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Five Free Things To Do With Your Children

Try these activities with your children tonight and change the course of your summer.

Many of my friends are having babies, and it’s a reminder for me that our children really do grow up fast. In ten years I doubt my son will say, “I wish mom sat on the sidelines more while I played baseball.”

I want my children to remember the time we spent together. I want them to look back on their childhood summers with a smile on their lips.

I spent the beginning of summer rushing from one summer camp to another trying to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs at the same time in opposite parts of town. I was exhausted, and I caught myself snapping at the children every morning as I stressed about getting each child to camp on time.

To amplify that one of my children is on the Autism Spectrum, and if he is late for something that he knows starts at a particular time it will screw up his entire day. It’s as if he can’t let it go, he’ll continue to worry and think about it.  And needless to say he won’t be fun to be around.

As August approached I felt like we didn’t have much to show for our summer. Sure we went on vacation and the boys went to camp, but I didn’t feel like I had any quality time with my children. I know that once school starts, we will be overwhelmed with activities, PTA and homework.

Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a working parent; I know you can sympathize with me. Maybe your summer has looked a lot like mine? Tonight change the course of your summer and do the five things listed below.

If your children whine or complain about doing them, say, “Instead we can do chores together? Would you rather wash the baseboards?”    

1. Give each member of your family a small memo pad and one marker, including the adults, and walk around your neighborhood drawing what you see. If you can text and walk, you can draw and walk.

2. Lay a blanket down in your yard and share with your children what you see in the cloud shapes. Don’t sit in patio chairs, lay down and be connected with the earth and your children. Talk about the shapes. Ask them what they want to be when they grow up and if they are nervous about school starting. Now is your opportunity to listen. Remember that their problems are very real to them; even the 13-year-old heartbreak.

3. Read a portion of a book together, even if your children are older use this opportunity to take turns reading aloud. Whether it’s from Harry Potter, Shel Silverstein, or if you are religious, use this time to read the Bible or another spiritual text.

4. Turn off the Wii and play an old-fashioned board game or card game. The thing that is missing when you are playing an electronic game (Wii, Nintendo etc.) with your child is conversation. What’s wrong with teaching your teen how to play poker?

5. Involve everyone in the making of dinner. Assign each member of the family a job to contribute to the family meal.

I hope in the coming months, as our evening are filled with homework, book reports and sports practices, that we each take something from the list of five things to do with our children and add it to our weekend plans.

Gretchen Schock is a mom, a writer and a yoga instructor. Check out her creative writings and crafty goodness on her blog, www.CocktailMom.com. Or come to a yoga class and be inspired! 

David Morse August 08, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Great ideas, Gretchen. Here's another suggestion that gave us a lot of fun when our kids were younger: Going to a pick-your-own farm and, well, picking your own. Technically, it's not free--but you might spend no more (and probably less) than you would for produce you'd buy anyway. (Unless you end up getting way more than you can use--as we did--but our neighbors were pleased with the strawberries we distributed.) Everything's fresh, the surroundings are lovely, and kids who like to be active are especially happy. And there's still a lot left to pick this season. The University of Maryland Extension maintains a list of places at http://www.marylandagriculture.info/category_info.cfm?categoryid=50 David
Sarah Wayland August 08, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I sit in the room with my kids as they fall asleep (they share a room). I read a chapter from a book (we are re-reading Winnie the Pooh) and then turn out the lights. They tell me about their day, and talk to each other as they drift off. It's my favorite time of day!
Bailey Henneberg August 08, 2012 at 07:21 PM
One of my best childhood memories is of my brothers and sisters and I playing Monopoly with my dad one rainy night. As I've mentioned (to Gretchen), he was on call 24/7 and it was a rare night off. He was so animated, we all had a blast!
Gretchen Schock August 09, 2012 at 12:01 AM
David what a great idea! When I lived in Seattle I would take my son blueberry picking every year. It has slipped my mind since moving east, thanks for the reminder! Be well.
Gretchen Schock August 09, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Sarah, I love this! Thank you so much for sharing.

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