Any parent who has spent three sultry months with a couple of bored children knows that summer is the longest season. The school year has ended and children move from a highly regimented routine with scheduled studies and activities to almost unlimited freedom.
Lazy, unstructured summers can lead to children spending too much time in front of the television or playing video games. Research shows that children can lose up to 60 percent of what they most recently learned over the course of the summer. Freedom from school obligations means that children also have more time to engage in unstructured, imaginative play or to create long-term projects that may keep them busy for days.
It’s important for parents to have a plan incorporating exercise and imagination to keep children’s minds and bodies active during the summer months, but it doesn’t have to break your budget.
Here are ten hot tips for a fun, active, and mentally stimulating summer:
1. Family Suggestion Box. A week or two before school lets out, sit down as a family. Decorate an old shoebox with stickers or pictures clipped from magazines. Cut a slot in the top and attach a pencil with a piece of string. Now sit down and brainstorm fun summer activities. Write the ideas on colorful slips of paper and put them in the box. Whenever boredom threatens, grab a “suggestion” from the box. Leave the box on the kitchen counter or dining room table along with a few extra slips of paper so children can add ideas whenever they think of them.
2. Let’s Pretend. Reading should be a normal part of every family’s life, and summer is no exception. Set aside an hour each day for “story time.” Reading can be a great way to jumpstart imaginative play. Instead of merely reading the words, look at the pictures and discuss what you see. Ask if the children can spot a hidden butterfly or a shooting star. When the story is over, ask, “What do you think happened next?” Or go outside and recreate a scene from the book with flowers, sticks, rocks and small toys.
3. Artist’s Studio. Set aside a corner of the patio as a dedicated place for art. Hang old sheets for drop cloths and stock the studio with inexpensive paints, markers and crayons from the dollar store. Adult-sized shirts that are past their prime make excellent smocks. Unfold paper grocery bags and tape them to the wall to serve as canvases. Hang a clothesline from the porch columns and clip the “masterpieces” for an informal art show. Decorate a lidded cardboard box for a supply chest, or ask at the local pizza place for a couple of clean boxes to use as “portfolios.”
4. That’s Entertainment! Help the children write a simple play and create costumes from old clothes or cut paper. Set up a few folding chairs on the lawn and make a curtain from a sheet strung on a clothesline....