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Although summer break continues to shrink, it still looms as a challenge for many parents who feel they must find ways to keep their kids busy for two months every year. This can be stressful and expensive, and many parents grasp at whatever they can to help fill the summer void.
Now there are new challenges to summertime with social distancing and limits to summer camp enrollments. Whether you plan to enroll your child in an on-site or a virtual camp—or keep them engaged at home—it’s important to find a balance of activities while providing structure each day. Use these tips for guidance as you plan the summer.
1. Avoid over-scheduling. Summer routines do not have to mean jam-packed days and nights. A few of those types of days can be fun, but a schedule that is constantly full will exhaust you and your child. If your child is going to attend an in-person camp or daycare because both parents work, then let their weekends and evenings be more low-key and spontaneous. Parents may have to sacrifice some chore time on the weekends to do something fun with kids, but those chores will always be around—the kids won’t. Remember, you only have 18 summers to enjoy with your child.
2. Keep learning. While summer should include time for fun and games, that doesn’t mean your kids can’t learn things during the summer as well. Attend a virtual class, read books together or have a book reading contest, watch an educational documentary about something that interests them. Take a quick day trip to get outside you home and look for opportunities to learn about the place you are visiting, even if it’s just walking outside a neighboring town.
In addition, unlike during the school year, which can be quite busy with homework and after school activities, the long days of summer are a great time to teach your kids life skills they will need once they’re out on their own. Teach them how to cook, build something or grow a garden.
3. Limit screen time. When kids have lots of extra time, it’s easy to cave and let them spend hours on their screens. Too much screen time for kids is unhealthy in many ways, but parents are so concerned with keeping their children from getting bored, that they relax screen time rules. It may take extra planning, but don’t give in to screen time domination.
4. Let them be bored. It’s very easy for parents to feel like they must provide entertainment to their kids 24/7, but it’s actually okay for kids to be bored. Boredom helps kids to be happier, healthier, and better problem solvers. When children use their own creativity in unstructured play, they will find ways to amuse themselves. They don’t need to be constantly entertained or stimulated.
5. Encourage them to try new things. Summer is a perfect time to let children try new activities. If your child plays sports all year, let them add an art class to their summer schedule, or a drama camp—virtual options are available. I remember the summer my youngest, who played sports all year, tried a horse camp. She learned all about the hard work of caring for a horse as well as how to ride. It was such a great eye-opening experience for her.
6. Let them diversify. If your child loves sports and doesn’t want to do anything else, then summer is a great time for them to diversify. It’s also known as cross-training. Giving kids variety in their physical activities is good for them physically and emotionally. It’s also okay to let them try a sport that they aren’t very good at, even if they are just practicing on their own. Through diversifying, your child can grow strong physically and discover new interests, which in the end will make them better all-around athletes if sports is their true love.
No matter what your summer game plan looks like, remember that kids need a change of pace and scenery. Summer should not look exactly like the school year. It should have a combination of fun, relaxation, learning, and activity. Take a few minutes now to talk with your child about what they’d like to do this summer and what you will allow them to do. Letting them help with the plan will hopefully make it a more enjoyable break for all.
Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.