Be my brain, thanks.

We start our summer schedule today.  School is out.  Most of the big plan is all worked out, but I need help with a couple parts of it.  And who better to tap in to than my brilliant readers?

Twice a week, I want to set apart a little time to “Learn a Skill.”  My children are 8, 6, and 4, and I think they’re capable of learning to do lots of new things.  So far, I’ve come up with ideas like how to sew a basic stitch on the sewing machine, ironing, plant a bush or tree, maybe paint a wall, properly clean a toilet, peel potatoes,  I don’t know….   I need more ideas.  What would be some useful skills for children to learn that I’m not thinking of?

Also, on Mondays we’re going to do meal planning and shopping.  I’ve collected several recipes and should be fine for this week, but my repertoire is seeming kind of dull right now.  Would you give me one recipe for a simple dinner that’s a big hit in your family?  I’m sure the collective group of readers would love to get some fresh ideas, too.

Anyway, I’m expecting a little turbulence the first couple weeks as we all get used to the new routine, but I’m mostly looking forward to it.  The only thing I could do with out is the blasted requirement of sometimes wearing a swim suit in public. Seriously.  Anyway, thanks in advance for the great ideas I know you’ll share.

Happy Summer kickoff!


26 thoughts on “Be my brain, thanks.

  1. How about teaching them to plant a garden, or even just a flower?

    My kids LOVE this parmesan chicken recipe:
    4 chicken breasts
    1 cup bread crumbs (you may need more or less)
    1 tsp sage
    melted butter (Or egg whites if you are healthy 🙂
    grated parmesan cheese

    Mix the sage and bread crumbs in a bowl. Dip the chicken in the butter or egg whites and then in the bread crumb mixture. Place them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

    The parmesan cheese kind of becomes a crunchy, yummy topping as it cooks. Fast, easy and goes with ANY side dish.

    Another variation: Bake the chicken without the parmesan cheese. After the chicken is fully cooked top each breast with a thick slice of mozzerella cheese and your favorite spaghetti sauce. (I use Bertolli’s five cheese) Bake 10 more minutes and serve with angel hair pasta and bread sticks.

    Good luck this summer!

  2. Maybe how to clean specific things that are hard to get right? But cooking is definitely more fun. There’s plenty for them to learn in the cooking area.

    Random, easy gymnastics – cartwheel, somersault, etc.

  3. Our summer break starts today too, but we’re going to be out of town for the next two weeks. I’m really relieved I don’t have to come up with things yet!

    As far as learning new skills, how about basic cooking? How to peel a carrot/cucumber, how to bake cookies, how to scramble eggs, etc. My kids adore helping in the kitchen. And while it makes me insane sometimes, I know they’re important skills.

    And as far as menus go, my absolute favorite site is Easy recipes, real ingredients, and lots of different kinds of recipes so you don’t get bored.

    Good luck. And I’m totally with you on the swimming suit thing.

  4. How funny! We’re doing the learn a skill thing too. Here are a few on our list: tie shoes, do a cartwheel, sew a button, conduct simple 4/4 time, use chopsticks, braid (just practicing with ribbons, not real hair), address and mail a letter, write a thank you note. That’s a start. Some are more useful and some are just for fun.
    One go-to dinner for us is BBQ chicken pizza. The kids will eat it with just BBQ chicken and cheese, but I add red onion, olives and bacon one for mom and dad. No special recipe, just whatever crust you like, chicken cooked with BBQ sauce in a crockpot, then shredded, then add whatever toppings you like. Good luck!

  5. Sounds like you have a great summer ahead of you. I have been trying recipes from, and From Jamie cooks it up try the creamy chicken tacos. They are fantastic. And recently tried sweet and savory pork chops and french dip sandwiches from our best bites. And I want to try some recipes from Some recipes look great!

    You can try finger crocheting or if you have a loom thingy you can have them knit hats.

    This is my last summer before I send my oldest to school! I am hoping to have some fun with him!

  6. During the summer growing up we did 4-H during the summer. Both of your boys could do a project and turn it into the the fair and get a participation ribbon. Sweet Natalie can still participate and enjoy the activities along with her brothers. They would be what is considered a Cloverbud. You can have your own club. The program is done through the university agricultural extension. It has basic skills to learn and will help with handwriting and skill building for the future.

    Maybe they already help with laundry and folding but that is a good summer activity. Then you can ask them to help during the school year to know what is next.

