School is over and you are scratching your head over summer plans, not the big ones such as vacations (Aunt Lucie’s cottage again!) or camps if you can afford it: Camp Tappawallit for one week, two or three? No, it’s the nitty-gritty, the hot summer evenings, the long weekends of only two days, the weeks of amusing small ones if you can afford to or must stay home with them.
If you are home with your kids,
you are Home With Your Kids
Here are some suggestions gleaned from my long hot summers as a teacher and parent and from other parents. First, if you are home with the kids, remember that is your primary goal. Sure there are jobs to be done but restrict them to cool mornings when your kids are happy to amuse themselves. I also expected my kids to do a few chores, starting with keeping their rooms tidy.
Summer was my time for sorting through each child’s clothes, making a note of what was going to be needed in the fall, what could be passed on and placing the worn out clothes directly in the rag bag. Sometimes it was tedious. If we got through it in one session, I was pleased; if the child got cranky, I marked the bags, tidied what we hadn’t sorted and waited for another day to finish up.
It was also a time to sort out closets and clean rooms thoroughly but unless truly inspired I rarely went past lunch. It just wasn’t fair to the kids.
Put aside at least half of each day to be with the kids
Afternoons were for a cold glass of water, a book, a chaise lounge and the shade of the tree in the back yard. The kids came and went, asking permission for
various things, climbing the tree, going off with their friends and inviting friends around. I checked hats and sunblock and fluids and where they were going and with whom but it felt relaxed because I wasn’t trying to do anything else. I often didn’t read more than a couple of pages.
Sometimes if dinner was organised, we would walk (or cycle) along the bicycle path to meet their dad. This was a treat, as they loved to surprise him and tell him about their day.
Be good to yourself and your family
Remember, if you try to look after your kids and have an immaculate house, writes the Great Canadian Novel, or run a successful home-based business, you will also be seriously irritated with your kids and very frustrated. Taking care of the kids comes first. If anything else gets done it’s a bonus. Things do get done but never nearly as often as you would like. Just keep reminding yourself that you are there for your children.
We don’t all have the luxury of one parent staying at home for the summer
Isn’t that the truth! It takes a bit of planning but picking up the kids after work and taking them straight to the nearest park, splash-pad, pool or beach for a picnic supper is a welcome treat on the hotter days.
Making picnicking on a whim easier
When you dry towels and bathing suits, pop them in a bag with sunblock, hats
and whatever necessities you need and keep it in the hall closet. Make sure you have enough for the whole family so you can just grab the bag when the water
calls. Use a distinctive bag and the same bag each time so the kids can find it to toss in the Frisbee or toy they think is needed.
Keep a box or basket or cooler handy with whatever cutlery, cups and china you use for a picnic. Save large plastic jars with good screw-on lids to put any drippy food in. Pack cloth napkins or tea towels for mopping up sticky fingers and chins.
Then all you need to add is food. If the food has been frozen or well chilled and you plan to eat within the hour, you probably won’t need ice. If you think you might need ice, consider using those chill packs intended for sprains and bruises: less mess and effective for short trips.
Create generic checklists for the food container and the one in the hall. For the food container you might list:
thermos of tea
2 tea towels
As you can see it covers most of what you would take for your picnic and some of it can be done as soon as you have done the dishes from the last picnic. Some of it will help with your planning. You are less likely to leave something important behind even if you are tired and frazzled.
Suggestions for food for an easy picnic supper:
Bake a lot of chicken legs, then freeze them in bags in amounts your family is likely to eat. If you have a couple extra, freeze them separately so you can add them for guests. You can take these out in the morning and put them in the cooler or fridge.
Or make peanut butter and banana sandwiches
Or check out lentil or bean or quinoa salads on the Internet. Some of them are a meal in themselves. It would be easier to make these the night before and if you double the recipe, it will cover two meals.
Or pick up a small ham and carve it on the spot
Carrot and celery sticks are favourites and easy to prepare a day or two in advance.
Forget about potato salad and take some good bread and butter
For dessert bring a selection of fruit and maybe a cookie for each person. I love to bring whatever delicious berry is in season. They usually disappear fast and if they don’t, well all the more for the adults’ lunches.
Bottles with ice and water are great but you can also cut juice in half with soda water for a fizzy drink that is nutritious.
Cucumber sticks or slices
Lettuce leaves eaten as finger food (especially dark green or red)
Plain yogurt sprinkled with brown sugar
Cut up fresh fruit with plain yogurt
Yogurt and juice beaten together. Add milk if it is too thick
Between the fun of the water and the good simple food, all of you will sleep better, no matter how hot it is.
When you get home, do yourself a favour and clean out the food containers thoroughly. Even if it is late, at least get the china, containers and cutlery into a tub of soapy water or a dishwasher and wipe out the cooler or basket. You do not want to face stinky, smelly picnic things next time you want to picnic on a whim.
Next Time: Summertime: can you make if fun AND educational cheaply?
- Uwishunu’s Brand New Guide To Picnicking In Philadelphia: Best Picnic Spots, Where To Pick Up Picnic-Appropriate Food And Drink, And Picnic-Friendly Festivals And Events (uwishunu.com)
- Summer Picnicking: Preparation, Tips and Dishes (wholefoodsmarket.com)
- A Breezy Summertime Guide To Picnicking In The City (theawl.com)
- homemade yogurt (thefairyandthepumpkin.typepad.com)
- Guest Blog: My Culinary Expertise Worked like Magic during Those Picnic Outings (foodservicewarehouse.com)
- Foodie on Foot: A Mother/Daughter Lunch on Black Mountain (bangordailynews.com)
- Mix-And-Match Healthy Picnic Basket Ideas (It’s National Picnic Day!) (self.com)
- Summer Nights: Free Outdoor Movies for Kids (redtri.com)
- Food Poisoning Can Spoil Your Day (safefood4u.wordpress.com)
- Planning A Pretty Picnic (groupon.co.uk)
- A Bachelor’s Guide to the Perfect Picnic (nestleusa.wordpress.com)
- Learning is a Picnic! (montessori21stcentury.wordpress.com)
- How to Plan a Picnic – WikiHow (thehiltonburnellfiles.wordpress.com)
- Picnic in the park (danicapelzel.wordpress.com)
- Summer Style: Pellegrino Picnic (mlmww.com)
- 100 Ways to Make Today Magical (magicalchildhood.wordpress.com)
- School’s out! Now what? (mothermiser.com)
- The Incredible List of 10 Steps To Create A Magical Summer For Kids (poemsandnovels.blogspot.com)
- Summer Craft: How to Make the Perfect Picnic Blanket (momitforward.com)
- An Indoor Picnic & Rainy Day Activity Ideas (itsgravybaby.com)
- Flashback: Fruity Yogurt Dip (craftzine.com)