Tips that parents can use at home for a smoother start to summer:
--Clear out toys and games. What have your kids not played with since last summer? Donate seldom-used items. To make clean-up time easier, be specific about the homes for toys: The wooden blocks go in the plastic green bucket. The Legos go in the blue bucket. Mark puzzles with a colored dot on the back to show they go together. Store toys with several pieces in labeled clear boxes on a high shelf that requires your help to reach.
--Set up a summer routine that includes outdoor and run-around time or your frustration level will rise with the temperature. If you need to work at home, set aside blocks of time using a timer where your child plays independently. Swap with a neighbor to share childcare for certain mornings. If your child is signed up for half-day summer camps throughout the summer, make the most of the time by getting into a car pool. Check out dollar movies in your area that your child and some friends can attend.
--Do a home safety check. The start of summer is a good time to review how your cleaning supplies and medications are stored. If you have a pool, do you also have a working alarm? Do the lights pass electrical inspection? Does a doggie door lead out to your pool deck? A toddler can crawl through in seconds.
--Set snack rules or your food budget will get out of control. Eating at the table instead of all over the house should cut down on mess and ants. And even obesity, according to a study published earlier this year by the Journal of Pediatrics. The study shows that eating together at the dinner table isn't just good for the family dynamic, it's healthier for you and your kids. Buy each child his own water bottle to cut down on sodas and the annoying in-and-out-of-the-fridge routine.
--Stop the summer reading gap before it ever gets started. Make books and cozy reading spots available in different places in your home. Swap books with other families and get your child a library card. Just because school is out, it doesn't mean reading and learning should end. Many children cannot afford to take a long break and will lose ground. Researchers have found that the best predictor of summer loss or summer gain is whether a child reads during the summer. Make it a habit.
Reach Betsy Flagler at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 704-236-9510.