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Balancing work and children: any tips to keep a 3-year-old entertained over the summer?
Thread poster: Els Hoefman

Els Hoefman  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:50
Member (2004)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Jun 4, 2009

Further to Jared's suggestion in a heated debate elsewhere on Proz, I would like to use this forum to ask tips from all you translators who are also parents.

My 3-year-old son will be at home with me for two months, as schools close in July and August over here. Apart from a family vacation we do not have any specific summer plans.

My question is: how do you keep small children happy over the summer while getting some work done at the same time? I will of course be able to count on family some of the time, but most days I will have to try to balance work and family. Any tips?


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Evita Savicka  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 20:50
Member (2007)
English to Russian
+ ...
My 2h 8m old daughter... Jun 4, 2009

loves cartoons.

Well, I know that it is not very healthy and good for the child to watch TV more that 1-2 hours a day. But still, a full-time Disnay movie can sometimes bring me about 1,5 hours of peace to translate 2-3 pages...

As to the quality time... Well, I still need to cook and do household works. So we try to do everything together.

[Редактировалось 2009-06-04 12:46 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A second child! Jun 4, 2009

My older son's favourite activity is either playing with or chasing his younger brother. The best way of keeping a kid entertained is... other kids!

Edited to add this: I often have to take care of our two children while I work and letting them play freely in their room is the best way to keep advancing in work. Of course in that situation I have many interruptions, but I'd say I don't lose more than 25% of the normal productivity.

[Edited at 2009-06-04 12:59 GMT]


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Els Hoefman  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:50
Member (2004)
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Second child Jun 4, 2009

Hi Tomás, I do have a second child, but he goes to daycare in the mornings and takes a nap in the afternoons. I was not sure if I should keep him home as well, but he has only just turned two and is too young to be able to play with his brother for more than ten minutes. Next year should be easier, then!

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Francesca Pesce  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:50
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
I have to find solutions for three months!! Jun 4, 2009

My son is six and in Italy schools close from the 12 of June to mid September. So three full months to fill.

My recipe is something like:

- the first week at home: free time from "organised and scheduled activities". So full-time mothering for me.
- A couple of weeks of "summer camp", i.e. organisations that keep children from 9 to 4.30, every week day, with sport, games, educational activities, art, etc. in the open (you have to pay for these)
- One month with grandparents and cousins in the countryside, with me commuting twice a week.
- 2-3 weeks holiday together

And then, for the final part, networking with other parents, keeping the children one day each.

The point is however, that it is easier to take care of two children than of one. So, since I only have one, I "take turns" with other families, lending my son to them or borrowing one of their's.


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Anne Carnot  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 19:50
Member (2009)
English to French
sitter? Jun 4, 2009

Hi,

I have 3 young kids, so I know what it's like!! My two oldest (6 and 7) can travel with an hostess by train, so I send them to my parents in July, and as for my youngest (3), I've hired a young student (she's 17) who will come in the mornings for about 3 hours. This added to the afternoon nap (and a bit of TV from time to time!) allows me to get some work done, and it is relatively cheap, especially here where some of her salary will be deducted from my income tax...
Good luck!
Anne.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Indeed! Jun 4, 2009

Els Hoefman wrote:
Next year should be easier, then!


Indeed. As we say in Spain, "each child is a world of his/her own," so you know best what to do. My kids are 5 and 4, so they get along quite well... although the older one loses his temper when he gets tired and I have to inflict the unbearable punishment of sitting in the corner for 2 full minutes! I am mean, I know!!!


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 19:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Help offered by regional government in Castilla y León, Spain Jun 4, 2009

My boys are 7 and 5, therefore of school age. Here in Avila all the state schools finish at 2pm during termtime, and at 1pm in June and September. Until now there has been a service available called "continuadores" so that they can stay a little later to give parents time to get from work to pick them up, and I can normally make it by 2.30.

Next academic year however, this service is being suspended - the only way they can stay is if they also pay to stay for school lunches (more customers for the catering company that has the contract). The previous service was free. A petition is being got up, and the PTA association is considering offering an "after-school" activity at this time (which will be cheaper than the lunches) so that the children can at least be supervised until we can pick them up. I like at least to have lunch with my children since I don't get home in time to have supper with them, but I certainly wouldn't be able to stop my working morning before 1pm and even before 2pm is pushing it.

Then, on Saturdays during term-time and during the Christmas and Easter holidays, and the summer holidays until the end of July, there is "centros abiertos" - a kind of big play group using the facilities of various local primary schools, from a maximum of 8am to 3pm. This was free also until this summer, when we will be asked to pay a maximum of 80€ for the maximum period of five weeks during the summer holidays. I was happier when it was free of course but it's still a great deal. For my children I shall be having to pay 160€ instead of the minimum 1125€ it would cost me (paying by the hour) for roughly those hours of individual childcare, or about 5-600€ at the paying nursery which has said it would still look after them for old times sake. (All of these services offer me a quality service).

