Have you run out of ideas to keep you and your kids happy this summer? You spent the first few weeks doing splash parks, hikes, and road trips, but now all you want to do is spend a day at home. The problem is, the kids are suffering from too much togetherness, they’ve started picking fights with each other, and they’re badgering you for screen time. They need some space from each other, and you need a break.
Let me introduce you to a tool that helps me (and my four kids) not only survive but actually enjoy time at home during the summer. I call it Kid Stations, and it’s really easy to implement. Every day we’re home, usually after lunch, I set up a series of activities around the house, and my kids rotate through them individually.
They get a break from each other, and since they’re rotating every 20 minutes or so, it’s nonstop fun for them. For me, it’s almost 1 1/2 hours of peace to either enjoy some downtime or to get something done around the house. It’s a win for all of us. I’m going to show you how to make them work for you.
Pick 3-4 stations. How many you choose will depend on how many kids you have and how much time you want to fill. Plan for at least the same number of stations as you have kids. I have four kids, so I typically do four stations.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Crafts Station: Plan for a specific craft from Pinterest or just set out a wide variety of art supplies and let them go wild.
Educational Screen Time Station: Let the little ones play on websites or apps like ABCYa!, Starfall, or PBS Kids. The big kids can do activities on Camp Wonderopolis, Cool Math Games or Khan Academy.
Games Station: For the big kids, set out a deck of cards to play Solitaire or board games that can be played alone like Boggle, Scrabble, or Storycubes.
Busy Bags Station: Busy bags are perfect activities for toddlers and preschoolers. If you’re not familiar with them, look on Pinterest for plenty of ideas.
Writing Station: Give them something fun or meaningful to write, like a letter to a grandparent or a Christmas wishlist.
Reading Station: Make sure you’re well-stocked with books. This is a great station for making progress in your library’s summer reading program.
Fun Screen Time Station: Let them pick any parent-approved app or website to play on.
Active Play Station: Set out your kids’ favorite toys like Legos, Snap Circuits, Littlest Pet Shop, or Little People.
School-like Work Station: Give them a couple of Summer Bridge workbooks or find activity sheets online specific to something your child loves to study. For the little kids, you can use activity books that teach them phonics, to follow directions, or to practice their scissor skills.
Outside Station: Encourage them to ride their bikes, jump on the trampoline, or practice their ball skills—anything that will get them some fresh air.
Decide on logistics and write out a schedule. You need to decide how long each station will last, where it will take place, and which child will start there. I suggest 25 minutes for each one and spreading them out into different rooms.
Next, show the schedule to your kids. If they fight over who gets to go to the “most fun” station first (in my house it’s anything electronics-related), have them pick a number between 1-10, and the closest gets to choose first.
Your schedule might look something like this:
I-pad time in the Living Room—Child #1
Legos or Snap Circuits in the Basement—Child #2
Crafts at the Kitchen Table—Child #3
Reading time in Your Room—Child #4
Send your children to their assigned stations, and set a timer.
Enjoy your quiet time. You get to choose whether to do something fun for yourself or to get things done around the house.
When the timer goes off, call out, “Time to switch!” And remind each kid which station to go to next. (Just move down the list of stations to keep it simple.) Repeat until your kids have rotated through all of the stations.
Tips and Ideas
If you still have a little one napping, use stations for the big kids during naptime. If your kids are young, start with 15-minute stations first, then gradually increase the time over a week or so. Bigger kids can usually do 25-30 minutes each. You could also use stations to spend one-on-one time with each child. To do that, just make one of them a Play with Mom/Dad station. Then as each child rotates through, he’ll get some individual attention and fun.
Kid Stations are a parent’s best friend during the summer. I know I couldn’t live without them. Try them, tweak them for your family, and enjoy the peace and quiet (and lack of arguing!) that they bring.
Sandi Haustein is a freelance writer and mom of four. During the summer, she writes while her kids are doing stations. She blogs at thewelcomingtable.com.