Archive for the ‘vacation’ category

Kids have more time for chores in summer

July 2, 2012
Kids and chore are important, especially during summer when they have more time for chores. Get children and teens to choose their own chores at home during a family meeting to help out. Use encouragement, not praise.

Borrowed this wonderful photo from

Kids like structure. Kids like to feel connected and competent. Summer disrupts those opportunities at school, so parents have to work a bit harder to compensate.

Summer is a great time to teach kids good habits and life skills by involving them in what you’re doing — laundry, yard work, cooking, dishes, fixing things, or anything else around the house. The earlier you start including them in chores, the more natural it will seem. The younger they are, the more they love to help out. Ironically, the older they get and more skilled, the less likely they are to contribute.

We raised our four kids frugally — probably to a fault. However, they learned how to manage  money and avoid the debt epidemic. We didn’t hang-dry laundry when they were growing up. It’s an excellent kid-chore because the youngest kids can do it.

I created a hang-dry system near our washing machine to give up the dryer. It took some time to install and some help from Reliable Bob.  I saw instant savings in my electric bills since we’ve started hang-drying most laundry. I like coarse air-dried towels — they’re like a spa, and soften up after a few uses. Sheets dried outside have a wonderful smell. Usually I’m too lazy to go further than our little dry furnace room right next to the washing machine to dry sheets.

Here I am creating a new energy saving system that the kids got used to to hang dry laundry and save money. it's an excellent chore for kids to hang up laundry, be frugal and save the planet. Using less energy is what we all need to do.

I’m attaching a thick cable to the wall to install a strong indoor clothesline.

Take some time to set up energy-efficient systems this summer.  A work ethic, frugality and knowing how to fix things can take your kids a long way in life. Take the time this summer to set up green systems. Let your kids take apart some old appliances and electronics to see how they work and challenge them to put them back together.  See if they can fix things. Find appliance parts at PartSelect if needed.

Let them make a mess. Encourage them to experience trial and error by taking apart appliances, tinkering with old computers, cooking, growing seeds, sewing or whatever interests them. Investing in messes and chores plant seeds that will grow for a lifetime.

Allow transition time to summer vacation

June 25, 2012
college students are like lame ducks. They've experienced the freedom of college and now have to spend summer with mom and dad. Parents need to communicate with college students about expectations.

Close the door if you can’t stand the mess and let kids of all ages keep their rooms how they choose. You have bigger concerns on which to pour parental energy.

Most kids despise transitions. They like routines, the safety of knowing what’s coming next.

Give them at least two weeks to settle down into the new summer schedule, whether it’s more time at home, with relatives or at camp or summer school. Until they settle down, cut them extra slack when they are quick to anger, resist doing chores and squabble with you and siblings more often.

Expect less and show more patience during the two weeks of transition. You’ll be calmer by adjusting  expectations and having a plan.

If you have the revolving door of college students, have a family meeting or at least a chat about how you expect them to contribute, keep track of their belongings and communicate about their whereabouts.

The start of summer is a good reason to have a family meeting with kids of all ages to set up summer plans for fun, chores, routines and agreements on screen time. Figure out a way that they will self-monitor screen time so you’re not the cop.

Family meetings pay off in the long run because they engender every positive characteristic you want kids to develop. They especially promote the priceless gift of connection that eventually keeps tweens and teens making good independent decisions.

Whatever you do with your toddlers, school age, tweens and teens this summer, make sure it involves some outdoor time reveling in the woods.  Allow them to feel boredom without plugging into a screen. They will discover resource and creativity through boredom. It is a problem they can solve without plugging in. Remember the four most powerful words in the English language: You can do it.

How do you handle the big transitions around the school calendar? Do your kids act out?

“I’m Bored”

August 15, 2011
Kids who can't entertain themselves need to learn how by parents offering positive attention at neutral times then expecting kids to find things to do. Good parenting is about setting expectations and boundaries. Discipline is kind and firm and consistent. Parenting tots, tweens, school age and teens is all about cultivating a good relationship, using positive language and encouragement.

They eventually found a huge source of entertainment at the edge of pond, even though it's wet, sandy and damp.

Parents often react to a kid saying, “I’m bored” the same as to “I’m hungry.” Except the first is the kid’s problem, the second is a parent’s. Tweens and teens can solve both with minimal parental consultation.

