During the Summer months it can be tempting to just plop of the sofa with some snacks and waste the day away with mindless entertainment streaming for hours on end. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to sit down, relax and watch a movie or two or binge an entire series. But I like to have some sense of expectations for my kids so they don’t have a free-for-all, devouring every morsel in the house, creating havoc and whining that they’re bored.
Before tv binging, ipad takeovers and gaming marathons, they have set goals they need to meet. This includes making sure they get a proper meal so they don’t eat me out of house and home, getting their assigned chores done, at least 20 minutes of reading, 15 minutes of math drills or a math game to keep their minds sharp, some foreign language practice, using part of their day to be creative, and getting outside.
Now, this may sound like a lot, but in reality it’s not asking that much, and honestly when we’ve done the free-for-all route it has always turned into utter chaos in our house, so this is what works for us. Here are some of the ways we meet these goals and other ways to fill the day after these expectations are met…
1.Creating: Drawing, painting, coloring, building, sewing, knitting, crocheting. One of my kids has really thrived with this aspect and has begun creating and sewing his own puppets.
2. Get outside: Running around in the yard, playing in the sprinklers, or with a slip and slide.
Play at the park, have a tennis match, play basketball, soccer or enjoy the play structures. Some parks also have splash pads, so we like make use of those on hot days, pack a picnic and spend some time with some free entertainment.
Hiking, walking, birding, enjoying a garden or nursery. Jumping on the trampoline, resting in a hammock are other ways of getting outside for some fresh air and get your body moving.
3. Wheeling: biking, skateboarding, roller skating, ice skating. Have fun outside or in an indoor rink.
4. Gardening is another great way to get outside, soak in some much-needed vitamin D and strengthen your immune system by getting your hands in the beneficial soil. Research has shown that getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels, because contact with a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system… plus you get to enjoy the outcome of homegrown flowers, fruits and veggies, so gardening truly does make you happier and healthier!
5. Cooking / Baking: assign a cooking night to each of your kids. Have them come up with a family dinner, figure out the needed ingredients and cook it.
I also like to keep baking ingredients in stock so that my kids can whip up a batch of cookies, cupcakes or brownies on a whim.
6. Learning something new: learn a new skill or start a new hobby. There are great science, arts and craft, and building kits that can spark a love for something new and can ignite a curiosity and fervor for deeper learning.
7. Go to museums to expand your knowledge. Museums are great during the Summer because some days are just too hot to be enjoyed outside, so spending a portion of the day reveling in historical artifacts, art or other exhibits is an optimal choice.
8. Reading: challenge your kids and yourself by setting a goal to finish a certain amount of books, pages or hours over the break. I’ve found getting a monthly magazine subscription really helped with this. We get the Lego Magazine (Free), National Geographic Kids, and Highlights. There are many other options for kids based around different interests.
Many libraries have Summer Reading Challenges with amazing prizes at the end, giving even more incentive to keep those pages turning! Libraries are also a great way to cool down for free while enjoying amenities like learning games on the computers. Many libraries also offer Summer activities for the kids like game days, science and art programs, building days and more. Definitely utilize your local library!
9. Just add water: swimming, paddle boarding, body boarding, tubing, surfing, kayaking, fishing. We all know Summer typically means water is involved, but sometimes we forget there are so many other activities other than lounging poolside.
10. Backyard camping, building cardboard cities, making s’mores or building forts inside. Let the kids set up a tent if you have one. Cook dinner outside. Let the kids build forts and sleep in them.
Make memories, get creative, and spend time outside as a family. You’ll always remember and cherish the quality moments much more than the last show you watched.