School’s out, and summertime is here! This can be an exciting time for kids and families-the days get longer, there’s likely a vacation or two planned, and children get a much needed break from the stress of grades and tests. With the change in schedule comes a major change in routine, and while kids can generally take it easy, there are still some key things that parents can do to ensure that summer is both relaxing and productive. Here are some principles that families can put into practice to most the most of summer:
While the summer months are certainly more flexible, there still needs to be some structure to the days. For example, it can be very helpful for kids to have a consistent bedtime. Particularly when they are young (but even as they move into their junior high years), children need their sleep, as they are still growing and developing. Going to bed and waking up at a certain time can also help the next day go a lot smoother. Consider in what other areas you can put a summer routine in place to create some structure for your family.
Culturally, we seem to be very good at micromanaging our kids (telling them what they should wear, what they should eat, who they should spend time with, etc). And though they do need routine and guidance, they also need freedom. Summer is the perfect time for children to get outside, go explore the woods with their friends, go biking…without their parents! Free play helps their imagination blossom and is how they learn to understand the world around them.
Reading is fundamental to learning, and since kids aren’t in school, parents need to step it up and make sure they’re reading throughout the summer. Particularly for children who may struggle academically, reading consistently can help them maintain and even improve their literacy skills and also can ease the transition when school starts again. Making reading a daily habit can also help kids internalize the message that reading is a lifelong endeavor, not just something they have to do for school assignments.
While parents may choose to pay for some chores, some household jobs should be an expected part of family life. Chores such as making a bed, cleaning a bathroom, tidying up their rooms, etc. are developmentally appropriate for most school age children but even preschoolers can get in the fun! Give your 4 year old a paper towel and let them “help” wash a window or sort out utensils in the dishwasher. By having daily or weekly expectations, not only does the house stay clean, but we also help teach those crucial life skills of how to have a work ethic and also how to take care of our belongings. My siblings and I (and our friends, as my Mom had no problem handing out jobs to my friends who practically lived there!) disliked having jobs, would moan and groan about how unfair it is and how mean our parents are. However, as an adult, I’m so grateful that my parents required them, as they instilled in me the value of hard work. Let’s fight the trend of entitlement that we too often see in young people these days and help kids learn how to work.
I hope your families’ summer is spectacular!