My four kids finished school for the year today. They are so excited about summer vacation, but although I feel slightly guilty to admit this, I’m dreading it. I have signed them up for a few activities, but Activities Times Four = $$$$, and keeping them occupied all through the summer by paying for day camps every week is not in our budget. I don’t know how to keep them entertained and off their devices for the next three months. Please tell me what I can to do prevent all of us from going crazy!
Happy summer to you and your family! Many of us have happy memories and high expectations related to summer time, but the reality of countless unscheduled hours can seem overwhelming to many parents. These days we are accustomed to leading scheduled lives within predictable routines that leave little time for open-ended creativity and problem solving. Transitioning from a busy schedule during the school year to the long, empty days of summer may cause many a parent to dread the costs associated with activities or the long hours of supervision and entertainment.
Consider implementing some of the ideas below as you and your family face the reality of several weeks of open-ended summertime “fun.”
Establish a (loose) new routine. Your summertime routine does not have to be tied to the clock, but outlining a general order of events and expectations for all family members will offer rhythm to most days. Talk to your children to generate a plan together including reasonable expectations regarding sleeping hours, meal plans, chores, screen time, reading, physical activities, etc.
Set summertime goals together. What do your children want to do? Cook meals together? Learn a new skill? Perfect another skill? Make suggestions for long term goals such as:
Put together a 1000 piece puzzle.
Record an album of original songs.
Write, act, direct and film a movie with siblings and friends.
Paint a series of pictures
Build a portfolio of photographs.
Brainstorm a list of activities that can be done independently. Post and refer to the list any time a child claims to be bored.
Collaboratively set guidelines around electronic devices without cutting them off completely. What do you and your family consider to be reasonable limits? Could you reach a compromise?
Set up a craft area in your home. If you set up an inviting area dedicated to creativity in a well lit, socially accessible location in your house, you may be surprised at how much time your children will spend engaged in their art. Stock your craft corner with materials such as paper, markers, crayons, paint, scissors, tape, glue, playdough, empty boxes, etc. Take a trip to a craft store or dollar store to restock the area every once in a while to inject new ideas. Dig up old legos, blocks and other creative toys for your kids to reinvent new ways to create and play.
Visit the library on a weekly basis (or more often). Local libraries are a treasure trove of books, movies and music that can be borrowed. In addition, most libraries offer:
Incentives for reading
Board game nights
Introductory classes to martial arts/yoga, coding
Information on community events
Find free events in your area related to the arts. Read your local newspaper or look online to discover information about outdoor concerts, plays and movies that are often shown at no charge. Take a picnic and make an evening of it!
Go hiking and take advantage of nearby parks, ponds, lakes, rivers, or the ocean. You may find that there are many opportunities within your area to interact with nature. Your library may be a good resource for finding information on outdoor activities in your area.
Celebrate sibling togetherness by placing value on staying home. You as the parent have the power to create a positive atmosphere. Do your part by finding ways to take pleasure in the little things and simply enjoy being together.
Have a DEAR or DEAD time every day. Join your children daily and schedule a time to Drop Everything And Read, or Drop Everything And Draw. Once again, your attitude is everything. Make DEAR time a time to look forward to. Pile cushions, pillows and blankets into a cozy corner, creating an inviting space to curl up with a good book. Let your children see you enjoying reading just as much as they do. Put aside your chores and responsibilities for 30 minutes a day and bask in togetherness while enjoying a good story.
I hope these tips help you get started in thinking of additional things you can do to make summer more fun and interesting for your family.
Enjoy your summer!
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