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Saralyn Ward, Founder of The Mama Sagas, shares her tips for surviving the summer with every age, pandemic edition.

This summer, parents will have more time with their kids than ever before. In some ways, it’s “stolen time”— especially for teens who may be leaving the nest soon. But this unique situation also presents a huge challenge: how do you keep everyone happy and healthy over the summer, without structure, activities or social outlets?

Instead of over-scheduling every day, I think it helps to think more broadly: what do you want your kids to get out of the next 3 months? For every age, there’s time to 1) learn new life skills, 2) tackle a goal, 3) make fun memories.


Life Skills:

· Sorting and organizing. Go through old toys and books to decide which to keep, sell, donate or dispose.

· Loading and unloading the dishwasher.

· Choosing healthy snacks.


· Household goals. Putting shoes away every day, keeping toys in labeled bins. · Learning to ride a bike. The strider 14x is great for this – converts to a pedal bike! · Potty training. I love this portable potty seat for learning on the go, and while camping, and in public restrooms


· Backyard water fun. Inflatable pools, slip-n-slides, water balloons, water tables.

· Chalk obstacle course. Make your front sidewalk fun for the neighborhood with a chalk obstacle course including things like skipping, jumping jacks, bear crawling, and crab walking.

· Get outside. This is a great age to start hiking regularly, make a terrarium for caterpillars, or look for the moon through a telescope.

Young School Age

Life Skills:

· Laundry

· Cooking

· Gardening


· Reading goals. Many libraries offer summer reading programs that offer prizes or recognition for amount of books read.

· Eco-goals. Task your elementary-aged child will finding ways to make the household more earth friendly. See if they can find 10 ways to eliminate single-use plastic, recycle more, compost more, reuse items or recycle items.


· Subscription boxes. Kiwicrates, Koala crates, Little Passports, KidStir, Amazon Stem Club, R&T box, and Brick Loot are all interest-based. · Make a ninja warrior course. Use jungle gyms, slack lines, rope swings, ladder courses, Slackers tree climbers

· Get outside. This is a great age to learn to fish, or master swimming in open water.


Life Skills:

· Building, painting, home repair, mowing the lawn. Come up with a parent-facilitated project to work on together, like maintaining flower gardens, re-painting a bedroom or remodeling a bathroom.

· Groceries. Make the online grocery order for the family and decide on what the weekly menu will be.

· Money management. Save, spend, donate and budget with parent-controlled debit cards through apps like gohenry, Current, FamZoo and Greenlight.


· Activity/Sports-related. Set a goal related to one of the activities or sports they participate in – like a jumping program for volleyball or a sprinting program for soccer. Encourage them to work towards it every day. If mom or dad participate, it’s even more fun.


· Theme Nights. Consider weekly theme dinners where they assign the themes, the family dresses in costume, and the kids plan the menu, and even cook the food.

· Card games. Learn a new one every week.

· Build a climbing wall. Use an outdoor shed or basement wall.


At this age, you can combine life skills, goals and fun into one big project.

The Yard Sale Project

Time management and self-direction. Break a big task into several smaller tasks.

o One way to do this is to make your teen in charge of a family yard sale. Pick a date for the yard sale, and then work backwards, assigning deadlines to each prep task (finding the items to sell, assigning prices, making signs, posting online)

o As incentive, allow your teen to keep all the money from the yard sale, tell them to spend it (what’s more fun for a teen!?). Use this opportunity to teach them about credit cards.

· Understanding credit. Before making your teen an authorized user, consider a credit card simulation first, where the parent is the lending institution.

o Agree on terms: credit limit (put this on a prepaid debit card), interest rate, repayment terms (you can make it shorter than a month so you have several cycles in which to practice), late or missed payment penalties (can be something other than financial consequences, like additional chores)

o Explain this will be graded, to teach the concept of credit score. Start with a score of 5 and adjust up or down as they make their payments. As their score lowers, their prepaid debit limit goes down, and they lose some responsibility. As it goes up, they gain.