The mom I mentioned on Monday is not the only one I’ve heard talk about disliking constant exposure to her kids. It’s that time of the year where I’m starting to hear, “Oh no, it’s summer vacation—we’re going to drive each other crazy!” I admit that I don’t have this particular problem because I homeschool my school aged child, so I’m used to having all my kids around 24-7. Like most things, I think extended face time with kids goes best with advanced planning. Here are some of my tricks of the trade for enjoying round-the-clock time with my kids:
- TV is not the answer, but audio books are great. My kids actually are whinier, lazier, and generally more disagreeable when I plug them into the TV for hours. However, when I put on an audio book (our favorites include Charlotte’s Web and the Chronicles of Narnia), they’ll play quietly and happily within earshot of the story for an hour or more at a stretch. My hunch is that listening rather than watching encourages greater imagination?
- Plan outings. Some of my friends need to be out of the house every day or they’ll go stir crazy; others feel stressed by more than one outing a week. My kids and I generally find that 2-3 outings a week give us some fresh air but allow us to get home stuff done. Here in SoCal, it’s easy to go to the park year-round. When we lived where it was winter for 6 months, we’d have weekly library trips and checked out local children’s museums on a regular basis.
- Keep out only as many toys as your children can pick back up at the end of the day. The wooden blocks and matchbox cars can keep my kids occupied for hours—unless there are also duplos, puzzles, train tracks, and play food out to distract them. Then they wildly go from one toy to another for 5 minutes at a time and get sick of everything we have in under an hour. Bonus–if we get down (and put away) one or two genres of toy at a time, it’s actually possible to see the floor at the end of the day.
- Utilize relatives. Our family is all out of state, but my kids love video chatting with either set of grandparents. My mom picks up our current favorite books from her public library and reads them over the internet to my kids, who have ours in hand. This is especially helpful when I’m pregnant or sick!
- Mentally prepare for a mess. When the kids pull the art supplies bin out, I know that my kitchen is going to be trashed all morning. I can’t expect my kids to cut and glue and color without spilling stuff all over (and under) the table. But I can expect my kids to help me tidy things back up before lunch and naps.
Lastly, this is probably really obvious, but I do try to cherish the time we have together, whether it’s introducing the kids to my beloved Little House books or teaching the toddler her body parts! When I have all my little ones cuddled up with me on the couch, I defy the most successful career woman to feel more joy in her work than I do.
What do you do to help yourself and your kids enjoy each other’s company?