‘Tis the season. For kids to be on break and moms to complain that they don’t know what to do with their kids at home with them all day. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had several moms express their dread of the fast-approaching Christmas break, always ending with, “I don’t know how you do it! Four at home all the time!”
I talked this summer about how I actually enjoy having all my kids around me all day, every day, year-round, and gave a few pointers on how we make it work. Since it’s wintertime and many of you are stuck inside this time of year, I thought I’d broach the topic again. I want to reiterate what I said in my last post–sticking one’s kids in front of the TV all day is really not the best solution. Now, I’m not totally anti-TV. We even use ours as part of school (checking out science or French videos or history documentaries from the library), but it’s not an all-day, every-day occurrence. Our family rule is that the kids need to clean up the living areas in a timely fashion before watching something. No toys or books strewn about the floor or art supplies covering the table. If and when you do use the electronic babysitter, make sure the space is cleaned up first.
If, like me, you live where the weather is perfect 360 days of the year, send them outside. Sheesh, if it’s snowy but the weather is above 20 degrees, send them outside! Kids today don’t spend enough time outside. But if it’s rainy or just too cold to send them outside, you’re going to have to have fun inside.
My family thrives on a daily routine. I won’t go into detail on ours, as every family’s will be different, but consider having meals/chores/reading/schoolwork happen at predictable times. We all do best when I invest my morning time in the kids, usually allowing me to be somewhat productive with my own tasks in the afternoon during naptime.
I’ve shared that I don’t enjoy mess. And my kids aren’t just naturally well-behaved, neat and tidy children. I’ve had to train them to entertain themselves, to play nicely, to clean up after themselves. If you haven’t had a chance to train your kids to clean up, this break is your chance! Stop what you’re doing twice a day and assign each child 3 manageable tasks to complete in a 5-minute blitz. Pick a bigger task (organizing the puzzle shelf, rearranging dresser drawers, cleaning out the hutch, etc) and get everyone involved for an hour, celebrating at the end with a special treat (at our house, Puzzle-rama is when the house is picked up and everyone pulls out puzzles and we all do them together). Pull the dining room chairs out into the living room and let the kids make a blanket fort with them while you scrub the floor under the table (and maybe even give them a scrub brush, too–my big kids find it very satisfying to help get the floor back white rather than gray…).
If you have nowhere to go all day, embrace the time for more complex art projects, like tracing your kids’ outlines on butcher paper and letting them design their own clothes, completing a simple sewing project (my five year old has sewn her own dress using this easy beginner’s pattern that Bethany introduced me to), find paper dolls on pinterest and create new outfits, build a pyramid out of sugar cubes, make a castle out of cardboard, turn that big amazon box into a spaceship, make Christmas ornaments (I’ve collected some ideas on our pinterest Christmas board), and the list goes on. I don’t know any child who doesn’t like to bake. I only do the roll-out sugar cookies once a year because it takes so long to make the dough, roll out and cut the cookies, bake them, and frost and decorate them, but it’s a fun all-day activity if you have the time! If you’re going to any holiday parties, sign up to bring a dessert and let the kids help you bake it from scratch (building in a lot of extra time for the “assistance”).
As a final note, let’s encourage each other to speak positively of our children. Just as it’s easy to egg each other on to complaining about our husbands, I see moms competing as to whose children are the worst monsters. What if we changed the whole dialogue regarding kids? What if we acknowledged that they’re busy and prone to mischief, but chose to embrace the blessing of their energy and enthusiasm? If a group of moms was all enthusiastically sharing ideas for engaging their kids, maybe the burned out mom in their midst would be less inclined to resent her own for ruining her peace and quiet and more inspired to enjoy her time with them. We all get burned out, don’t get me wrong, and sometimes the kids can be horrible, but let’s not go into break assuming the worst. I’ll be talking more about how sharing Jesus’ attitude towards children next week.