Kids under age 11 probably need help getting food. If they have gotten sufficient positive attention at neutral times, they ought to be able to solve their own boredom.

I dipped back into parenting over the weekend while taking care of three kids, 6, 4 and 14 months. They were reluctant to explore our pond and played inside for quite a while on Sunday.

I resisted allowing them to watch more than one 60-minute video on a summer day and declined invitations to build something “really big with all of the Duplos.” I already fed them every two hours, picked up their constant trail, got them to bed, etc. I was not interested in being chief playmate and entertainer.

“Can we please watch another video?” they pleaded. After reading them four books they finally ventured towards the pond in light rain and started doing what kids are made to do. Get lost in the world of play, pretend and fun. Bounce off each other. Learn about relationships to each other, sand, water and light with minimum of parental interference.

It was fun to watch and care for them.We had “parallel play” — Bob and I weeded while they explored the pond. Two or more kids are always easier than a solitary child, who can self-entertain and invite friends over.

If your kids rely on you to solve boredom, changing the expectation will take a few weeks, protests, long sighs and even sitting with, gasp! nothing to do. Be patient. Creativity emerges from stillness. You will be amazed at the non-electronic entertainment they discover. Allow them to make a mess in the kitchen, yard, family room or bedroom. Creativity is always messy. Take time to notice their efforts and allow time to clean up with them.

Saying, “I know you can find something to do” is encouraging. As soon as a kid can utter, “I’m bored,” he is old enough for this solution: cleaning. Say, “Let’s clean your closet out today. The living room needs vacuuming. Put on these special cleaning socks and slide over the hardwood floors. Let’s crank up the stereo, put on dust mitts and dust the whole house.”

You can bet they’ll find something to do. Fast. Or maybe they’ll clean with you. Chores are one of THE best ways to develop self-discipline. That’s another post.


The great outdoors is fun, frugal and local

July 18, 2011
Family fun can come in all sizes and shapes. Family connection is one of the most important aspects of summer vacation. Fun Frugal family times can be found in nature. Nature and kids seem to go together.

That's me, about to take a swing on the rope swing.

I want to jump back into this picture when we found this rope swing while on vacation with another family on Bustin’s Island in Maine. It was better than an amusement park, closer and cheaper, too. We made our own fun together. Bustin’s Island is an 80-acre island off the coast of Freeport, Maine — no cars allowed. Everything must be hand-carried or put into one of the few pickup trucks that meets the small ferry and taken to rustic cottages. When we went there in the 1990s, most cottages had outhouses, gas lights and gas refrigerators. It was one step above camping and we loved it. The kids and dog could roam free. We found non-electronic things to do like this rope swing, canoeing, playing volleyball, picking blackberries and biking.   Getting outside and playing together is one of the best methods for family connection and a mental health remedy.

It can be as simple as  slowing down for backyard fun, a walk in the neighborhood park, taking a day trip, or going camping. Nature is therapeutic according to multiple studies. Nature is a conduit for family connection — one of the best ways to protect your kids against making bad decisions as they become tweens and teens.

A strong parent-child/tween/teen connection is the BEST insurance that they stay away from the bad list — you know that list of parental angst that only grows as they grow up. Find some time to get in your backyard, bike around the block or plant a few seeds. Your kids will remember these activities for a long time. It’s an investment in positive parenting because you can act like a kid and have fun with them.

Have a family meeting and make a list of simple outdoor activities your kids want to do this summer. Let loose and take a turn on the rope swing. Bring the camera.  Time passes fast.

Biking together is a great way to get eveyone in the family on the same page. Good parenting is all about Family connection. The easiest way to connect is to have fun together and act like a kid with your kids, tweens, and teens. Use summer vacation to find fun frugal cheap family adventures. You don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun together.

Dad on the tandem with Ian and Kristen in the last century.

The kids go back to school Monday!

February 24, 2011

Dealing with stress, Part 2

For those of us in New England, the February vacation is almost over!

To get through the next three days and survive the stress of vacation [yes, vacations are stressful times!  here are a few suggestions.

1.Get outside with the kids. Sunshine, fresh air and trees are marvelous stress-relievers. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the woods, using some of that snow for entertainment, or walking in a city together.