    It’s just a thought.

  7. Best Recipe I ever got from a friend. Fast and everyone loves it. Chicken breasts (I usually use 4) can of black beans, can of pinto beans, jar of salsa. Cook in the crockpot. Serve over rice or in tortillas.

  8. #1 –
    #2 –
    #3 –

    Those are just the ones I’ve published online that I could find. And for skills, you should definitely borrow my baby and teach your children how to feed a bottle and change a diaper. Good skills to know! Maybe how to choose good fruit from the store? Hmmm. Can’t think of anything else.

    You’re such a prepared and motivated momma. So far, I don’t really have any plans. Oops.

  9. My kids are getting older: 19 (on a mission), 15 & 11. We’ve tried many “routines” every summer of their lives, and yes again I’ve come up the best one yet (at least that’s what my pre-summer mind thinks:) my girls typically laughed at me this year and said, “oh, yeah, we do this every summer, hehehe.

    Well this year I,ve decided to do an allowance. With the idea to teach them about a budget. And teenagers always need money- so if it is their own, they can learn to work for it.

    I’ve made a daily chart of what needs to be done by lunch time (house chores/music lessons/reading), and if it’s not done, I will get a portion of their allowance. I hope that I don’t have to pay myself! That’s not my intent. But rather teach them that we still need to be productive and learn and help at home.

    Afternoons are free time (if their work is done).

    We will try once or twice a week to learn some skills (sewing, cooking, crafts or art). and once or twice a week we’ll go somewhere fun (swimming, movie, the park).
    or just let them hang out with friends, since that’s really where they have the most fun these days.

    It’s always a tricky thing- But, Home Can Be A Heaven On Earth- with a little planning and a lot of perseverance & patience!

  10. Ok, lets see…my kids 5, 4, and 2 are working their little tails off already this summer…In fact one of them (on a rotating basis between two other jobs) scrubs the toilet EVERY MORNING. They’re messy…what can I say! They seriously work so stinking hard though. I’m wondering when that magic spell will wear off…soon,I’m sure…

    As for recipes…my kids LOVE Chicken Tetrazzini…I think that’d be an easy one for your children to make…involves learning to boil spaghetti, cut, cook chicken, grate cheese, open a can, and mix…and it’s fairly foolproof as far as ingredients/taste goes…my kids think it’s very tasty.

  11. To add a few more skills…how about some first aid skills, some simple things but also things like CPR and the heimlich. Or some different methods of art, water color, sculpting, etc. Or have them make cookies or a cake.

    I love this idea and just might have to steal it. We’ve been trying to encourage trying new things but I like the idea of making a more concrete plan. I really need to sit down and get some things figured out. 🙂

  12. Between reading all the ideas for summer on the most recent Segullah blog post and then the ideas here, I’m almost feeling deficient–even though I thought I had great plans. 🙂 Well, maybe I’ll try to take a little of everyone’s good ideas and gradually blend them in with my own. Summer’s so short, sadly.

    You just reminded me that I need a new suit before swim lessons start in 2 weeks and now I’m all panicked. (I’m doing a mom-and-tot class.) I though I had a good new suit last summer and then I had the misfortune of seeing a photo of me wearing it. Now I need one with . . . a long skirt. Or something.

  13. The summer our oldest son turned 8, we spent lots of “skill” days helping him fulfill his Cub Scout requirements…it was fun, easy, and had lots of varied ideas!

    • PS-the younger two boys enjoyed helping with Cub Scout requirements too, so it’s fun for the whole family. 😉

  14. When the kids were younger I would have them help me fold laundry. It is something that always has to be done that I don’t really like doing, and I like to just get it over with. I realized though that it is something they needed to learn and its time that you can spend together. I would just give them easy things like some towels and wash cloths, they would do it and they are simple, clothes you will end up refolding. Its simple, it has to be done, and they felt like they were really helping out. Too bad that now they are all teenagers they don’t want to do it anymore.

