summer

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Every time I think of summer, I think of the summer of 2013. For me, it was the best summer ever!

It truly was.

I felt as though we took each and every day of our summer and squeezed as much fun and adventure out of it as we possibly could.

But, I could not have pulled it off alone.

As someone who loves being (and staying) at home, I needed help finding ways to get out with the kids to enjoy this season of lazy days, rainy afternoons, and looser schedules.

I discovered that our community was filled with opportunities for us to make memories together and individually by keeping my ears (and eyes thru Facebook) open for announcements. Here are some of the things we found here in our county that have worked really well for us over the last few summers.

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Library classes- Our library system does a series of classes throughout the entire summer. They are educational, entertaining, and the kids really had fun. We have brought home meal worms, planted seeds, learned about our local wildlife and participated in fun science experiments through some of the activities the library provided.

Our library also has a Summer Reading Program that encourages children to spend at least 24 hours worth of time throughout the entire summer reading. At the end, our children can earn a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Rays play. Our sports loving family really enjoyed this in years past and will continue to participate for years to come.

Check your local library system’s event calendar to find out the activities they have lined up for the summer.

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Arts and Crafts- We discovered that Michael’s Crafts Store has a program called Passport to Imagination which runs all summer long, three days a week. The cost of the 2 hour class is $4 per  child per day. It’s a great way for kids to explore their artistic side… without giving Mom a mess to clean up. That’s a win/win in my book!

Movies- Check into your local movie theater’s schedule to see what they are offering for children during the summer. We have a couple of theaters in our area that offer $1-$1.50 movies once or twice a week. We have taken advantage of these. It is a great way to get out of the house but still be in the air conditioning.

Season Passes- Do you have season passes to a local theme park? Summer is a great time to use them and get the most out of that pass. On evenings when you find yourself wondering what you could do, pull out that pass and enjoy your theme park for a couple of hours.

July 11th- Don’t forget that on 7/11 each year, 7 Eleven offers free Slurpees!

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Fruit Picking- Here in Florida we kick off our summer break with blueberry picking. It is always a great way to get us outside, and we bring home pounds of blueberries for a fraction of the cost of buying them in the stores. What fruit comes into season in the summer in your area? Look into where there may be a U-pick farm near you and have some fun!

VBS- Vacation Bible School is a free week long program that churches offer to their communities. Many times, the churches in an area or community stagger their VBS weeks so parents can utilize as many of these programs as possible.

Beaches and/or pools- Are you located near a beach? Are you a part of a community that gives you access to a pool? Do you have friends who invite you over to use their pool? Does your area have a sprayground? These are all great ways to get out into the summer sunshine, keep cool, and get that summer glow. Just be sure to keep the sunblock generously applied, hats on small heads, and lots of liquids on hand.

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Sporting Events- Baseball season is under way and football season is gearing up. Summer ballgames are almost an all-American must! Some ball fields will allow you to bring in your own food which helps to keep costs down to a minimum.

Football season is also gearing up. Our local team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a Fan Appreciation Day and open the gates (free of charge) for the fans to watch a practice. Check your local team to see if there are any free fan events happening in the summer.

Cow Appreciation Day- One day our children look forward to each summer is Chick-Fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day. The idea is to dress like a cow (as much or as little as you want). For minimal participation you get a free chicken sandwich. For maximum participation you get a free meal! Each year, we haven’t paid a dime for our dinner.

American Girl Movie Premier- I don’t know how it is in your house, but in our house the summer television premiere of the American Girl Doll of the Year movie is a big event. It is a free night, we don’t have to leave the house, Addie gets to pick out her own fashionable outfit, and I give her a special hair style using my hair supplies. It’s a tradition.

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Make the Most of the Holidays- Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are all considered summer holidays. Why not make the most of these with crafts, special snacks, and activities? My 4th of July Pinterest board was a huge help to me last year in coming up with a week’s worth of stay-at-home activities and fun.

Kids Bowl Free- Although the Kids Bowl Free program has been around for a while, we plan on taking advantage of it for the first time this year. Through this program, children receive two free games per day throughout the summer (cost of shoes is not included). There are also discounted rates for parents to play throughout the summer, too. It’s a great way to get out as a family for some fun. (Check your local bowling alley for restrictions)

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make this summer your best one yet. I think the most important lesson I learned during the summer of 2013 was to make a big deal of the little moments.

Those are the moments that our children will always remember.

summer

Bins Are a Mama’s Best Friend: Helping Your Child Get Organized

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“A place for everything and everything in its place.” It’s a well known saying that seems to state the obvious regarding organization, but a mama- like me- can really avoid a lot of early gray hairs popping up by heeding this popular phrase.

And while it’s definitely a piece  of advice we as adults do well to obey, we might mutually agree that it isn’t always as easy for a two year old, like my son, to follow through and do…

Or is it? 

