If you’re an adult with school-age children in your life, I need not tell you how full this time of year is. From end-of-year projects to field trips to ceremonies and celebrations, these pre-summer weeks are both exhausting and exhilarating for students and their parents — and speaking on behalf of those of us who work with your school-age children, we can relate!
The promise of warm weather and newfound freedom is already in the air, and as you prepare for the coming weeks and months, I wanted to share a few tips and resources as you gear your kids up for a healthy, happy summer.
- Consider summer camps and classes. While summer camp registration season is mostly behind us, it’s not too late to find good opportunities for your child to remain productively engaged in areas of interest. Whether the camp is oriented around academic subjects, sports, the outdoors, or more matters less than whether your child will be joyfully engaged. One of the best benefits of camps are that they offer a balance of structure and fun that is essential for kids.
- Help your kids stay socially connected (and not just on social media!). One of the most foundational benefits of school (aside from, of course, the academic learning that takes place there) is the socializing experience it provides for children. In the summer, when carpool and group play date opportunities are less organic, it is important to give children a way to stay in touch with their peers. The connections they are able to make with friends through shared interests and activities over the summer are often different from the time- and place-bound experiences they share at school. Summer is a great time to help your children deepen their relationships in new and fun ways.
- Keep a little structure to their unstructured time. During the school year, the highly structured days help children develop routines around sleeping, eating, doing homework, and participating in sports and extracurricular activities — and by the summertime, the temptation to stay up late for movies and video games and sleep until noon is understandably tempting. While it is important to give children a brief time to decompress from the time pressures of the school year, helping them understand how to maintain a healthy personal schedule and take responsibility for their time is critical. Kids still need 10-12 of sleep, regardless of the season. Help them stick to regular sleeping and waking times, moderate and alternate their daily meals and activities, and maintain a habit of doing chores and other activities that contribute to the household.
- Don’t be afraid of letting your children get bored. While you may feel pressure to ensure that your children are intellectually and physically engaged at all times, remind yourself of the upside to being a little bored at times: it forces kids to come up with creative ways to fill their time by themselves. One recommendation is to sit down with your children in the first few days of summer and collaborate on making a list of interests and activities they’d like to do this summer — a Summer Inspiration List — and if ever you find them listlessly bored, remind them of those great ideas they came up with and encourage them to see what they can make of them.
- Collaborate with your children to develop a couple of long-term summer projects. At school, children benefit from long-term projects because they have the opportunity to see the progress in their growth and learning. Additional benefits include chances for children to develop perseverance, problem-solving capacities, skills in independence and collaboration, and sustained intellectual engagement, all of which can be deeply rewarding. As you help your child develop their Summer Inspiration List, encourage them to consider one or two long-term areas of interest, like planting a garden or writing a book of short stories. This gives them opportunities to apply their learning skills to different kinds of activities; having something to show for their efforts at the end of the summer will help children enter the new school year with a sense of accomplishment. Furthermore, they will develop the agency to know they can put themselves to a challenging task and measure their own progress, skills that will underscore their success in their academic learning. And if it’s a project that allows you and your child to work together, even better!
- Encourage your children to develop new talents. Similar to long-term projects, talents cannot be accomplished in a day, and the perseverance children develop in learning a new skill will serve them well, whether or not they choose to stick with a particular activity. Learning how to swim or ride a bike, nurturing an artistic interest, learning how to cook, or even developing the patient appreciation for an activity like fishing may prove to be a highlight of their summer, and your children will enjoy sharing these new talents back at school in the fall.
- Engage their citizenship. The longer, warmer days of summer have a way of cultivating a sense of hope for what’s possible in the world. Capitalize on this optimism by encouraging your children to think of ways they can contribute and give back. Whether it is a weekly activity or more sustained community engagement, summer service offers a chance to develop both social and personal responsibility, especially for kids in their early teens who are not yet old enough to take on summer jobs.
Even when the school year ends, learning opportunities abound for kids. Some of those lessons might be at your local YMCA, and some might be right in your own backyard. However you keep your kids engaged, I wish you and your family a fun and richly rewarding summer break.
Summer Reading for Parents: