) summer fun

For some reason, there is something remarkably different about keeping two five year olds occupied for the summer versus doing the same for two four year olds.  I'm putting most of my money on elimination of a daily afternoon nap.  While it is true that they now play so well independently (as compared to being two or three), it is also true that sometimes we need a bit of novelty to keep things moving (and to keep us from fighting and whining).  So I wanted to make sure I had some kind of plan for the summer so I wouldn't be left wanting pull my hair out after trying to shoo the kids outside and being met with resistance or listening to them fuss over the same toy car.

I also changed our afternoon schedule a bit to have some down time that is purposefully very quiet.  (Up until about a month or two ago, Conleigh was still napping and so I was okay with Kenson playing quietly in his room while she napped. With kindergarten and no naps on the horizon, I've been working hard to keep Conleigh awake all day so I started letting her play in her room during rest time too.  But there was never any quiet time because even quiet play is actually a bit noisy and they were always tempted to want to play together.)  To help make part of our afternoon quiet, we've been using a free audiobook site to listen to stories online.  I had intended to get some books on tape at the library but we haven't gotten to the library yet, so I searched online and found Books Should Be Free.  The children's section has lots of choices with many classics that often get overlooked plus lots of books that are within a series.  From The Wizard of Oz (and all the sequels) to Tom Swift to The Swiss Family Robinson and Anne of Green Gables, there are many books I wish my kids were old enough to enjoy.  We've already done The Adventures of Reddy Fox and Raggedy Andy.  (I'm also eyeing Squinty the Comical Pig, not so much because I know anything about it but because the title sounds quite interesting.)  I have also been using which has a lot of fairly tales like Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc.. 

Another thing I have done is to invest in a summer fun box.  It's a box full of new toys for the kids, one for each week of summer.  I'm really not one to just buy my kids toys.  (It really never happens.Toys are for birthdays or Christmas and sometimes not even then.)  But I filled my box up with cheap, fun options for the summer.  I've included puzzles (100 piece ones which is much harder than anything we've done before), a clothesline and clothespins to create a pretend clothesline underneath the tree house so they can hang out their pretend laundry, a new slip and slide, a velcro catch tennis ball set, art supplies including paint and shape sponges, and a playhouse themed felt board I found at Goodwill.  None of it was expensive; I think the slip and slide cost the most and it was $5.  Much of it came from the dollar store or a thrift store.  I also tossed in some freebies like printed directions for Legos and recipes to make together.  And pinterest is rife with ideas like freezing toys into a chunk of ice and letting kids excavate the toys.

I would also offer up the suggestion of finding an oversized box or tube.  We just happened to order new bar stools which came in a gigantic box.   It's filled the afternoon and I'm guessing the fun will last just as long as the box does.  I vetoed Conleigh's initial suggestion of "Let's make it a casket!" so right now, it's an airplane with about 15 construction paper wings masking taped onto the sides.  And we got a new rug and some new carpet so we have not one but two large tubes.  Very fun for having Matchbox car races.

Lastly, we've been utilizing the computer this summer. is a fantastic language based site that is basically free.  (You can upgrade to a premium membership by paying but the free features are beyond amazing.)  My kids pick Starfall over PBS pretty consistently now.  Since I have two, usually I let one do the computer for 15 minutes, while the other one sits and works on a workbook, flashcards, learning game, etc. with me.  Then we switch.  I usually do that while I'm fixing supper which helps to keep the chaos down as we head towards downtime in the evening.  Around 5, the kids have to pick everything up and then once they are done, computer time starts.  If supper isn't done yet and each kid has had 15 minutes of computer time, I often let them work together on the computer until supper is finished.

So far, so good.  My hubby, who is home during the summer due to his job, has previously felt a little shock and awe at having to be home all summer long with two littles around.  He has even remarked that this summer feels a bit calmer.  Hoping we can maintain the momentum through July and August...

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