I revived the tradition my first summer in North Carolina (almost) 4 years ago. This time we had long term goals. I remember that Elise and I made a quilt and Ryan and I made a volcano. Kirsti and Ethan did more one day craft things. We lasted through the end of summer, but things tapered off when school started.
But the idea stuck. I was periodically asked when we were starting special days again. We would occasionally do it here or there, but not regularly. But the kids were persistent, so at the beginning of this year I restarted the tradition. I assigned each kid a specific day and they get 30-45 minutes alone with mom. It is interesting to see the kids choices: Elise prefers crafts, Ethan games, Ryan and Kirsti love to cook things, and Joseph and Matthew will do anything- as long as they get to yell "You can't help, it's my special day!" to anyone who dares enter their line of sight.
30 minutes may not seem like a lot, but the little "What my mom does for me" fill in the blanks the kids filled out at school for Mother's Day were about 1/2 filled with special day activities. When I went to my grandmother's funeral and was gone a week, I thought the kids hardly noticed, till they all produced their list of things they wanted to do on their special days the next week.
The children look forward to their days and spend a lot of time deciding their activities. One kid (not one of the little ones) burst into tears when I forgot to pick up the ingredients for pumpkin pie and he had to wait an extra week to make it. Some weeks we have a theme: crafts, puzzle or learning activities, card games, etc. But more often than not I let them decide whatever their heart desires (as long as it is under an hour and we have the products on hand).
Here are some things that work for me:
- Don't let it take too long. There is limited time after school and if I take too long, I am tempted to start skipping.
- Assign days. I double up 2 each on Tues., Wed., & Fri. If our schedule gets messed up I make up on Saturday or Sunday.
- Make themes sometimes. If there is something I want to do, we go with my choice that week (but I let them know before hand). Usually they get to pick but for sanity sometimes I get my choice.
- Listen for things they mention would be fun or they show interest in when the other kids choose it. That way if they can't decide you have ideas ready.
- Enjoy the time. Don't worry about what isn't getting done, what you are getting done is far more important.
Obviously I have stopped and started this over and over. The kids still love it, even if I only keep it up for a couple months. My goal is to keep it going this time, but if I fail, they still have the memory. And, like I said, they'll keep asking to do it again. What better testimonial to effectiveness is there?