I can still remember those “last day of school” days in elementary school. We’d spend time packing up the classroom, signing yearbooks and we’d usually have a picnic outside. It was a day of celebration and everyone knew we were just hours away from freedom!
In our home, summer meant a few different things. While we lived in Texas, it meant getting out all 3 swimsuits and rotating them each day you went to the pool. I promise it was necessary in that 105 degree heat. It meant going on a fun family vacation – whether it was to Utah to visit family or somewhere else like visiting a National Park. And it also meant it was time for my mom’s schedule – a schedule that included a dreaded job jar, math and reading books, and time outside.
My mom believed that there were three summer essentials for kids: physical work (job jar), mental work (school work), and healthy fun (outside time).
The Job Jar: Despite many attempts to hide it or “lose it”, this yellow jar has stood the test of time. I have no idea how, but it always found its way to our counter on that first day of summer. Each morning we were required to pick something from that jar and that was our chore for the day. These chores were outside the normal chores we had, like cleaning our rooms and bathrooms and such. The “job jar” chores involved other things around the house like dusting the blinds, cleaning out the fridge, sweeping the front porch, etc. You know what else that job jar taught us? You barter and trade. You bet there was some haggling going down after we each pulled out our slip of paper!
School Work: I like math, and so do my siblings. And while I think our family has some sort of math gene, I also attribute some of that to the amount of time my mom had us doing math each summer. It made us feel comfortable with it and helped us stay on top of what we learned the year earlier. Before summer started she would take us to pick out a math book that we would do a page out of each weekday. It wasn’t meant to be super challenging or teach us new principles, simply a way to help us remember what we already learned. (You can find some good examples of summer math books here.) In addition to the math page we were also required to spend time reading each day. Depending on our ages, the time required ranged from 10-30 minutes. Head over to the Scholastic website for some reading lists and suggestions for all ages. We love these tips provided by Scholastic about how to get your kids reading!
Get Outside: After the physical and mental work we were able to go play with friends or do other things we had planned. However, we always needed to spend some time outside. This wasn’t hard for us because it was before the time of iPads and internet games, and our house wasn’t a place you could find cable or video games. But even in homes where you can find those things now, it is so so important to get your kids outside! Some of the benefits of being outside are in this post, but here are some specific benefits for kids:
– Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies
– Spending time outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues
– Schools with designated outside time score higher on standardized tests in math, reading, writing and listening
– Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces
I’m sure (actually, I know) there was some complaining when the job jar came out with the math books and reading books right behind it. But I also know that I found myself cleaning out my bathroom drawers and dusting my blinds just a few weeks ago on my own accord – something I swore I would never do. Why did I do it? Because I learned the importance of taking care of a home and being part of a family that works together. And I also know my own kids will someday have a job jar to dip their little hands into each day in the summer.