Our Summer Merit Badge System


As a parent, I feel one of my greatest responsibilities is to teach my children life skills that will help them function as an adult. So that’s a fun goal, right? Enter the school year.   In between homework, projects, church activities and meetings, MR tours, soccer, tumbling, FHE, and dinner I apparently also need to teach my children to cook, clean, budget, use a microwave, make their own dentist appointments, how to answer the telephone properly, and how to put together a decent outfit. (I try to encourage creativity but I draw the line at leopard print shirts with bird-printed leggings. I just can’t allow it.)

But in the summer? Ah. I have this beautiful time frame between rubbing the sleep from our eyes and the “What are we doing today?” conversation. And in our family, we use that morning time to learn something new.

Our good friend Merrilee Boyack shared this trick with us years ago. Use the summer to TEACH the skills, use the school year to IMPLEMENT them. She wrote this book that has become sort of a parenting bible for us, and in this book she breaks down skills that each age group is capable of accomplishing. (Really, you need to get the book. You'll die. ) There are things we do that are not included on this list, and sometimes I mix them around a bit, but it’s a great jumping off point. A few years ago I set out to find a system that I could use to teach these skills AND entertain my kids for 3 months. No easy feat, but we found a way.


At the beginning of each summer I print out these merit badges, (printable here!), about 5-7 for each child. Each merit badge represents a skill I want them to learn, and each skill is based on their age. For example, this summer my 8 year old will be learning to mop floors, cook frozen vegetables and cookies, (those are two separate items, lest you think we’re weird), and how to properly wash a car. My 5 year old will be learning how to empty the garbage cans, make his own sandwiches, and water our garden. And my 3 year old will be learning to pick up her room and proper dusting.

To earn their merit badge they have to not only show me they can do it, but repeatedly do it over the course of the summer. Before my daughter earns her “baking cookies” badge I’ll have her bake a batch with me, bake another under my CLOSE supervision, then bake a 3rd batch without my help. (Neighbors, you have been warned. Cookies may will end upon your doorstep.) If she can successfully pass it off at that point she’ll earn her merit badge. We staple each merit badge onto a ribbon that we’ve tied to look like a sash.Very boy/girl scout-ish.

At the end of the summer if they’ve earned all their merit badges, a reward is in order! Backyard campouts, special trips or treats, or fun date nights with mom and dad have all been used in our family. My kids love this system, and I love feeling like I'm doing something productive, instead of just (im)patiently reminding them to constantly shut the screen door. And let’s be honest, if my car gets washed 5 times in June so my daughter can “practice”...well, we all win.