By Kristin Lyle
Ahhh summer! Warm weather... adventure... free time... the delicious food and bbq’s. Not to mention the luxury of time not dictated by school. It is a time to discover, to make new friends, to play for hours, to lie on your back and watch the clouds float by. It is the vivid aliveness and freedom of a child's summer that creates the best memories.
What does this summer sound like for your child? Would he rather be playing video games? Or she may have to get up early to get to camp so you can go to work? Or maybe he's so used to constant stimulation that he complains he's bored? Any of these sound familiar?
This summer, you can claim it back for your family. Make it the best summer of your child's life. You don't need to travel or spend a lot of money. It's possible to do it even if your kids are at camp and you're working. So, how is this possible?
In order for a child to have a wonderful summer, they need interactions with you and their peers, new experiences (such as stargazing, a family hike or playing in the ocean), opportunities to develop a skill (like making a teepee out of sticks or being able to identify native birds), and simpler days. Your role as a parent is just be available. Having a clear intention and dedicating some time can produce the connection and memory for you and your family.
You never have enough time, I know. The majority of parents feel continuously overwhelmed and have a long list of things to do. However, it's summer! It goes by in a flash and your kids won't be little forever. Summertime is what the memories childhoods are made of. Why not make the most of this chance to connect with your kids now? This summer, make it your best summer ever by following these tips for both working parents and stay at home parents. When summer is over, you’ll look back and remember the time you spent with them, and they will remember the same.
1. Set aside a period of time during the week and during the weekends for everyone to unplug and spend some time together.
Take some time to connect every day by doing at least one fun thing, whether it's playing with water balloons on a hot afternoon or star gazing in the backyard before bedtime. When it comes to connecting, what matters is always how it feels, not how it looks.
2. Keep a routine and structure
Kids need to know what to expect. Establish a schedule and post it, revise it if necessary, and refer to it throughout the day. Make it as simple as possible. For example, my routine as a stay at home mom, starts with breakfast, we pick up the house after, then they get free time to play outside or in the playroom on rainy days, and after lunch we have reading time together and then quiet time in our rooms. Every afternoon we do something water related like running through the sprinkler, swimming, or a water balloon fight, and then we all make dinner and clean up together. The schedule allows for time together, teaches them life skills (cooking and cleaning), gives us parents some quiet time, and prevents them from losing reading skills in the summer.
What if you are a working parent? Summer camps will be scheduled, or trips will be made to the sitter. You could schedule a time to reconnect with games, walks, and dinner together. Maybe having them read while at camp is a challenge, you could read a book together. Try taking turns reading a paragraph or chapter as a great way to keep up those reading skills and connecting to each other.
3. Encourage your child to try something new.
Summer is a great time to experiment, try new things, and play with creativity. Maybe she would like to paint, or learn to play the guitar, or build something with a hammer and nails. Maybe he wants to learn how to write a cartoon story or learn how to skateboard. These activities promote brain development and build your child's focus, frustration management, and impulse control. Both working parents and stay at home ones will benefit from finding camps or classes that will aid in this.
4. Don’t feel guilty, try to get creative.
Kids often get sucked into screen time when they are bored and it's hot outside. Don’t feel guilty about it, instead try a schedule and add more time as rewards. As you schedule screen time, kids become more creative and less likely to pester you to watch TV or play computer games. Using more time as a reward will help you get chores done around the house. Schedule play dates, purposefully put out legos, puzzles, molding clay, things that the hectic school year schedule hasn’t allowed them to get their hands on.
5. Plan a few family day trips or longer if you can.
Don’t wait. The key is to make a calendar, put in all your must do’s, look for open days, and schedule this time. At dinner tonight, ask everyone what one thing they would want to do this summer as a family. It’s a good idea to set parameters before getting their responses, such as it needs to be under $50, or there will be no electronics involved, or you get to pick what day to schedule their idea. Don’t forget to include what you want to do!
If you do this every summer, you’ll create a family tradition that will have your kids bragging about how fantastic summer was, they will gain new skills, get ahead in reading, and most importantly gain quality time connecting with you because it is true, they grow up too quick.
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