Keeping Kids Active and Engaged During Summer Months
School is out! It’s nice not having to drag everyone out of bed so early, make a big rushed breakfast mess in the kitchen, and fly out the door and into long carpool lines in front of each child’s respective school. During the first week, everyone is excited for summer and the leisure time is a welcomed change. But as the weeks go on, parents might begin to hear those dreaded two words, “I’m bored.” As a mother of five, I have heard those words dozens of times over the years, and have tried almost everything. Here is a list (outside of the obvious ones) of the most successful activities we have employed in our home that help kids avoid feeling “bored” and stay active and engaged during summer months.
- Keep a “flexible” schedule. Summer should be laid-back, but kids love structure and knowing what is expected of them daily is important for developing patterns for a successful future. Have some sort of schedule that includes things like making a daily list of projects and activities that may include a morning chore, reading & study time, exercise, play, a project, time spent with a parent, etc. Creating a to-do list and planning are essential skills to teach a child. It is also something for kids to fall back on instead of resorting to being bored if spontaneous summer fun is not available. Remember, it is summertime so keep the plans flexible and be prepared to deviate from the schedule if other fun opportunities pop up.
- Continue education. In our home, we allow the kids to self-educate during the summer months. They each choose a topic of interest, whether it be snakes, anatomy, or a hands on activity like basketball or guitar, it doesn’t matter. It is their choice. It is also their choice how they learn about it. These methods might include online research, books, talking with professionals, writing about it, etc. Encourage them to be creative in how they learn. Also help them make their own decision on how much time they will commit to study their topic each day so that when you have to remind them, you can remind them of their own commitment and not have to force them. Your job as a parent is to encourage them daily and show interest and praise their achievements. You can also help guide them to new resources as needed.
- Put them to work. Chores help build character and allow the child to contribute to the home. Make sure they know how much you appreciate their help and emphasize how proud you are of them for being such an important part of your household.
- Exercise. Physical activity is a good habit to instill in a child’s routine early on. Age and interest of the child should determine what type and level of exercise would be best for each child.
- Service. Serving others sometimes takes example, effort and participation from the parents until the child is older or has developed their own desire to serve others. But the amount of time sacrificed is well worth the benefits. If parents can’t be involved there are groups like scouting and other community service projects that kids can join to get involved. Service should never be a forced activity. Finding the right type of service, something they can enjoy and feel good about, is the key to helping the child find self-motivation and love for service.
- Be available, even when you’re busy. Take time from your busy schedule to spend time with a child looking for something to do. I have found that kids usually get bored right when I am in the middle of an important project for work or when I’m only halfway done with folding the laundry. It’s not always easy to have to stop in the middle of what I am doing, but I have sincerely found that stopping and taking the time to read a child a quick story, play a quick game, or have a quick conversation about life with a teen buys me hours more of uninterrupted time in the day. Kids want to be your priority and have more respect for your time when you share it with them. When I neglect them, without fail, they become needy and constantly beg for attention throughout the day.
- Always have a backup plan. When kids wander in, feeling bored, despite all of your efforts to keep them busy, you need a backup plan. In our home, we fall back on the “activity jar”. This is a jar full of ideas, activities, or extra jobs written on folded pieces of paper. When they present you with the notion that they are bored, direct them to the jar suggesting they choose a random activity. Sometimes they will willingly participate, other times we have found that just having this jar usually eliminates their need to bug you and they find something to do all on their own. (This is only a last resort and should not consistently take the place of the above efforts.)