Jan 05 2010

School Holidays – A Time For Blogging And Blobbing

Published by at 10:30 pm under school holidays

School Holidays. 3 kids, 7 weeks, no money.

And to top it all off, an ultra messy house to boot.

Corporate Babe has just started a new job and my kids only want to sleep, eat and have fun.

The problem is that I want exactly the same things as my kids, but I am also bound by the tyranny of adulthood, the duties of married life and my personal commitment to become an exemplary househusband to get the house and my family affairs in order and keep it all manageable … school holidays or not!

On top of this, we’re pretty strapped financially at the moment, so the plan is to get the best “value for no money” holidays we can’t afford, by doing it on the cheap and staying local without going loco.

So …what’s a poor lazy househusband to do?

After years of unsuccessfully trying the old military approach of barking orders at the kids to get them to do “chores” and getting nowhere, I devised a fun game to get the kids involved in helping me with the daily household management, while making sure we all get to have an enjoyable holiday time together.

The game is called “Projects And Activities”.

Has a real “fun” sound to it doesn’t it?

Well the kids seem to think so.

I have managed to successfully enroll them into helping around the house by avoiding use of the negative and demotivational word “chores”, replacing it instead with the more positive sounding, team-oriented “projects,” then dangling a sweet treat of “activities” at the end of the stick as a reward. By wrapping it all up in a game that promises to deliver fun, adventure and family togertheness, I have turned it into a new family tradition for our family. Classic!

Here’s how it works:

I got my oldest son Filosofo to sit down with me after breakfast on the first day of holidays, and together we drew up a list of all the things that needed to be done around the house.

I then got the other kids to join us and asked them to list all of the fun things they would like to do during the holidays.

Once we had both lists, I typed them all up on the computer, deleted every activity that we couldn’t afford (like sailing to Antarctica), made several duplicate entries of all the activities we could afford (like playing checkers), then printed out the lists.

Here’s the final lists …

Projects List (Formerly known as chores)

  • Pick Up All Rubbish In House
  • Change Bed Sheets
  • Clean Car
  • Clean Laundry
  • Clean Main Bathroom
  • Clear Spiderwebs
  • Clean Toilet
  • Clean Trampoline
  • Dust Office Furniture & Shelves
  • Fold And Put Away Clothes
  • Organize Books And DVDs
  • Organize CDs
  • Organize and Tidy Fridge
  • Organize Linen Cupboard
  • Organize Toys And Tidy Playroom
  • Pack Away Inflatable Swimming Pool
  • Sort And Give Clothes To Charity
  • Sort Mail – Drop Return Mail Off In Post Box
  • Tidy Backyard
  • Tidy Backyard Porch
  • Tidy Bedrooms
  • Tidy Garage
  • Tidy Kitchen
  • Tidy Kitchen Pantry
  • Tidy Landing And Corridors
  • Tidy Living Room
  • Tidy Patio
  • Tidy Playroom
  • Vacuum Downstairs
  • Vacuum Upstairs

Activities (the fun stuff)

  • Set Up  Ant Farm
  • Go To Beach
  • Board Game (e.g. checkers, chess, snakes and ladders)
  • Visit Botanical Gardens
  • Play Risk (Board Game)
  • Go On Bushwalk
  • Play Cashflow For Kids (Board Game)
  • Crafts
  • Drawing | Painting
  • Go On A Public Ferry Ride
  • Get Ice Cream
  • Kite Flying
  • Go To Library
  • Model Making
  • Play Monopoly
  • Go To Park
  • Ride Scooter | Bike | Skateboard
  • Go To Public Swimming Pool
  • Play Uno
  • Watch Videos | DVD
  • Play Wii Games
  • Build A Worm Farm | Start Composting
  • Visit Zoo

Once the lists were printed, Filosofo cut each of the above entries up into “chinese fortune cookie”-sized strips and Destructo folded them all up into tiny accordion-like scrunchy balls of paper. Meanwhile, Exacto found two empty glass jars and made labels for each jar with bees wax  – One with a “P” for Projects, and the other with an “A” for Activities.

Once we had our system set up, it was time to explain the rules of the game to the kids.

The Rules Of The Game

Each morning after breakfast, everyone rolls a die to vote for how many “Projects” we need to get done that day before we can do an “Activity”. The result must be between 1 and 3, so if someone rolls a “4”, “5” or “6”, they must roll the die again until they get either a “1”, “2” or “3”. The result that gets the most votes is the number of Projects we will do that day.

Once we arrive at the number of projects, we then draw an equivalent number of scrunched up pieces of paper from the “Projects” jar. Obviously, the kids all try to roll a “1” each day. If we draw a chore … oooops – I mean, project – that we’ve already done, then only light maintenance is required (i.e. if we draw “tidy up backyard”, we just make sure the backyard is still tidy!).

The game is also flexible enough to ensure that I will always maintain complete control at all times over what needs to get done around the house. So, for example, if we draw a new project then great – it needed to be done. But, if instead we pull out “tidy kitchen pantry” three days in a row from the jar, then I’ll suggest that the kitchen pantry project has been successfully completed  and that we’ll begin tidying up the playroom instead. If everyone agrees with my suggestion, great! If they object, then tough! I reserve at all times the option of reverting to the military style where I become the unquestionable supreme commander of all the troops and direct their efforts to the mission I want to see accomplished for that day. In the past I’ve tried drawing another project from the jar when we get the same task in succession, but I’ve decided that parental dictatorship is a better way to go.

We also draw one activity from the jar. If the activity requires preparation (e.g. visit the Zoo), then we schedule it in the calendar. If we draw an outdoor activity on a very rainy day, then we return the paper to the jar and draw another one until a suitable one is found that everyone agrees on.

Although we only draw one activity per day, we’re not limited to doing just one fun activity per day. We will pack as much fun as we can fit into one day once the projects are out of the way, but make sure that we do include the activity that was drawn for the day within a reasonable time frame. So, if we draw “Play Monopoly” for instance, the kids might choose to watch a movie first after we complete the projects for the day, but I’ll remind them that we have to start playing Monopoly before 4:00 pm that day, or else it will get too late to play.

So far, the system is working very nicely. The house is slowly but steadily getting in order without the kids moaning or whining that all they ever do is “work”, and we are getting lots of fun things done, like playing loads of games of checkers, going on bike rides, going to the park, spending a day at the beach, eating ice cream, doing crafts, drawing, playing Wii, watching movies on DVD, and even building an ant farm (although all the poor little ants died a few days afterwards, so it wasn’t much fun for them!)

If you do decide to play the above game with your kids, then the most important thing to keep in mind that I have learned so far, is that you need to get the Projects done BEFORE the Activities, or the game is pretty much before it’s even begun. It’s the old “business before pleasure” adage. If I let the kids get on the Wii or start watching movies before we do the household chores … errhmmm … “projects”, then everyone switches over to a state of mind that Corporate Babe calls “blobbing”, which means doing absolutely “bugger all” all day long without feeling the slightest twinge of guilt about wasting your day.

Once you start “blobbing”, it’s an uphill battle to actually get anything done. You might as well write the whole day off and start again fresh the next day.

It’s now 3:12 pm, so I better stop blogging before I too start blobbing, and get the kids to help me with the 3 chores projects we drew this morning. I knew I shouldn’t have let them talk me into playing Super Mario on the Wii before we tackled today’s projects, but we did go on a big bike ride this morning after breakfast and letting the kids blob around a bit after their bike ride seemed the natural and appropriate parental thing to do.

Oh well … what the heck – it’s their school holidays, so hurrah to blobbing!

The Lazy Househusband


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