School’s out for summer! At Little Sprouts that means some of my little kids leave for the summer and my school age kids are here every day. Obviously it takes a different finesse to teach and entertain a 10 or 11 year old than it does a 2 year old, right? Over the years of keeping older kids in the summer, I have tried every different strategy I could think of. But I always know the number one thing I have to do is my golden rule for child care of any age child. Keep them busy or they will keep you busy, and I don’t mean good busy. Basically you can give the kids something to do, or they will find mischief to get into, hard and fast rule of nature like the law of gravity. It’s going to happen. Now after 19+ years in child care, I have not had one single day go by where a problem of some sort didn’t arise. That’s just life, into each day some rain must fall, right? The kids are here for 10 hours a day, that’s a lot of time to fill. But here are a few tried and true things that we do here that help us!
Summer programs. I see all of these summer activities for kids, so I decided to make up some of my own. My husband is a personal fitness trainer and on Mondays he goes into work at noon, so we have physical education class every Monday morning. He teaches the kids sports techniques for football, basketball, soccer, and baseball. They think it’s fun. At the end of summer, we give out awards. We also made up our own summer reading program. The library had one, so we made our own and we have incentives for the big kids to help the little kids reach their goals by reading to them. It improves their reading skills, gives them confidence and teaches their younger counterparts. It’s a win-win. We give awards for that as well. Last year I had a couple of boys who were interested in outdoor survival techniques so we did a 10 week survivalism training program. I don’t have any expertise in that, so I bought some books. Then I divided up the info into 10 segments and every week I taught the kids how to do something to improve their safety. For DHS regulation purposes I skipped teaching them to use knives and make fire, but we all learned a lot. At the end of the summer I had them bring old back packs from home and I filled them with ponchos, flashlights, whistles and other things for surviving in the wilderness. You could do your own vacation Bible school, movie club, scout camp, or art camp. There is plenty of information available to help you teach the kids yourself, and you will have a great summer!
You can invite people to your home to do activities with the kids such as library story time. A police car, a fire truck, or an ambulance could be brought. Someone could bring an animal to teach the kids about. The OSU extension, health department and Cherokee Nation has programs in my area they can bring such as healthy eating, dental hygiene, exercise, Cherokee traditions, etc. We have had many special visitors here and the kids love it!
Obviously our gardening takes up a lot of our time in the summer, so that helps a lot. Even when we are not “gardening” as a group, the kids like to explore and look around the garden. They might want to look for bugs, measure the tiny fruits on a plant, or even use a camera to do some photography. Some kids just like to sit in the garden and think because it’s so peaceful.
We always have a loose structure for the activities of the day. This year we have PE on Mondays, gardening on Tuesdays, art on Wednesdays, science on Thursdays, and games on Fridays. We plan water parties on a few days. The kids wear their bathing suits and run through the sprinkler or slide down a “water” slide we make with the hose. We also have other special events such as show and tell, art parties, or pajama days where they can bring sleeping bags or pillows and have an all-day “sleepover” atmosphere. We do a lot of cooking as well. Kids LOVE to cook! Another great idea is to let the kids plan an open house of some kind for their parents. They spend a lot of time preparing and they get so excited. We are having a garden open house this summer. The kids LOVED having it last summer and were so excited when their parents came to see what they had done!
At the end of school or the beginning of summer, I always ask the older kids for ideas of things they are interested in doing and I try to plan how we could do them. This year we are trying an idea I have used before where the kids pick activities, and I write them on calendar squares so we get all their ideas in. My oldest wants to teach the younger kids the activities we chose, so he is going to. It makes the summer more exciting for him and the little kids love it to. Let your older kids take the lead on some of your summer plans, they are more interested in it if they are invested in it. Plan a lot and then be flexible with how your plans turn out. If you’ve been working with kids for any time at all, you KNOW that nothing ever turns out exactly as you planned it. But that’s okay! Happy Summer Ya’ll!