Summer is here! The children are out of school and we’re all trying to find fun and creative things for them to do while still giving us time to get things done. These two things do not have to be mutually exclusive!
The sudden break from school can be jarring – you’ve developed a routine for yourself, and that routine often involves your children being out of the house for 7 or 8 hours of the day. The important thing to remember is that your child loves spending time with you. No matter their age, you are and always will be their first and most important teacher.
The warm weather and all the extra labor idling around the house makes summer a great time to take care of some projects around the home. Getting your kids involved is a great way to keep them entertained and make the workload lighter for yourself.
When working with your child, safety is key. Start by determining what tasks are appropriate for her age and take the time to clearly and carefully teach her how to do them. You’re not turning your child loose with tools — this is a joint experience.
She won’t have your skill or speed — you didn’t either when you first learned! Resist the temptation to take the job back if she does it to less than your satisfaction. Decide ahead of time which tasks you are comfortable with her doing. If she is going to hammer nails, will you be upset if she misses and hits the wood? You can teach her how to remove a nail if it starts to go crooked but you can’t fix a hurt thumb as easily.
Choose carefully what you will assign your child and make sure to give him appropriate safety gear (especially eye protection, and don’t forget ear protection if you are using tools). However no matter what you do, don’t do the work. Be creative! Even a three-year-old can sweep up shavings from a saw. He’ll think it’s fun, and playing with sawdust will give him a fresh medium for his creativity. An eight-year-old can help paint her room. A closet is a good place for kids to learn painting skills; if the painting is less than perfect, who’s going to notice?
When you work with your child to build or repair something there is a good chance you don’t do that kind of work every day. You may not be an expert. That is excellent. Let your child be part of your learning. Research together how to do the work, figure out the instructions together and let her see by your example how to tackle new things.
Model how to approach something new safely — if safety equipment is required, wear it! You can tell your child over and over again how important it is to wear a seatbelt or a life vest but it’s your actions that will teach him if it’s really important or not. Nothing is different here. Safety glasses can be cool!
While you’re learning, you will make mistakes — especially if you are following instructions! Fabulous! Model how to fix mistakes. If you are really frustrated, tell her you are frustrated and need to take a break. There is nothing wrong with that. Then come back at it later: dismantle and try again. Persistence is a very important life skill and working through a new project together is a physical lesson in achieving goals that all of the preaching in the world could not convey.
As you work together you will encounter many teachable moments. If you are building a bench with your son, for example, he will become so engrossed he will not even notice he is practicing math as he measures and rechecks those measurements.
Take the opportunity this summer to strengthen your bond with your children, teach them some vital life skills, and get rid of those long-term items on your to-do list while you’re at it! Have a great summer!