It’s that time of year again! Summertime—the carefree days of pool splashing, popsicle eating and sleeping in.
At least for the kids.
Not so much for the parents, right?
Usually moms are the ones washing swimming suits, buying popsicles, and constantly wiping up puddles of water and dried grass from the floors. And what about the piles of sidewalk chalk and sandbox toys that have taken the place of backpacks and school books? It’s enough to make even the most patient mom long for that big yellow bus.
Let’s be honest. Getting the kids outside is a good thing, especially if their natural inclination is to sit around playing video games all day while eating junk food. But encouraging outdoor activity is also a lot more work than handing over the game controls.
With a little planning and prep, you can encourage your kids to go outside and create a system that will ultimately save time and energy for mom.
“Mom, I’m Hungry!”
Fueling up those hard-playing days often takes a lot of snacks. To ward off the question, “What can we eat?” you may want to consider labeled snack bins for both the pantry and the refrigerator. That way, mom-approved snacks will be ready for them to grab (and maybe even eat outside) without a lot of hassle.
When unloading groceries from the car, divvy up the snacks into appropriate bins. You may even want to label these according to house rules. (For example, when I was a kid, we were allowed one can of soda per day.) That way, when they’re hungry, they know what they can grab to eat without the same old “I told you — no more potato chips” argument.
Don’t forget to include some healthy treats for the freezer. I love these frozen ice pops, because you can feed an old favorite to your kids without guilt.
Fun Stations are bins filled with outdoor activities for kids based on their interests. They can easily be stored in the garage or the back patio. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and other outdoor favorites can get messy and take up the entire house, if we let it. But a big bin you can grab and set outside enables them to choose which outdoor activities to indulge in without a lot of in and out.
Other Fun Stations that you may want to separate into their own bins (to contain water or sand messes):
And the best part? All of that outdoor fun goes back into the bin for the night, ready for another sunshiny day.
Pro parent tip: periodically replace or add fun items to keep kids interested in their Fun Station bins throughout the summer.
“I can’t find my…”
During the summertime, when kids live at the swimming pool (or play nonstop with water toys in their friends’ backyards), moms can save their sanity by keeping a day’s supply of water gear in a dedicated swimming bag. You could include toiletries, a swimming suit, cover up, sunscreen, water bottle, swim passes, sunglasses, sun hat and beach towel.
If you take your kids hiking often, you can save a lot of time by having a hiking backpack ready to go whenever you are. Include a water bottle, small first aid kit, binoculars, compass, bug spray, and sunscreen. You may even want to include a book for identifying plants or birds. Summer is a break from school, but you never stop learning, right?
“I spilled glitter! And other things you never want to hear your kids say.”
Have you banned glitter from your home? Does the thought of cleaning up one more glue mess make your heart palpitate? (I can’t be the only one!)
Summer is a great time for crafts outdoors. Create a bin with all the messy stuff that makes you sprout gray hairs whenever you see it out on your dining table. If you have a craft area designated outside, your kids can glue, glitter and paint to their heart’s content and all you need to do is supply a smock to protect their clothes. Or they can make gorgeous jewelry out of all of those maddeningly tiny beads and you won’t have to vacuum them out of the carpet.
It’s a win-win! Kids get to create staggering works of art in the great outdoors and mom has minimal mess.
Messy Marvin Strikes Again
Most of us have encountered the trail of soggy towels, goggles, and swimsuits through the house after a day at the pool. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent searching for missing items to (hopefully) load into the washing machine before they stunk of mold.
You can prevent the trail of tears (er…soggy swimming attire) by creating a hanging place for wet towels and suits. Whether it’s a bona fide clothes line in your back yard or some hooks near the entryway of your house, your kids will have a place to hang all the wet things, and you’ll save yourself time by not having to search through the house to find them.
A bin by the door for flip flops and other wet, messy shoes can prevent a lot of floor cleaning too. As a bonus, everyone will be able to get into the car at the appointed time without having to search for something to put on their feet.
Spending time outside improves kids’ health and their imaginations. Summertime is the perfect opportunity for them to explore, dream and try new adventures. It gives them a chance to focus on what they were created for and seek their Creator.
In her new book, This Outside Life: Finding God in the Heart of Nature, Laurie Otsby Kehler encourages us all to seek connections with our Creator and other people. She says, “Why are we so afraid? Why do we settle for reading about, talking about, but not stepping into our own adventures of faith?” Laurie’s new book is perfect for summer reading. And with a little planning and prep for your kids, you’ll have more time to spend turning pages while sitting by the pool. And who knows? You might even have time for a water war or an outdoor finger-painting session with your little adventurers.