    This recipe is great, easy and very kid friendly. They are Sort of burrito’s and sort of enchilada’s, not exactly either.
    Flour or corn tortillas (we always use flour because no one in our family likes corn)
    shredded cheese
    2 cans enchilada sauce (I always use mild but you can use the spicier if that’s what you like)
    2 cans cream of mushroom soup
    2 cans tomato soup
    1-2 lbs hamburger (depending on how much you are making)
    Brown the hamburger
    mix all of the soup together with the enchilada sauce and heat up, stir with a wire wisk to get it really blended
    spray a 9×13 glass baking dish with olive oil or Pam, whatever you use this is important or they will stick
    spread a spoon or spoon and a half of sauce on tortilla
    put a spoon full of meat on tortilla
    sprinkle some cheese on top of the meat
    add a little more sauce and wrap
    place in the baking dish, when it is full, usually holds 6-8 depending on if you use large or small tortillas
    pour the remaining sauce over the wraps and spread it around with a spoon or rubber spatula
    Sprinkle cheese on top
    Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes

    You can add green chiles to the meat if you want our kids like it with just hamburger and cheese though.
    I usually serve it with any other kind of vegetable on the side or even salad, for some reason they will eat the vegetables that way but they don’t like it if they’re mixed in??

    This recipe is especially fun and kid friendly because you can make an assembly line with the kids while you are preparing it, one scoops in the meat, one sprinkles the cheese, one is in charge of the pan- spraying it and lining them up, just depends on their ages which job they would do. Its super easy, tastes good, and its ingredients are things that most kids will actually eat without putting up a fight. If you decide to try this I think that you will enjoy it, I haven’t ever met anyone that it wasn’t a hit with their young children!

    Or try Chicken Cordon Bleu, super easy and you can make an assembly line out if it to!

    Boneless skinless chicken breasts (however many you are feeding, cut in half for small kids)
    sliced Swiss cheese
    sliced ham ( I have them slice it thin at the deli, not shaved but thin)
    2-3 beaten eggs
    bread crumbs (I use the seasoned variety)
    salt, pepper, Lawry’s, season to your liking

    Rinse and season chicken breasts
    Dip in beaten egg mixture
    roll in bread crumbs
    Place slice of Swiss cheese on each breast
    wrap slice of ham around each breast
    secure with toothpick
    At this point I usually spray a little olive oil on top but you an skip this step if you want
    Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes in a 9×13 glass baking pan, spray with olive oil first or they will stick
    When you take it out of the oven place another slice if Swiss cheese on top and let it melt from the heat the breasts are giving off from the baking process, this makes it creamier.
    Many other recipes recommend placing the last piece of cheese on during the final 10 minutes of baking but I find that it over cooks and gets too hard.
    I usually serve this with Hollandaise sauce because it can be a little dry but it tastes great with Hollandaise and everyone seems to like it.
    Serve with any vegetable on the side or salad, asparagus goes nicely with this but any vegetable will do.
    I also usually serve it with mashed potatoes.

    This is another one that you can easily make an assembly line out of! One rinses, one dips in egg and rolls in bread crumbs, one is the wrapper, just depends on their ages. Be sure to pull out the toothpicks before you serve this so they don’t cause drama.

    I hope that my suggestions have been helpful to you in some way! If you do make either of these please let me know how it turned out!

    Missy Bancroft

  15. I might just have to blog about an easy dinner…and I’m loving all these other ideas!
    Here are some of mine: sorting silverware (for the younger), sorting laundry, cracking eggs (make omelets for dinner?), and playing a song on the piano from memory.

  16. I LOVE all these replies. Lots of great ideas and fun recipes, whee!

    Maybe it would be fun to have an “etiquette” lunch where everyone practices best table manners, setting the table, etc. Or you could make bread or rolls for the evening meal, kneading is pretty fun. Or basic first aid? We used to memorize Articles of Faith or scriptures too and once we could recite them from memory we earned a candy bar. Worked great.

    This dinner is super easy, and around our house has been dubbed as “Bean Dinner Yum”

    Bean Dinner Yum
    1 lb hamburger (or ground turkey or sausage)
    1 med onion chopped
    generous dash Worchestershire sauce
    1/2 t dry mustard
    2/3 c ketchup
    16 oz can Pork and Beans
    16 oz can kidney beans
    3 T brown sugar

    Brown meat with onion, drain well. Add other ingredients, and simmer 15 min.

  17. Have you heard of or seen Merilee Boyack’s “Plan” for raising her boys. I’m sure it came from one of her parenting books about raising kids to be independent adults and she sent me a pdf. Send me an email and I’ll forward it to you. It’s a list of what skills she wanted her kids to know at each year of their age. She’s an estate planner by profession and there’s some great meaty skills in there.

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