Managing the family during a snow storm can be challenging for parents, especially when snow brings an unexpected day off from school. While the children are jumping for joy at the prospect of a day full of sleeping in, snow sledding, and hot chocolate, mom and dad are often scratching their heads over what to do. A little advance planning can help bring a sense of productivity to the “found time” a snow day often brings. Having a “snow storm to-do list” ready and waiting, with age appropriate activities for your children, will provide you with an immediate bargaining chip to trade for the promise of free time once some tasks are accomplished.
School-aged children can engage in a number of jobs around the house such as cleaning their rooms or re-organizing their closets, drawers, and bookshelves. They can tackle the kitchen junk drawer or help with other mundane chores that never seem to get done. Activities for younger ones might include folding laundry and matching socks, sorting through the linen closet and turning tattered sheets and towels into rags (and then dusting with them), or organizing the pantry while checking expiration dates on boxed and canned goods. If you have a home office, tasks like sorting, labeling, filing, and alphabetizing are things youngsters might help with.
Teens can do laundry, clean the refrigerator, make meals for later in the week, or complete simple paint jobs. They can clean out the car or, if you have a shredder, tackle that pile of credit card offers and other items containing personal information, which shouldn’t go in the trash. An older child who is particularly tech savvy can help organize your digital photographs, archives, music, or other online files.
For something more structured, consider a formal job that has flexible hours or can help someone out who is in a pinch. Children between the ages of 12-17 can enroll in Milford’s Rent-A-Kid Program managed by the city’s Youth and Family Services, a part of the Human Services Department. It is one of our community’s hidden gems. The program matches residents looking for part-time help around their homes with children who are looking for a way to earn some extra money. Christie Roche, interim director of the Department of Human Services, has been overseeing the Rent-A-Kid Program for years. There are a number of tasks residents typically seek help with, such as child care, yard work, gardening, lawn mowing, and other odd jobs. This time of year, snow shoveling is high on the list of requests from residents who participate in the program. Child care is a close second for parents who must go to work despite the weather.
The Rent-A-Kid process begins with a “mini interview” between Roche and the child who is interested in signing up for the program. A parent or guardian must accompany the child and sign a permission slip before participation can begin. Roche then attempts to match the child’s interests with a nearby resident’s needs, trying as best she can to keep it all in the same neighborhood. The rate of pay for the work being done is negotiated between the child and the resident. In the case of child care, the resident has a little more input as to placement and, as Roche explains, children who have completed the Red Cross babysitter training course have a better chance of being offered those jobs.
From Roche’s perspective, the Rent-A-Kid Program has the additional benefit of teaching children responsibility and commitment, as they are accountable to the resident they are matched with. Children are also exposed to the interview process, the art of negotiation, and how to place a value on their time and talents. An added plus for parents is children have an opportunity to appreciate the significance of earning and managing their own money and can contribute towards the cost of things they’ve been wanting to purchase.
While snow days offer a great time to catch up on much needed work around the house, a little planning can alleviate the panic that parents often feel when a snow day presents itself. But you know what they say about all work and no play. Don’t forget to have some fun too!