2. Get a change of scenery. Get a library pass for a museum — any museum will do. Visit a train station and watch the trains come & go. Ride a public bus or subway. That’s an adventure for the kids. There’s always my favorite place — the library.

3. Get together with another family for a pot luck, games, and to play your musical instruments for each other. Great fun.

4. Trade child care with a friend so you can get out alone or with your spouse for some child-free time. Marriages that ignored will eventually crumble, like a building that is neglected falls into disrepair and become uninhabitable. Cultivate cheap thrills, like the suggestions in number one. Get out the x-country skis and snow shoes. Track animals in the woods. Trade sleepovers with another family so you can have the house together alone.

5. Cook something adventuresome that you normally don’t cook. Don’t worry about the mess.

Remember, this too, shall pass. They will grow up faster than you can believe.

Good parenting is sustainable and worth effort. Back to school is three days away!

Tune into wireless camping

September 7, 2010

They're about as cute as they come. Children love camping together. It's a great adventure. Raising children outdoors teaches them to appreciate the planet.

BFF. Camping will do that for people, even when things go awry.

What a glorious view. Dry weather out west helps make camping more enjoyable. Even though camping with young children is a lot of work, it's worth it. Camping together connects families to the great outdoors, to each other and to friends.

Two families bond with each other and the great outdoors.

Hey Grandma, look at me! I can roll out dough with my cup. THat's what I love about camping- improvising. Camping is most fun when done with groups of people

Grandma and Bree roll out pie crust together at camp.

This guest post is from my nephew Sean who touts the virtues of family camping.

After a 10-day tent camping trip with my wife, daughter (almost 2 ½) and my parents followed by another 3 night tent trip with another family of 4, I said to Susan that camping “is a time to really tune into your family.”

There was a lot of “tuning in.”  As new parents, we were a little nervous about driving thousands of miles with a 2-year-old strapped in the back of our Suburban.  We had space to bring lots of camping amenities and plenty of toys and books.

We decided to forgo electronic gadgets and screen devices and stick to our convictions to use screen time very sparingly.

Our goal was to make it out to Glacier National Park in Montana, which meant about 9.5 hours of driving from our Seattle home.  We chose to divide up the drive into two segments, stopping in North Central Washington for the first weekend.

That drive went uneventfully as Breanna slept about half of the time.  We strategically plan to drive during nap times, so this one encompassed her afternoon nap.  Two days later, we were on the road again, headed to GNP.  After arriving in the park and the rendezvous with my parents, we realized that we had not even turned on the radio the entire drive.

We became so in tune with our daughter’s banter or sleep that we didn’t even need the background noise.  In fact, Bree kind of kept us entertained after learning a few driving games.  Soon she was asking things like “What do you see, Daddy?” or “What color, Mommy?”  Those games translated into object identification games including barns, animals, and various trucks.  So we learned together, and what started out in fear ended up in learning, listening and tuning into one another’s sights and sounds.

The camping trip had lots of outdoor time, inter-generational cooking and discovery time outdoors seeing wildlife, trees, lakes and plants.  We made it through several long days of driving and ended up with in Bend, Oregon– all without a single DVD player!

Back home, one of the biggest realizations hit me.  Breanna had a chance to really tune into us as well.  I was printing and trimming some pictures from our trip; running around as I sometimes do.

Breanna was in the room with the printer and paper cutter.  Suddenly I heard, “Daddy, look!”  I called back “What, Bree?”  “Campfire!” she exclaimed.  I ran around the corner to see the most meticulous campfire built with kindling and all.  Bree had squirreled away the steps in making a campfire during our trip, and without even knowing it we had taught her a new skill.

She had placed the paper strips on the floor as kindling and found some table legs to use as logs over the kindling.  I was excited to see that Breanna had a chance to learn from and tune into us without us even knowing it.  Of course this reinforced my motivation for always being the best person I can for the sake of my family, especially my child(ren).

We spent 25 nights in a tent this summer and learned a lot about each other.  We spent time with several other families and became more intimate friends through cooking, doing camp chores and having real-life sleepovers.

For me, there have been great opportunities to get away from house projects, computers and phones.  Road trips provided great talking and tune-in time for our whole family and camping allowed us to divide up tasks and learn new chores.