Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids
— projects for kids when you’re working at home
Although I’ve been working at home for the last few years, 2019 was the first year both myself and Hilary were working full-time jobs at home while the kids were on summer holidays.
First, some context: The kids were 9 and 11 at the time and they generally get on well. They play together most days, inventing games and imaginative play. We also have a lot of space inside including a dedicate toy room and our offices separated upstairs. And lots of outdoor space for riding bikes or playing on the grass.
We did the usual thing of taking a weeks holidays here, sent them to a horse-riding summer camp for a week, and they had random days out with friends and grandparents. They also watched TV and played video games like every other kid.
A few months before the summer I came up with the idea of “Boredom Envelopes”: these would be little lucky-dip projects they could ask for when they were bored. Each envelope would contain some instructions and any equipment needed. In most cases the envelope contains something which made it feel a little like Christmas.
I came up with some rules to make sure they took it seriously
I tried to balance the projects between things one child was interested in (anime, drawing, art etc) and the other one (more technical, playing games, goofing around etc). The projects are somewhat skewed towards things I could help them with so there’s no musical projects in here. I also didn’t what it to feel like work every day so there’s fun things and even video games in there too.
I started buying the project equipment a few months before the summer which spread the cost out a bit but I won’t pretend it was cheap. I probably spent about €250 on things but that still compares well to just a week at summer camp activity.
I’ll try to flesh out this post with more details, photos, and links to the items I bought. It’s been a few months so I’ve forgotten some of the details
Here’s the complete list of projects I put together:
There’s a few more details and photos in this PDF containing the actual instructions I put in the envelopes.
I attached raffles tickets to each envelope, and put the corresponding stub into another envelope for the lucky dip. Each day, if and when they were bored (and had no chores left to do), they’d ask for a boredom envelope. They’d pick out a number, I’d verify it was a suitable project (no outdoor painting if it was raining etc), and I’d hand it over.
I’d usually spend 5-10 mins setting the expectations and getting them set up. That was it really.
They obviously(!) loved getting these little presents each day even if the projects weren’t always immediately exciting. I think I only used about 20 of the projects I’d put together so I still have some I can pull out in emergencies (Hello, Coronavirus!) and they understand the rules.