Engage a Child’s Mind, Enjoy the Summer – VP of Curriculum Dee McDonald
School vacation is a favorite time of the year for kids, but is often the most stressful time of the year for parents. As children look forward to sleeping in and long days of relaxation, parents are left wondering how to keep children engaged and active during this unstructured time of the year.
Although online media can be an easy way for children to occupy their time this summer, engaging children without “screen time” is essential. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content.
To help mitigate screen time, give your child opportunities to play outdoors, read a book, discover new hobbies and use their imaginations. Here are some tips you can use:
Create a Calendar: It is a great idea to involve kids in setting up all routines for their summer. A good critical thinking and creativity exercise is having your child establish their schedule, when chores should be completed and when to go to the park. Have a summer calendar prominently displayed in the house and let kids contribute to it, so they can look forward to activities they have planned themselves. Your child can feel a sense of responsibility and accomplishment in creating their summer routines and monitoring them to see if they’re working.
Play that isn’t Pressured: Summer break is the perfect time to emphasize the importance of “play that isn’t pressured.” There’s no lesson, competition or end goal… just the joy of play. As an adult, embrace the downtime by remembering how exciting it was to end the school year and begin the long stretch of carefree days. Mix in downtime for your child to think, create, rest and imagine. Combine play with physical activity (like riding bikes, playing catch, wrestling and hiking) which is critical for their well-being.
Read: Keep your child intellectually engaged during the summer. Many libraries have great summer reading programs that keep children reading throughout their break. Evidence shows that students who are not intellectually engaged during the summer often find themselves struggling to catch up when the school year begins.
The most important goal is that you make sure learning remains fun. Put away the flashcards and worksheets and connect with learning through activities like nature walks and visits to museums. By making summer a low stress, creative time for both you and your child, you can enjoy the freedom that summer brings and embrace the holiday fun.