Summer is a great time for our children to be free from the demands of schoolwork and busy schedules. It’s a time for them to get out and “be a kid,” running around outside, using their imaginations, engaging in clubs or sports and being with their friends. However, many families struggle with the unstructured time of summer break which can lead to a long 3 months for both parents and kids.
Here are ways to help your family have a summer that is smooth sailing:
1. Determine a schedule that works for your family
It is beneficial to create a schedule that you and your family can follow. This should include bed times, wake up times, meal times, time to relax, time to play, time for chores and time for reading and academic practice.
Children respond well to structure and predictability. Discuss daily activities the night before and first thing in the morning so everyone is aware of what that day is to include. A daily list of activities on a dry erase board or refrigerator note can also be helpful.
2. Keep bedtime/wake time schedules consistent
Many families and children enjoy the flexibility of having later bedtimes in the summer months. While later bedtimes may work well for enjoying a variety of evening family activities and games, it is important (even for teenagers) to keep a consistent sleep schedules so that kids are getting adequate sleep. A good guide is to try to keep sleep schedule within 1-2 hours of school year schedules. As the summer comes to a close, consider moving bedtimes back to the school year schedule over the final two weeks of summer break.
3. Daily chores are important
Children of all ages can play an active part in daily chores such as emptying trash cans, making their bed, sorting laundry, dusting, vacuuming, yard work, and kitchen help. Chores should be viewed as a responsibility shared by all.
4. Practice their academics
Although it is summer, it is so important to keep children’s (of all ages) brains stimulated. Daily reading is recommended, and 3-4 times per week of math and other academic practice (20-30 minutes) is recommended. There are many free resources available online, or ask your child’s teacher for summer review material to take home at the end of the school year.
Most local libraries offer summer reading programs or activities that encourage reading over the summer. Visit your library to learn more and get help finding materials you child will enjoy. Even young children who are not yet reading can enjoy exploring new books and being read to regularly.
6. Follow summer safety guidelines
It is important to follow summer safety guidelines such as applying sunscreen daily, wearing sun protective clothing and hats, teaching water safety, wearing bike helmets and providing guidelines for unsupervised outdoor play. As always, talk to your primary care provider if you have additional questions.
7. Be aware of surroundings
When taking children to public settings, teach them a safety protocol such as what to do if separated and parent’s name/phone number. For younger children, write the information on their arm or a tag on their shirt. For older children, provide them with a meeting location and time, and avoid relying completely on cell phones.
8. Monitor screen usage
Summer is not code for “screens all day.” Parents should consider utilizing WiFi restriction applications to block usage of WiFi during certain times of the day. Healthy screen time usage should include no more than 3-4 hours a day, with the time being broken up into smaller periods. A list of applications for parents to manage screen time can be found at: https://www.screenagersmovie.com/parenting-apps
9. Create a balance and explore
Summer is a great time to have a more relaxed routine and explore new experiences with kids. Get dirty, make messes, help children use their imaginations and get creative. Check your local library, parks or city for free activities. Create your own experiences like have a scavenger hunt, plan family picnics, play games together, check out local nature centers, go on nature hikes or take bike rides together.