How This Mom Survives Summer at Home with 4 Small Kids

Plan. Ahead. It’ll save you.

By: Foodlets
FN_Egg-in-a-Hole

FN_Egg-in-a-Hole

Photo by: Marshall Troy ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Marshall Troy, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Summer break brings such a mixed bag of emotions, doesn’t it? Excitement (tons of free time!), relief (no more rushing out the door!) and a small degree of panic (but what will we do all summer?). Just picturing four small people staring up at me expectantly for six weeks is enough to get me thinking ahead.

My plan for summer usually involves some level of Supernanny-ing. With hope in my heart, I try to plot out how our days will go up front — then communicate all the expectations to everyone ahead of time. That second part really seems to be the key. (Trust me, this is the voice of experience talking.)

Aside from hosting family from out of town, a camp or two and a cheeky family trip, our days will be pretty evenly split into two categories this summer: what needs to get done and what gets to be done. Mornings start with chores followed by piano practice. That leaves the whole afternoon for fun: swimming, movies and games.

In between all these activities, you can bet there will be food, but one of my goals is setting up enough structure that I’m not fending off a constant stream of snack requests. Nothing guarantees a faster trip to Crankyville than hearing "I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?" on repeat.

So, to start, I love sending all those rascals outside for breakfast. An alternating menu of something homemade (think Egg-in-a-Hole, Sheet Pan Pancakes 2 Ways, Easy Breakfast Peach Crisp and Overnight Monkey Bread) with good ol’ cereal or something easy like toast in one of three fancier ways.

Snacks make an appearance mid-morning and each day I have a helper assemble them. (See "chore chart" above.) Sometimes we’ll do make-ahead options like Peanut Butter Granola Bars and Double Chocolate Chip Fruit & Veggie Muffins. Otherwise, snacks are made on the fly, like Melissa d’Arabian’s Warm Spiced Vanilla Popcorn.

Then it’s nothing again until lunchtime. We’re too busy doing all the other things for the day. We’ve got a rotating chore chart for the kids, who at ages four through nine are easily able to do everything from unload the dishwasher to cleaning the bathrooms, putting their laundry away and cooking.

Photo by: Picasa

Picasa

And don’t forget my favorite afternoon snack of all time: homemade ice pops. Whether it’s Strawberry Fudgsicles, Peaches and Cream or Yogurt Parfaits, you can pack them with fruit, chia seeds, yogurt or any other special ingredient that springs to mind and be sure the results are always the same: DELICIOUS!

My last tip for surviving summer is making – or at least prepping – dinner in the afternoon. Our favorite Honey-Mustard Chicken is happy to marinate in the fridge before popping in the oven when we’re ready. (Ditto for London Broil with Herb Butter, Roasted Lemon Chicken with Vegetables or Bacon-Wrapped Pork Roast.) Cheeseburger Hand Pies or Taco Pop Tarts can both be assembled early in the day. And two-parters like Italian Zucchini Boats or Summer Squash Taco Boats can have their filling made ahead of time, cutting cooking time and effort in half.

That gives you a whole afternoon stretched out ahead of you, for all the fun you can possibly pack in.

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