Making the Most out of Summer
keeping kids or grandkids active
By Lisa Klewicki, Ph.D.
What is your first thought about summertime? “Yay, no more schedules! Time to have fun!” or “Uh-oh, what do I do without the school-year routine? The kids will be bored.” Whether you are looking forward to the unstructured freedom of summer or not, the question remains, what will you do with the kids all summer long?
Many children look forward to summer because it is a time to relax and be lighthearted. They need a break from their studies and school responsibilities to enjoy themselves and develop a healthy, balanced life. This does not meanthey are released from family chores and responsibilities, but they should have a more relaxed time for the few months of summer to de-stress and increase their creativity.
For parents, summer is the time to create kid-friendly spaces and provide kid-friendly activities to help foster your children’s creativity and attitudes of fun and excitement. Create a space in the house—maybe a spare bedroom, playroom, or corner of the kitchen—stocked with age-appropriate board games, a deck of cards with some card game instructions, arts and crafts, and building sets like LEGO or craft sticks and glue.
Keep a routine
A strict schedule is not necessary in the summertime, but a regular routine can be helpful for both you and your children. Having your child spend some time each day in their fun space is important. Children learn all kinds of social skills while playing games together or sharing arts-and-crafts materials. Children enjoy time with other children. Having multiple ages play together allows the older children to be role models and helpers and allows the younger children to look up to and assist someone other than Mom and Dad. This situation gives both older and younger children confidence in who they are and inspiration to strive for the good of others. Some alone time is also necessary for decreasing stress and increasing relaxation, appropriate individuality, and self-sufficiency.
In their fun space, children can learn to be imaginative when given opportunities to create something original. Without specific guidelines, they begin to think “outside the box” and become independent individuals with a sense of autonomy. Free creative play teaches children to think through problems and apply different solutions until they find one that’s best. It also increases a sense of well-being and actually heightens school performance, especially regarding analytical tasks.
In addition to spending time in the indoor fun space, children also need outside playtime each day. Helping them to have fun in the sun not only increases Vitamin D in their systems but also increases creativity and decreases stress. One of the best ways to relax is to walk or actively play outside. Outside activities physically tire children out, which decreases emotional stress levels. If your children or grandchildren need some encouragement to play outside, get a book of outside games to introduce them to new activities. If you provide them with some basic outside toys, such as sidewalk chalk and tennis balls, they can foster their own imaginative play and increase their abilities to think differently.
Playtime with the kids
Summer is the time not only for playing alone and with other children but also being together with parents or the whole family. Find activities to do with your children and grandchildren. Join them as they play with Play-Doh or challenge them in a card game or board game. Children thrive when they have attention from their parents and grandparents. Summer is a time when you can increase family time on a regular basis. Yes, the large family vacation is great, but ongoing family time is important, too. Enjoy a family hike or create a family scavenger hunt. Children’s sense of self-worth is often dependent on how a parent enjoys time with the child. When children sense that they are worth their parents’ and grandparents’ attention, they feel better about themselves and are more confident in their interactions with others. So, play together often one-on-one and as a family.
Break from screen time
Notice that I have not mentioned screen time; I have not recommended computers, iPads, or TV time as part of a regular summer schedule. Children need a break from these activities, too. These days the school year is filled with electronic usage that is necessary for schoolwork, especially as children get older. However, too much screen time has been linked to shortened attention spans and emotional overstimulation. Helping children detach from electronics as their main form of entertainment during their summer break is important for their emotional well-being. Away from electronics, children can learn to attach to other people as their primary means of enjoyment. The benefits of personal interaction far outweigh the benefits of electronic interaction, for both children and their parents.
It is amazing to me how much my daughter talks when we cook together. She asks meaningful life questions and engages in deeper emotional conversation when we engage in a common activity together. In the context of a shared experience, the pressure is removed from our relationship as we work together toward a common goal. We spend time looking through cookbooks, planning the meal, shopping together, and then cooking. We are proud of what we made together and enjoy sharing the results with our family, which provides the opportunity to engage everyone in meaningful conversation. The experience gives my daughter a sense of accomplishment and a connection with me at the same time.
Hopefully, you now have some ideas about what to do with your children or grandchildren this summer. Making the most out of the summer includes getting your children to be creative and social, both inside the house and out. Summer is the perfect opportunity to share quality time with your children or grandchildren one-on-one and as a family. Help your children to be psychologically healthy by allowing them to remain children while they can and providing them with the opportunity and means to be creative and play. Get out there and have fun this summer!