A friend of mine jokingly posted on Facebook about a daily countdown until school is back in session. Which was funny to me because there is a kernel of truth to it. Summertime, at least with young children, has been a mixed bag for us. On one hand, our usual strict schedule lightens up, we spend lots of time jumping into pools and lakes, and our grill and garage bar get a lot more use. On the other hand, there is fighting – and so much of it. Is it the increase in time spent together at camp all day that turns them from bosom buddies to mortal enemies, or the drops of pool water that transform them from adorable mogwai to destructive gremlins? I am sure that for some lucky parents, summer memories are all noodle salads and lily pulitzer dresses, but that has hardly been our experience. We are more likely to measure our summers in bottle recycling and property damage.
However, I am nothing if not an eternal optimist, so I decided to try something new. The plan I came up with was essentially a treasure-box full of summer experiences which the kids earn by doing their jobs and having kind hearts from Monday through Friday (when we’re at our most desperate for compliant behavior). Meet our “Treat Yo Self” box of treasures, inspired by this scene from Parks and Rec
Apropos of nothing, but I can honestly tell you that wrapping this empty amazon box in low quality wrapping paper is the single most CRAFTIEST CRAFT I’VE EVER CRAFTED. Which is good practice for me because I’m about to become a legitimate dance mom, and I have a feeling that dance mom’ing and crafting go hand in hand.
Back to Treat Yo Self. I figured that it was important not to fill the box with a bunch of useless toys like LOL dolls and squishies, so I stuck with the same game plan that we apply to birthday celebrations – experiences over stuff. Some of the contents are arguably toys, but they are “doing” toys. Here is the complete list of items (with amazon links) and experiences that can be earned each Friday, in case you want to replicate for your own gremlins. I also added an end of summer big ticket item for extra incentive.
- Nerf guns with 100 extra Nerf bullets, because, you know, ‘merica
- 16″ Whoopie cushions, because, you know, big farts
- A big bag of dive-for pool toys
- Light up / glow in the dark jump ropes
- Country Time Lemonade (for a lemonade stand)
- One coupon good for a family backyard camp-out in the tent
- 100 Water balloons, good for an epic children vs parents battle
- One coupon good for one sleepover in mom and dads room
The end of summer big ticket item (earned through relative program success)
- Fifth row tickets to see “Wicked” in San Jose
While we are only one week into project “Treat Yo Self” the results, thus far, have exceeded expectations. I did, however, have to make one small adjustment to the overall requirements by making the “kind hearts” (aka no fighting) rule specific to camp-only. Why? Because I want to set them up for success, and just making it through 8hrs/day 5 days/week would be hugely successful. Also, it’s in line with the original goal of not getting kicked out of camp and having to move to middle America where we can afford to have one of us stay home.
Did they earn the reward this week? YES! They absolutely crushed the first week, and have been taking out their unchecked aggression on their newly earned Nerf guns. Side note: you know how they spray cops-in-training with pepper spray to give them an idea of when that use of force is necessary? We did the same thing with the Nerf guns last night. Every family member (except Walter) had to get shot in the butt at close range to fully understand what it feels like, before taking possession of their firearms. There are nerf bullets in our trees, in our hair, in Walters tail, in the neighbors yard, in the toilet, and in my slippers. It definitely feels like it’s going to be a good summer at the VonD house. Also, how perfectly does the photo below represent each of my children? Even though I am on the couch with a nasty summer cold/cough, I can NOT stop laughing!