Though hardly perfect students, my boys, ages nine and six, work pretty hard in school. So, when summer rolls around, they are ready for the much-deserved break. However, their idea of “break” is to spend every waking minute sitting on the couch, playing video games and watching television. If I’m honest, when I have work to do, I want to let them. But I know this isn’t the best for their bodies or brains, even though it’s sometimes the best for mama. I figured if I wanted to get them moving—and give the couch a must-deserved break from their buns—I needed to have a game plan. So, a couple summers ago, I came up with three ways to keep my kids off the couch in the summer.
I implemented a “minute for minute” policy. For every minute they read, they are rewarded a minute of video game time, with a 3 hour per day limit. This summer, I’ll add exercise or play as a way to get rewarded. Trips to the neighborhood pool will also count as “exercise”, since these two crazies are super active when they swim.
A second way I try to keep my kids off the couch is to find a local food pantry where we can volunteer. One of my jobs as a mom is to teach my kids life is not about them, life is all about God. So, with the free time summer offers, I like to brainstorm ways we can think about others when so often we want to think about ourselves. I once read perspective makes us grateful. If I can expose my kids, and myself, to what is actually going on in the world around us, hopefully, we will feel grateful for what we have. This gratitude motivates us to serve out of the fullness of our hearts.
An organization not too far from our home allows kids to come with their parents and stock pantry shelves. We also pass out water bottles to those waiting in line to come inside—giving me and my boys face to face interaction with the clients.
A third way I work to keep these two off the couch is to have a donation lemonade stand where 50% of the proceeds goes to the food pantry we serve. You’d be amazed when passers-by see our charity lemonade stand. They give more than you’d ever imagine. They boys get to keep the other 50% (usually spent on buying a video game), but only after they’ve paid me for the cost of the lemonade supplies. Here’s a hint: we’ve discovered traffic is the highest, and therefore the most lucrative, when people are coming home from work.
Not only do these “off the couch” ideas keep my boys’ bodies and brains moving, we build summer memories together. Hopefully, I’m teaching them along the way that when they die to their own wants, they find deep joy as they make God wildly famous.