'Let Them Roam' and Other Advice on Free-Range Summer Parenting

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When my kids begged for an empty calendar, I was worried about the impact on my job, but a few strategies have kept everything on course.

It's been six weeks since my kids finished school and their 'lazy summer' began. As I wrote earlier, they requested nothing fixed on the calendar for their two months of vacation (apart from a week at music camp for the oldest child), and reassured me that they were quite happy to entertain themselves. I warned them about boredom and they promised they wouldn't complain about it.

It has been an interesting experiment so far and one that I'd call highly successful. The kids were right; they don't need a million camps to entertain them all summer long, and are quite content to amuse themselves.

For me, though, it's a real challenge working from home with little people bouncing off the walls, wrestling energetically and asking endless questions. I've also become quite adept at blocking out the noise and have figured out a few hacks to make the days go more smoothly. These are my tips to any other parents who are in the same boat as I am during the summer holidays.

– Get books. We go to the library 1-2 times per week and stock up on new books to read. When these books are left out in plain sight, usually on the coffee table or on the sofa, they get read. The kids pick them up, flip through them, and suddenly get hooked. The key is to keep the selection fresh. Lots of Calvin and Hobbes, Astérix comics, and Harry Potter are being consumed this summer.

– Stock the house with healthy food. Then let them fend for themselves. If I stopped work every time they wanted a snack, I'd get nothing done. But when I buy things like whole-wheat wraps and peanut butter, crackers and cheese, granola bars, and fruit, they're able to fend for themselves. As for controlling their intake, as long as there's no junk, I don't really care. It's summer.

– Let them roam on their own. Every day they head out on their bicycles or scooters to visit friends, go to a playground, ride a trail, or hang out at the skate park. Thanks to all the time I've spent biking and walking with them around town, they are familiar with the routes and know how to navigate the town. Of course this would be more challenging in a large city, but I urge parents to give their kids a chance to be independent; they find it absolutely thrilling.

– Support entrepreneurial endeavours. The kids have discovered the wonders of the lemonade stand, and how a small amount of effort and investment yield impressive financial results. This is also a great way for them to stay entertained and focused for an entire afternoon. How they spend their hard-earned cash is entirely up to them. (Usually it's the 5-cent candy rack at the corner store.)

– Give them chores. Just because it's summer doesn't mean they can slack off entirely. They have their usual daily jobs, like laundry and dishes, and this summer I've begun sending them out on errands around town, e.g. pick up the mail, buy a bag of sugar at the corner store, drop something off at a friend's house. They like the new level of responsibility.

– Start my workday early. I am fortunate to have a flexible work schedule, which means the earlier I start, the earlier I finish. Knowing the kids will need my undivided attention at some point is a great motivator to get a head start. It gives me quiet, uninterrupted time to write and frees up a few hours in the late afternoon to go to the beach.

It's not perfect. Some days it feels torturously hard to accomplish anything, but the boys have told me they're having the best summer of their lives – and isn't that just what every parent wants to hear?