Living with pre-schoolers during the summer months can be a true test of survival for you, and them. In most cases, the pre-schooler will win.

Your house seems to be the favorite gathering place for little people from all over the neighborhood and your refrigerator their best friend. Those meals you thought were convenient to fix are not convenient or quick enough for impatient appetites, and those appointments you once dreaded are a welcome escape for a little time away from home.

Here are a few things you can do to make your life a little more bearable, and possibly give you a little more time to yourself:

Establish ground rules that you expect to be followed during the summer and STICK TO YOUR GUNS. Set the boundaries as to where the trikes and cycles are to be ridden: No going around the corner without asking; no running in and out of your house or the neighbors'; no free play except in specified rooms. Once they know the rules and know you insist they be followed, half the battle is won.

Plan your meals to use more salads -- tuna, chicken, macaroni, etc. These are quick and delicious and if the children are allowed to mix them up, they won't have so much time to keep asking "when will dinner be ready?" Let them mix the drink or juice, too, as well as set the table while you make the final preparations.

If dessert is saved for later, serve it in paper cups, on napkins or paper plates, so you won't have to wash dishes again. By using fruit and cheese for dessert, there's even less bother.

Let them fix "dinner" for you once a week. It'll probably be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with applesauce for dessert, but that's not so bad. eat it!

Use a card table or TV tray and serve lunch or dinner outside. Use paper plates and plastic forks on these days so the "dishes" can go right in the trash when they're finished.

Establish a weekly amount that will be used for the "ice-cream man." Let the child understand that once this allowance is gone, there will be no more until next week. He'll feel independent having his own money to spend and he'll also discover how quickly money goes.

Make popsicles by freezing juice or drink in paper cups. Use a popsicle stick or wooden or plastic spoon for the handle. These will come in handy when the "ice cream money" is exhausted.

Put ice water in an unused coffee urn or a gallon Thermos to take some of the abuse off the refrigerator. Place it on the bottom step, along with some paper cups labeled with each child's name, and let them help themselves. Once they get used to the idea, they won't use it except when thirsty and if there are spills, it won't be a disaster.

For unpleasant days, establish a corner in the house that the child can call his. Supply it with magazines, scissors, paste, crayons, paper, pencils, books, material scraps, macaroni, etc. Encourage him to create something for you to display.

Let your pre-schooler water the grass or flowers. When he does, give him his nightly bath outside. He'll love it!

Fill an old bucket with water and with old paint brushes and let the gang "paint" the fence or a tree. If they wear bathing suits, it'll really be fun. "

Take advantage of the local events and experiences available for children. Children never seem to tire of visiting farms, parks, museums and libraries. Check the newspaper for other places to visit or events especially for children.

Make arrangements with three or four other neighbors to alternate keeping all the children one or two hours on weekdays and maybe three or four hours on Saturdays. This will give you some free time to tackle those jobs that must be done without interruption.

Consider an agile senior citizen as a summer "grandparent." It'll be company and fun for them, and your child will look forward to the visit and the extra attention.

Put a long piece of paper on a wall or door and let them draw a mural. Keep it up so they can work on it over a period of time.

Turn last year's splash pool or an old car tire into a new sandbox. Keeping the sand damp dscourages throwing and makes for better structures.

With masking tape, draw a hop scotch on the sidewalk or driveway. Don't forget a jump rope and hula hoop for old-time fun.

Extend bath time and make it more interesting with plastic cups and bottles.

They'll love washing a favorite doll or plastic car.

Put play clothes in a separate drawer and let them dress themselves. So what if they don't always match!

Forget about keeping a spotless house, so long as the clutter doesn't make it unsafe. Pick up at the end of the day.

If you think about it, you probably can come up with some other ways to alter usual routines. Even if it means putting up with a few things you normally wouldn't, the extra minutes for yourself -- and the fun for your pre-schooler -- will make it all worthwhile.