Kids splashing in the pool, the smell of sunscreen in the air and you are sitting at your desk at work wondering how you will keep your kids occupied, safe and entertained this summer while also working to provide educational opportunities and reduce academic loss over summer break. Here are some things to think about as your kids wrap up their school year and prepare to not only survive this summer vacation but thrive as a family during this time…
First things first, who is watching your child? Are you and your partner able to take time off with them or will you be looking for additional child care to help cover this summer? If child care is needed, be sure to find a licensed child care provider or established agency such as the YMCA which provides a wide range of summer camp options. If you’re hiring a private nanny or babysitter, ask around and find someone who has positive references and experience. You will be better able to focus at work if you know that your child is safe and cared for. Once you find someone, check in with your child about them often. Ask questions, find out what they like and don’t like about their camp, program or caregiver. It is okay to change placements if it isn’t working out. Be inquisitive.
Next, think through some adventures you and your children can go on together when you are with them. Even if you have to work most of the summer, schedule out time on days off, evenings and weekends to spend special time together when they are less busy with school and you have more flexibility in your schedule. The longer days of summer can provide a lot of opportunity for family fun.
Explore with your child things that he or she is interested in and that will help direct some of the “field trips” you and your children can take this summer. Ask open ended questions about things your children like, dreams they have or how they would like to spend some of their time. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most fun with kids. Does your son like to bake? Go on a hunt for the perfect cook book in used book stores and then try out your favorite recipes. If you daughter expresses interest in being a nurse, set up your dining room to be an emergency room for her toys and see where her imagination can take her. You don’t have to go far or spend a lot of money to provide your children with fun and new experiences. Set up science experiments with bubbles or things they find out in your yard. A quick Google search for simple science experiments can lead to hours of fun! Let their imagination grow this summer while they are out of the traditional classroom. This can also help them develop their own self concept and feel an increased mastery of their world
Search out your local tourism bureau for ideas of what is happening in your town each week and month. Many cities offer free activities and whether you take a day trip to a different city or choose a “staycation” in your home town, seeking out what is going on that weekend is a quick and easy way to find creative and often cost effective ideas. Many tourism bureaus also offer discounts or specials for using their website to explore what is going on in your city. You can even have your children help you look and choose options for the family.
Connect with other parents and their kids for adventures to the zoo or local museums. You can plan a scavenger hunt through places that you visit to increase the educational potential for each field trip. Making a game out of learning about art, science or history is a way to engage your children while still having fun and making memories with your kids. This article is a great resource to get you started in creating an enjoyable seek and find in your local museum. You can also do this for local parks, around your city or even a scavenger hunt around your neighborhood.
Seek out your local library for summer reading programs. Many offer fun prizes for achieving reading goals over the summer break and end of summer parties to celebrate completion of the program. Many local libraries also offer story times and craft stations for kids. They are a great resource for some cooler, quiet time during a hot summer day.
Although summer is a fun and relaxed time, it is important to keep a schedule for your kids so that they are better able to transition back to school in the fall. Let them know each day and/or week what their schedule will be or some outline of what to expect. A family calendar can help with this as well as talking with your kids about the next day to help provide routine and structure. As best you can, retain structure in their day including time for activity, chores and responsibility, meals together when possible and quiet time. We are creatures of habit and without structure a lot of children (and adults) can become anxious or irritable. The day doesn’t need to be as structured as a typical school day but keeping some level of schedule will be helpful for you and your children.
Lastly, don’t forget the importance of sleep. Sleep routine and sleep hygiene are easy habits to get out of and difficult routines to restart. It can take weeks to develop a good sleep schedule so keep that in mind in summer and maintain as consistent a sleep schedule as possible so that the transition back to school is less difficult for you and your child. Staying awake until midnight and sleeping until noon will create cranky kids and frustrated mornings come the new school year. Sure, some nights it is okay for your child to stay awake a bit longer over summer vacation but it is also important that several weeks before school starts you begin getting back into the school year sleep routine. Your child and your weekday mornings will be glad that you did!
Summer is a time to get to know your kids better, have fun adventures and help your kids grow and learn about their world. Think outside the box this summer and see where your imagination takes you! I’m sure your children will be glad to be on that adventure together.