The siren song of summer is here. Between sleeping in, skipping rigid school schedules, and basking in sunshine, kids of all ages can experience the summer slide. While relaxation and play are well-deserved, it’s essential to help your kids retain what they’ve learned this past year.
Managing the summer schedule is tough enough as a parent, so keeping kids productively entertained is challenging. Fortunately, there are drama-free ways you can help them learn and have fun this summer. In fact, they could cap off the summer learning more than you expected, all while having a blast.
1. Give Them the Right Tools
“I’m bored!” may as well be the official theme song of kids in summer. The abrupt stop of timed schedules, team sports, and clubs leaves a gaping hole in your kids’ agenda. This sense of boredom paired with parents’ steady need to work and manage the house is a risky combo. Try to balance the need for gaps of quiet for you and developmentally appropriate activities for your kid.
Turning to technology is an easy solution for needy kids and busy parents, but it doesn’t always yield desired results. While the immediate benefit of filled time is achieved, too much tech can lead to problem behavior and missed opportunities. Many parents find long stretches of screen time result in shorter tempers, skipped chores, and verbal spats. Technology is an important tool for modern life, but overuse, especially by kids, can do more harm than good.
Upgrade your kid to a device that supports their development. Phones for kids offer helpful features without access to the app store or internet distractions. Adjust the permissions on the family laptop or tablet, blocking harmful sites and restricting time to discourage overuse. The goal isn’t to say “no” at every turn. Instead, aim to provide snack-level access to tech, encouraging educational and creative activities to serve as the brain’s main course.
2. Think About Developmental Needs vs. School Subjects
You may be thinking of your kids’ school subjects as you build out their summer schedule. While math, science, reading, writing, and art are excellent topics to integrate, simply duplicating their school work can be disenchanting. Do your best to resist the urge to purchase stacks of workbooks and instead look to summer fun for inspiration.
The gift of better weather, festivals, and vacations presents opportunities for learning under the guise of entertainment. Think about how you can provide real-life education alongside summer fun. Encourage applied math skills by giving your kid a carnival budget. With their fixed spending allowance, help them determine how they can have the most fun with the money they have. They’ll use mental math during transactions, choose the best ride and food options, and think critically about cost vs. benefit.
Fostering life skills is important, too. Include your child in managing household tasks, even if the initial idea seems like a reach. Ask them to help with menu planning, and they’ll think critically about the week’s schedule, family preferences, and ingredients needed. Have them practice handwriting by making the list, budgeting by reviewing sales and coupons, and time management for meal preparation. Find real-life situations that integrate elements of school subjects, encourage problem-solving, and help your household run smoothly.
3. Make Space for Creativity-Inducing Boredom
During the school year, stacked time commitments leave kids with places to be and things to do at every turn. But in the summer, the absence of these appointments can feel like a loss.
The abrupt removal of busy routines often creates a wave of frustration, making a slip toward mindless scrolling understandable. Add in the addictive nature of blue light and frighteningly effective algorithms, and kids can get caught in a tech trance.
Encourage your kids to see blocks of boredom as opportunities to stretch their creative muscles. Scholars and creatives often point to boredom as a critical element in their creative processes. Opening space for ideation, wandering thoughts, and imagination allows kids to identify solutions to the “problem” of boredom. Getting outside, exploring nature, and playing make-believe are all activities that can banish boredom in a healthy way.
Give younger kids a variety of craft supplies with free rein to create. Tween kids may benefit from an action-oriented suite of activities where they call the shots. Consider their favorite activities and think about how they can pursue them in a new way. Kids who love sharing photos online can be introduced to Polaroid cameras and film photography. They can document their summer and create a scrapbook to memorialize how much they’ve learned and grown.
Celebrate the Ease of Summer While Encouraging the Pursuit of Knowledge
Just as a well-deserved vacation does much to re-energize you for your return to work, so does summer for kids. The rigor of school, peer interactions, and simply growing up can be a lot to handle. Plus, today’s technology, information overload, and external pressure can quickly push kids to their limits.
Lean into the ease of summer as your kids let loose, exchanging textbook learning for experiential education. After spending their summer gaining knowledge in new ways, they’ll return to school with a clear mind, ready to grow. They may even end up teaching their friends a thing or two thanks to everything they’ve absorbed this summer.