Comment below for the opportunity to win! We will be giving away one Grand Prize Package- A copy of This Outside Life, a Sling Backpack, compact binoculars, and a reusable water bottle. Five Runner Ups will win a copy of This Outside Life.
One of the most frequent questions we get at Clutter Free Academy is “What about my kids’ clutter?”
Conflict over clutter can damage any relationship over time, but it’s especially crucial to navigate this issue carefully with your kids, because what you teach them right now will impact their lifestyles as adults.
As parents, we want to empower our children to have the life skills they need to succeed. Here are four ways we can help our children learn how to live a clutter-free life.
Schedule short decluttering times.
Time-boxing makes decluttering bearable for anyone, young or old. As adults, we’re more likely to focus better if we only have to do it for 15 minutes. Depending on your kids’ age, set a timer and make a game of it. For example, challenge your 5-year-old to clean out one drawer in 5 minutes.
Here at Clutter Free Academy, we don’t expect anyone to spend hours at a time decluttering, much less a child. Decluttering works best in small, manageable sessions.
By the way, we need to differentiate between cleaning and decluttering. Cleaning means putting things away, mopping, vacuuming, and dusting. Decluttering means getting rid of stuff you don’t use, love, or would buy again. Both are important, but in this post, we’re focusing on decluttering.
Teach by example.
It’s been said that in raising kids, more is caught than taught. They tend to learn more from what we do than what we say.
They aren’t born knowing how to declutter. The best way to teach them is to work side-by-side with them to show them the same decluttering systems we’ve learned as adults. Make sure they have the tools they need—3 boxes, 2 bags—so that they have a system in place to declutter. Go through the steps one by one: what to give away, what to throw away, and what to put away. Any trash or recycle goes into the bags.
Have a fun celebration when you empty the contents of the boxes and bags into their rightful places. (It doesn’t have to be a big deal—a sticker, a high five, or a “Yay! You did it!” works great.
Focus on one tiny space at a time.
Trying to declutter a large space is even more overwhelming for kids than it is for adults. Choose the smallest area possible and set the timer. Even better, let them choose which area is the most problematic for them. If they already see the value of decluttering, then you’ve won half the battle.
Divide up the closet into small sections, sort one drawer at a time, go through one toy box at a time. Decluttering is a gradual process. Their space didn’t get cluttery in a day, but a consistent habit of setting a timer to declutter a small space will result in big changes.
Help them maintain their space.
To help keep things organized and tidy, teach your child routines; set times during the day when they put away toys, backpacks, clothes, and anything else out of place. Even five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening will work wonders.
To help with motivation, make a timed game out of it, for fun. They’ll be motivated even more by getting consistent rewards each week for working through their routines. Before they know it, picking up their things becomes a habit.
When it comes to clutter, our relationship with our kids is so important. When we come alongside them and give them the tools and skills they need to create a clutter-free home, we free them up to be who God made them to be.
Parent-child dynamics are already challenging enough, especially between mothers and daughters. Reducing clutter conflict can go a long way to improve the relationship.
In their book, Mended, Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh talk about how to rebuild, restore, and reconcile the connections between mothers and daughters. One of their chapters deals with generational patterns and how hard they are to break. It takes intentionality and determination to change long-term habits and break learned clutter cycles.
The generous people over at Harvest House want to give some of our readers Daniel’s and McIntosh’s Mended. 5 people will win a copy and 1 grand prize winner will receive:
-1 Copy of Mended
-Assorted Note Cards
-Distressed Wood Frame
-Fruit Infuser Water Bottle
Enter to win by commenting below. What sorts of rewards motivate your kids the most? Which of these tips do you plan on implementing first?