I’m the type of person who feels that my job isn’t done unless everything is pretty much back in its place. 

Messes make me restless.

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I’m the kind of person who, if I have a pile of dishes in the sink at night or if it’s bedtime and toys are left everywhere, I just don’t feel like my job is done. I personally don’t feel like I’ve officially earned the right to “flop”(our family’s word for just kicking back and relaxing).

If “what goes up must come down”, what comes out of place must go back in place too… at least before I feel I have the right to relax.  

And since that is just how I’m wired, I find that it’s  also important to teach my son to know where things belong, so that as he grows, he can follow through in being organized as well.

No, I’m not saying that he has to be just like me, but it certainly helps a mama out if I teach my son to do the things that will make life a little easier for everyone…while also teaching him personal responsibility.

Although each person is built differently and we may not all have that inner craving to be super organized (and I’m not saying I always am), if we do happen to be around someone who prefers organization, we do well to be a blessing on our end by arranging the environment to meet that desired expectation…

Which is one reason why… I….Love…..Bins.

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While it didn’t just occur to me overnight, I’m learning that as long as I designate a place for something and continue to follow through in making that place the object’s “home”, it is much easier for my toddler to also identify that location as the designated place.

So what does this look like in my home? Well, upon walking into my son’s room, the first thing you’d probably notice is the large 16-cubby shelving unit that we purchased at IKEA. (Love that place! And I think every teacher I’m friends with does as well.)

It’s on this unit thatyou’ll find an assortment of things that range from blocks to trucks to a couple of stuffed toys…  (And this arrangement may change over time as we reorganize, rearrange, and weed out toys.)

But…..What I love the most about  this organization unit… are the bins that hide and store all of the little toys my son enjoys playing with. No, not everything has to be front and center in the room or have its own special place on the shelf. Some things can simply be categorized and tossed in a container with other similar objects.

If you notice in the picture, there are a total of eight bins on the unit. The four red bins were cheaply picked up at the local Dollar Tree (for $1 each) and the bottom blue bins were purchased at a slightly higher cost from the Container Store (for $14.99 each). This simply goes to show that it doesn’t have to cost a whole lot if you’re in the market to purchase a few items to help you organize your child’s room. Our Dollar Tree bins have worked just as well as our Container Store bins.

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In the blue bins, you’ll find one holding books, another two containing Mega Blocks, and a fourth housing play food mixed with toy kitchen items.

In the red bins, you’ll find another kind of assortment, such as: small animals in one bin, cars and small vehicles in another, coloring books and sticker books in a third, and various kinds of sports balls in the fourth (This arrangement has actually changed since I first wrote this post, but my son has definitely come to recognize where certain toys belong. Over time you tweak things to make the organization process fit even more to your lifestyle. For example, I recently decided to have books lining the entire top shelf rather than storing them in bins below.)

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In having this kind of set-up, where everything basically has a categorized “home”, I’ve been finding that my son is more equipped to help me during clean up time…something that will at first take more intention to teach but which definitely gets easier over time.

Yes, it’s usually so much easier for us moms to quickly pick up the mess of toys, and in the past and on occasion at times I still may. But while it’s true that I can quickly get the job done….Always doing this for my son doesn’t serve in helping him learn personal responsibilty for himself, which is something we need to begin teaching our children now while they are young so that it doesn’t become more of a challenge later. 

Now that my son is two and a half, though, I’m pleased to say that he has begun to get much better at cleaning up. Yes, I still have to tell him to clean up, but it’s become more of a game for him. I’ll say, “Show me (how you can clean up)!” and then leave him to it. Shortly after, he’ll come out and say “You got to see this!” As I’m going to his room, he’ll go and hide and then I’ll make a big deal about how amazing it is. He loves that…and making a big deal about it is worth the time and effort because I love the fact that he is learning how to clean up for himself.

When you first start teaching your little one to clean up, they’ll definitely need help. A big mess can be overwhelming to a little person for sure. But I noticed that by asking my son “where” things go or holding a specific object for him to put away that the task became a little more do-able. Providing simple step by step help is  always much better when teaching a toddler than giving general commands. 

For me, being purposeful in having a place for belongings as well as intentionally giving easy directions to help my son learn to participate in the cleaning process is an important key to helping things run a bit more smoothly in my home.

No, a clean and organized child’s room doesn’t happen by accident. But with God’s help, patience, continued effort and practice, I’m expecting my son to learn important skills like this that will help him not only learn personal responsibilty but also foster a well-deserved sense of pride after the task of cleaning up is finished.

Yes, it’s definitely something I need to continue working on if I want it to become a personal habit in my son, but I do look forward to one day seeing it become so much a part of his nature as we continue to work on it, with God’s help, that he won’t need reminders from Mom when he’s a teenager.

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