Don’t Just Survive This Summer, Thrive!

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Summer used to be a simpler time for parents and their children. Operating at a slower pace than the school year, evenings were filled with cookouts and family time. Kids rode their bikes with neighborhood friends until darkness meant it was time to go home. Today, online friends and a world of connectivity keep everyone so together but alone.

I asked a group of parents to describe summer with kids in three words. A recurring theme was that summer expectations are grand, leaving parents tired and frustrated.

As parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles we have the power to make a turn back to slower times. Take time this summer to invest in a child in your life. Teach them how to properly wash dishes, change a tire, clean the refrigerator, home maintenance tasks or how to sit on the creek bank and fish. Adults have tremendous power to engage kids and we need to harness that power to teach the next generation. There is an entire demographic that doesn’t know how to read a recipe, how to change sheets on their bed, or even how to pump gas. If we don’t teach them, who is going to? As a lifelong educator, I have witnessed this shift and watched how the use of technology became the only engagement tool being used in many homes. I challenge you to teach someone in your life a new skill this summer!

Remember how to play
Our kids feel uncomfortable when they do not have something planned to occupy their time. Down time produces boredom and many kids reach for a device to fill these unscheduled moments. Here are a few suggestions to foster a engaging and playful household this summer:

Modeling play and enjoying hobbies encourages kids to do the same. Kids are more likely to take on a larger task if they see the adults in their life doing the same. This creates a culture of play and enjoyment as well as modeling the behavior you want to inspire. Teach kids how to enjoy a baseball game, paint a mural, or build a raised garden bed. Tasks that require multiple days, problem solving skills and multistep processing are important for engagement and development.

Make a plan and create space for kids to play. Children need guidance in planning their day or week. Encourage play dates, park visits, nature walks, cookie baking and closet organizing. Adults often forget to teach a task and just expect kids to do it. Kids want to play with you, so show them how to build a fort, where to dig worms, and how to read prices of food at the grocery store. Kids are curious and soak up what we give them. Make an effort to make this summer magical for kids in your life.

Create opportunities for kids to explore all of the things around your house. All of those Amazon boxes would make a great rocket or clubhouse! Pieces of aluminum foil and plant trimmings could be the start  of a career in fashion. Giving kids the ability to choose how the materials are used can be a catalyst for creativity. Be open to letting kids take small risks. This means they may have a bruise or scraped knee but that’s ok. Knowing you trust them to explore the world around them gives confidence.

Finally, Don’t give into the cries of “I’m bored.” Kids often have to cross that initial annoyance and balance their emotions and space to be focused and investigative. In time, they’ll emerge on the other side of boredom and start creating. You possess the power to show kids the good ole days and create a magical summer for the youth in your life. If you find yourself needing a day for yourself, 4-H has a full Summer Fun schedule so check it out!

Additional Resources
Playful Summer Learning – Harvard Graduate School of Education

Do’s and Dont’s of Summer Fun – Duke Health