Welcome to The Mom Project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be launching my book The Mom Project by hosting several mom friends who have tried it out for themselves. They read the book, completed a project from the book with their kids, and wrote all about it. And these are real moms. Busy moms. Unsure-of-themselves moms. Single moms. Special needs moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. They do the hard working of mommyhood every day, and have found fun ways to connect with their kids in the simple activities found in The Mom Project. Read on to hear their experience:
Making a connection with my three kids who are ages 11 and twins who are 9, is a challenging enterprise. Life with three kids close in age will always be a challenging task. I desire connection with them but homework, errands and the minutiae of a day always seems to corrode time. I pick them up from school and then all of a sudden it is time for pjs and brushing teeth. Dinner is a gamble. Who is done with the day already? Who is grumpy because they don’t like what is on their plate? Who is annoyed at their sibling who is sitting where they wanted to sit. Connection at dinner is a miracle akin to the parting of the red sea… okay maybe not to that level but I mean when it happens I am giddy. The Mom Project suggests thinking beyond dinner and encourages thinking outside of the box I typically try to operate in. I’ve been reminded through the Mom Project that well-intentioned isn’t the same as intentional. Maybe this is obvious to most but I think this is a game-changer for me. Intentional connection requires a bit more than me saying, “How was your day?” and “Don’t forget to eat your veggies!”.
Here’s my reality. The best time to connect with my kids is at bedtime. They always want me to lay down with them and chat or just cuddle. The stress of the day is mostly over and their defenses come down. This is, of course, the time when I am the most ‘done’. It is 8 pm and I am ready to tap out. However, I want to connect when they already want to connect by intentionally creating space for this to occur. My plan is to spend time once a week in each child’s room and just sit and be – maybe we will have a snack, cuddle or just have a tickle fight. Just 15 minutes one-on-one with each child is what I am looking for.
They love it. And so do I. Connection is honestly what I love most about being a mom (it is certainly not the homework time) and so I started looking forward to my time with each child. Some evenings I could sit with all three kids for just a few minutes each and even that short time was a welcome few moments of connection. Bedtime may take longer, but I also come downstairs from tucking them in with a full heart.
What I learned:
Some nights are better than others to try and do this and so I need to be flexible. I did this project while my husband was out of town and it will be great for us to take turns taking a few extra moments one-on-one with the kids. The most necessary component of this is a willing heart ready to sit and just be, because you can’t rush and you have to be present. I have to be less concerned about what I have to do next and what is still waiting for me to take care of.
Extra Tips: Some days one of my children will need me more than another. When I sense that a particular child needs me I can take extra time to connect with them at bedtime. Also, with a little planning ahead I can include a favorite snack or look up knock-knock jokes ahead of time to share.
Ready for your chance to win a copy of The Mom Project? To be entered into the drawing, just comment on this post and you’ll be entered to win. *Only US readers are eligible to receive the free book.
Bethany Howard lives in Tucker, GA with her husband, three kids, dog and cat. She enjoys words, her children’s laughter and any dinner she doesn’t make. She’s recently developed a passion for dark chocolate covered almonds. She doesn’t aim for perfection because that is unattainable so you just might be comfortable visiting www.bethanyhoward.com where Bethany wades through the ups and downs of life to discover kindling for joy and growth. Click here for a free download on being the best mom you can be for your kids (it’s not what you think it is) and to subscribe to Bethany’s blog.
We want to give parents the tools they need to truly disciple their kids through their most trying discipline situations. With these tools, parents can guide their kids’ hearts towards the God who loves them deeply, and survive those pull-out-your-hair parenting moments. We pray that PUT THE DISCIPLE INTO DISCIPLINE will help parents to connect with their kids in a heartfelt way so that their kids, in turn, can connect with the God who created them to be truly and imperfectly His.
The everyday ins and outs of parenting toddlers, to boundary pushing elementary schoolers, to moody pre-teens, to rebellious almost adults is trying and just plain hard. Erin and Ellen talk about dealing with our kids using not just using justice, but also mercy, and grace- the very ways God deals with us. They discuss why these options give us and our children a better foundation for living out the life God intended for them and help us to truly get to the heart of our kids.
Comment to win. What is your biggest challenge when it comes to the justice, mercy and grace of disciplining and raising your kids? Comment below for your chance to win a free book!
*US residents only.
Meet Our Guest
Ellen Schuknecht has been working as an educator for more than 35 years, with experience ranging from early childhood education, to high school advising to family ministries counseling. She currently serves as the Director of Family Ministries at Veritas Academy in Austin, Texas where she mentors parents, teachers, and students on a daily basis. She uses her blog, www.familywings.org, as well as her many speaking engagements as a platform to help parents learn how to lead their children to Christ in a way that’s not only authentic, but that also builds the relationship between parent and child. Ellen has been married to her husband Glen for 39 years and lives in Austin, Texas near her three grown children, their spouses and– her pride and joy– her eleven precious grandchildren.
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