And I won't mention how much I spend on childcare in the afternoons and evenings....

As Tomás says, each child is a world unto itself, and mine are LIVELY to say the least. True, they are most content in each other's company, since this gives them the opportunity to inflict as much damage as possible on each other, and to come crying to mother as often as possible. Working at home is NOT an option. I don't want them to grow up too fast, but it would be wonderful if this working at home were just a little tiny bit of the option... (last summer I tried working in the cool small hours of the morning, which worked for a while until I started falling asleep all over the place during the day and the boys kept telling the neighbours that their mother spent all her time snoring on the sofa).



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Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:50
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Find a local teenager to entertain the kids... Jun 4, 2009

Last summer I nearly lost my mind in July, between shutting my boys to swimming and tennis and watching my two year old. She went to the sitters' three days a week, but it was still a challenge.

I had a neighborhood teen watch the kids some days so I could get work done, but she was out of town a lot. This summer, my best friend's daughter (she's 16) will be spending July with us to help with the kids (and hang out with the family). She will be a lifesaver.

If you can find a responsible neighborhood kid between the ages of 13-16 to play with your kids for 10-15 hours a week, it could be a partial solution. You'd be immediately available if anything serious came up (i.e., you could work in a different room while your helper keeps your kids fed and happy). Plus, it's cost-effective to hire a teen. They can earn pocket money over the summer and you can get your work done.

Laura


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Lesley Sawyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:50
Member (2009)
French to English
Childcare/holiday club Jun 4, 2009

I've learned the hard way that working with that age group with me in the house doesn't work. Now I only work when my three-year-old is at nursery or, when his dad is looking after him or, in extremis, when his seven-year-old brother is there to be with him for an hour or two. I won't accept even short assignments otherwise. I know other people can make it work, but I don't know how they do it. Maybe it's just me!
If that's not an option, then the next best solution is definitely TV.


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 13:50
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I have a 6 year old and an almost 5 year old, both off for 2 months. Jun 4, 2009

One month of day camp will take care of the days (and they are so exhausted by 4:00 that then it's usually, dinner, bath and bed quite early).
In August, I am praying that my mother will come and take them during the days for a few hours, or maybe my sisters. If there is family around, that's always good.
I agree with Tomas about letting them play together alone in the house, or in the garden (I can hear them from my office). Digging worms and building them houses (the worms that is ) takes up time, or buy a HUGE roll of paper and tell them to colour the whole thing. Also, my two like to put on their bathing suits, take a bucket of water and some brushes and "paint" the house or the car, or whatever.
And there is nothing wrong with the occasional bit of TV...


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CANIMAT
Turkey
Local time: 21:50
English to Turkish
Am I Lucky:) Jun 4, 2009

I have two boys, one is 6 and the other is 4. They both go to a nursery school from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. and they also have a summer school full of funny activities. It costs too much for me , however I know that they are educated and taken care in a good way.
However, I still have problems with them , while the younger is hyperactive and every hour he is awake means trouble))
It is very hard to be a working mum. They hate it most of the time.
By the way, when they are at home, they watch TV, play with hot wheels toys, play chess and fight and break a few things with their balls.
I wonder, aren't there these kind of whole-day nursery schools in where you live?


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Penelope Ausejo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nanny Jun 5, 2009

I've got 3 kids. The oldest turned 4 last week and he goes to school, the twins are 2 1/2 and stay at home. I've got a nanny all day at home to take care of the twins. Thus, the best solution I think is to have a nanny. They go out 2 hours in the morning and play with other kids in the streets.

However, in my own case and even though I already have a nanny, once school is over, I think I will have to find another place to work. My oldest kid cannot stand having me around and not being with me, so he doesn't let me work. And I need to work all day (long hours), since I am the main breadwinner of the family.


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Lucia Vargas  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 12:50
Member (2011)
English to Spanish
get some activities for them Jun 5, 2009

I have a 3 year old son, and in my case, I cannot afford a nanny nor there are nannies available here. I have bought some puzzles for my son which he loves to do and undo time afer time. Also I have many coloring books and educational books with coloring pencils and white sheets to let his creativity flow.
My son would sit next to me in a little table and chair and works just as me, and sometimes he brings his "laptop" (a game laptop with educational and bilingual activities for kids).
Of course you have to guide him a little and from time to time, so there will be some interruptions, but at least he won't spend the whole day in front of the TV. In another times, I play some music, music I know he likes, and he goes playing around the house with his cars or start dancing a little. One has to learn to work and not feel disturbed by this music. Those are my strategies, I hope they help!


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Sonja Kroll  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 19:50
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
... Jun 5, 2009

Just an addition: Acknowledge yourself (you have every reason to) and bear in mind this time is not only very hard but also very short.

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