By Dena Embrey, LCSW, Courier & Press, June 7, 2016 –
Summer break is here, and families often look forward to sleeping in and not rushing through the morning routine. Maybe you have a vacation planned, or your child is looking forward to summer camp.
For families with school-aged children, making the transition from the highly structured routine of the school year to the relaxed feel of summer can be difficult. Before too long you start to hear those dreaded words, “I’m bored,” or “There’s nothing to do.” Soon siblings start fighting and everyone’s stress levels go up.
Planning ahead and keeping a schedule can help you avoid this being your summer reality. A schedule brings order to your days, giving your child needed structure and reducing anxiety.
It’s good to have set times for waking up, meals, chores and preferred activities. Display your daily schedule for the whole family to see and review together. Include your children in the process, letting them have some say in what activities are included.
As a parent, you have to be prepared for unexpected changes and those days when things just don’t go as planned. Rainy days, illnesses or canceled play dates will inevitably get in the way. Having a list of fun ways to engage your children as a backup plan could be a life saver.
Here are some activities you may want to include on your list:
1. Go outside to play and explore. You can keep it as simple as taking a bike ride, blowing bubbles, visiting a playground, watering the garden or taking a walk around the neighborhood.
2. Go on a hike at a nearby park.
3. Plan an outdoor scavenger hunt and create a scrapbook of everything you find.
4. Visit a nature preserve and get a guided tour.
5. Set up a tent in your backyard and camp out with a bonfire, s’mores and stargazing.
6. Go old school and teach your kids some of your favorite childhood games. Hide and seek, monkey in the middle and tag are always good go-to games.
7. Look through old photos and compare your child’s baby pictures and your own or create a family tree together.
8. Spend some time in the kitchen making old family recipes.
9. Work a puzzle or build a fort out of blankets and cushions.
10. Get creative with your kids by busting out the play dough (or make your own).
11. Use sidewalk chalk to make an outdoor mural.
12. Create art using only materials found in your recycling.
13. Write and illustrate a story together, or turn your favorite book into a play, acting it out with costumes and all.
14. Have a family talent show or karaoke party.
15. Do something nice for someone else — visit a nursing home or elderly person and read to them. Plan and prepare a meal for a family who is going through a difficult time, pick up trash at a local park or volunteer at an animal shelter.
16. Go through old clothes and toys and donate items no longer needed. Take lemonade and cookies to your local fire station.
Following a schedule during the summer teaches children time management, responsibility and organization, all healthy life skills. How loose or rigid your schedule needs to be will depend on your family’s needs. Finding the right balance of structure and relaxation will help create the peaceful and fun summer your family deserves.