Disclaimer: I wrote this post this morning planning to post it tonight, but since then the boys have been hyper, had friends over, not eaten dinner until 6:45pm and not gone to bed until their dad came in at 9:30pm!! So much as we use these tips, our life can be as fun filled and spontaneous as the next lot! :)
As much as we want the boys to have a full summer, they need to down time, relaxing times and times they can calm right down and chill out. So this year we have a few steps in place to help them do just that.
1. Reading time
We always encourage our boys to read - especially since I devour books - but it can get a little hectic during the summer and this can so easily be forgotten. So this year we have implemented a 15 minute reading time straight after lunch each day. Each of the boys takes their book, finds a little corner and reads in silence. It's a lovely sound!!!
We also have a wonderful chart that shows them how they are doing, and for the little ones, encourages them when they aren't feeling in the mood for quiet reading time! They get to add their star after each reading time so it's fun!
I love reading, not just for the educational value, but for the fact that it takes my imagination and pokes and prods it into working time and time again. It gives me ideas of things to do, new recipes to try or even people I need to reconnect with. So much can happen after you read a book... and that's what I want for my boys. To find the excitement of a new book (and oh the smell.... nothing beats it!!) and the ideas it can bring.
2. Movie time
I know this seems like a bit of a strange number 2 considering my first choice, but my boys love watching movies. They even set up their own cinema in my eldest son's room, complete with tickets, snacks and ushers!! There is something lovely about sitting down to relax with a good movie, surrounded by those you love.
And my boys are all very good about which movies they see. They know that there are some movies that B can see because he's older (he's just turned 12, so can go with me to see a 12 if I deem it ok after reading all about it!!) and they all understand that even some PGs are not suitable because of the language in them. I want the cinema experience/ movie time to be fun and exciting but I also need it to be safe and for them to not be thinking about bad words or what a certain scene was about after the movie is finished. Call me a fussy-duddy if you want, but for as long as I can, I intend to keep them as innocent as I can and keep them watching Us and PGs.
We may be party-poopers but one of the things we do try to do during the summer is keep bedtimes as usual. For us that means that the three younger boys (who all share a room) go to bed between 7:30 and 8, sleeping by 8:30 at the latest (and on nights when it all goes wrong!!!), and my eldest goes to bed at about 9/9:30.
Don't get me wrong - this isn't a hard and fast rule. On holiday we kept them up a bit longer so that they would sleep in - they are usually up between 6:30 and 6:45am - and we let them watch the World Cup semi-finals and final - even when it went to extra time. But they know their limits. They all slept I the morning after the late night and they knew that one late night means a series of early ones will follow!!
Keeping their bedtimes constant not only helps with their energy levels now, when they want to do everything they can, but it also helps when they are getting ready to go back to school and we don't need to all-of-a-sudden get them back in routine. Most kids thrive in routine and mine are no different. They love knowing when breakfast, lunch and dinner are and when bedtime is. They even plan which films can be shown in the Nixon cinema by what time they assume these staples are at.
During the summer, as the rest of the year, everything stops for meals on our house. They have to stop all electronic devices, put away any books or toys and come in from playing when it's time to eat. It helps us to reconnect in the midst of a busy day, getting that time to eat together, check everyone and everything is ok and just pause.
I hesitated to include this one, as I just assume that it's a normal thing that every family does, but then I spoke to one or two people and realised that it's really not. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are eaten in front of the tv, in separate rooms and at different times all across the globe. Families don't seem to realise how important this one little thing but for us it's a special part of the day and it is a rare thing to change it.
We do, of course, have the odd TV dinner or nights when my hubby has to eat earlier or later because of his job, but most nights we eat together and love it :)
5. Quiet time
This is the one thing that is most important in keeping our house a haven. Every morning, as soon as the boys get up, they come down and before they put tv on or get any toys out, they get their Bibles out and do their quiet time. For those who don't really know what on earth I'm talking about, it's a time where they quieten their minds and focus on God. They say a wee prayer to start off and then spend some time reading their Bibles and going through their age-appropriate books. It usually takes them between 10 and 15 minutes to go through and they end the time with another wee prayer.
We don't do this with them - they do it all themselves. B does his upstairs in his room, but the others all come down to do theirs. And whoever finishes first helps the youngest M to do his. There is something so lovely about watching the boys help each other spend time with God. It is such an important time in our day and in our life and it really does help them with their attitudes and actions as we go through the days. We still have occasional problems - tiredness, a slightly gurny attitude or an argument between the boys - but on average when they have come down and spent time with God first thing, these are much much less than on the days they haven't.
So there are the five tips that we use to keep the boys quiet and focused rather than wanting to be busy all the time, grateful and together rather than each of them giving us a list of this they want to do rather than us providing the agenda for the summer. It's a long time and it can feel even longer if they aren't happy and you are shouting or trying to maintain peace 24hrs a day! We've got a couple of great plans up our sleeves for our boys and we'll share them as we go along :)