By Christina Katz
Make the most of all of the unstructured, non-scheduled time your kids are spending at home.
Take a cue from ‘The Artful Parent,’ blogger Jean Van’t Hul. She says, “When a child explores, learns, and creates, the side effect is often a mess. To say no to the messes inhibits the exploration and the creativity that can take place. That should take place. It’s a child’s job to explore the world around him, to experience it and learn as much about it as possible. If the adults in his world continually say, “don’t make a mess, be quiet, sit down, be still, leave that alone, do it this way, color within the lines, don’t get your clothes dirty,” that inhibits the exploration and the learning.”
Test-drive The Art Supplies: Where do you keep your arts and craft supplies? If stored where they are easy to access, your kids will be more likely to use them. Give your arts and crafts storage area a quick overhaul before the vacation months arrive. Check markers. Sharpen pencils. Melt old crayons into new bigger ones. Restock your finger paint and drawing pads. Get enough clipboards or pads for each member of the family. Whatever kinds of projects your family likes to indulge in, make sure you’ve got all the supplies on hand and ready to roll!
Plenty of Places to Brainstorm: We have an assortment of white boards around the house that absorb an awful lot of creative energy. My eight-year-old daughter kneels in front of the one in her bedroom when she wants to draw picture after picture after picture. I use one in my office to catch ideas as they go flitting by or to jot down a few professional to-dos. And believe it or not, if I write down the family chores on the white board in the kitchen, I’m more likely to get the cooperation from the rest of the family when I need it, so we can all get back to playing.
Become Project-oriented: Creating a garden, a tree house, or a worm box are all examples of outdoor projects the family can undertake together this summer. If you have a rainy day or prefer to stay indoors, why not get a jump on next season’s holiday gifts or cards? If everyone in the house prefers to work on his or her own projects at his or her own pace, why not make sure that each person has their own craft area, where they can leave a project out while it’s in process, until its completed. You’ll find that projects are more likely to get finished when they are easily accessible.
Bring On The Color: Painting your walls, your furniture, your fence or your home is one of the cheapest and most fun ways to get a fresh look at home. Why not get the whole family involved? Even a toddler can paint primer on a wall. Tweens and teens might enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting an entire house painted. Mom and Dad can swing in a hammock and sip a cold drink while each school-age child paints one piece of furniture from their bedrooms a favorite new hue.
Garden with Themes: Why have a common garden when you could have a fairy garden or a pizza garden or a found objects garden? For ideas and inspiration, consult the illustrated gardening books for children by author Sharon Lovejoy: Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots(Workman 1999), Trowel & Error (Workman 2002), and Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars (Workman 2010). Why not give each member of the family their own garden plot so they can nurture the harvest of their choice?
Plan an Unexpected Adventure: When you set out as a family towards an unfamiliar destination, your senses come alive with possibilities. Have everyone do some research and pick out the places they want to visit this summer. Keep an ongoing list of destinations on one of your whiteboards, take a quick family vote to decide on a one, and you’re off!
Create a Backyard Extravaganza: Older children might like to put on plays or puppet shows for younger children. Why not let them play the roles of producer, director, marketing spokesperson, etc.? Fun can really start to catalyze when you pool the ideas…even if only to while away a long afternoon.
Get a Little Wild: Maybe during the school year you don’t welcome the extra mess that body paint, mud, glitter, bathtub crayons, clay, or temporary hair dyes can bring into your hallowed home. But during these crazy times, why not? Kids experience a lot of pressure to conform when they are in school, so let them get wild while the days are long.
Make Multimedia Memories: Keep a camera or a video recorder handy so you can document your colorful, creative summer and share it with your distant friends and relatives. And don’t worry about what to do with all your images and film clips. You will have plenty of time later to catalog.