Every parent or caregiver is familiar with that point during the summer at which the beginning of the new school year can’t seem to come fast enough. The kids get restless, and having them home with nothing to do begins to get old. Summer doesn’t have to be unpleasant, however; having an activity plan can make summer as much fun as everyone thought it would be.
It’s a good idea to have a plan for how you and your children will spend the summer. Planning activities doesn’t have to mean entertaining your children 24/7, however. A day of “down time” can be a planned activity, too. The goal is to keep the children from getting bored by the same old routine every day; spicing up their summer with a few interesting diversions each week should be sufficient.
A Day at the Park
No matter how great a swing set they have in their backyards, most children are completely enamored of a public playground. Occasionally packing a picnic lunch and spending the morning at the park gives children a different place to play, and different friends to play with. To liven things up for the adults, you can invite a friend and his or her children to join you; while the children play together and entertain themselves, you’ll have a chance to enjoy adult company. Nothing beats a day that entertains you as well as the children.
There are plenty of places to take your children where they can learn while they play. Museums, zoos, and even a well-designed children’s section at the library, will capture the imaginations of young minds, safely disguising education as playtime. Check local newspapers and websites for information on kid-friendly educational organizations in your area. Many zoos and museums also have free or discount days, information that will be displayed on their websites. Get ready for a day of fun, and set your mind at ease knowing that you’ll be nurturing young minds as well as saving your sanity.
Good Old-Fashioned Fun
Of course, you can’t expect children to learn all the time. Sometimes what’s needed is just a little bit of good, clean, old-fashioned fun. Kids love taking trips to amusement parks, fairs, water parks, and swimming pools, and such places give kids a chance to build large motor skills and get rid of pent-up energy. Chances are that you’ll find something fun for you, too.
In Touch with Art
Kids are artistic creatures. They love to create; give them any combination of materials, and you will see the artist in them emerge. Sometimes guided activities are best; collect craft ideas from magazines and books from the library, or buy a children’s crafts book from the bookstore. Don’t forget to allow creativity its full reign, however. If your child doesn’t want to do the project exactly as you imagined it, don’t stifle his or her ideas. Also, provide your children plenty of opportunity to create crafts of their own. Remember that most children’s art should be open-ended, meaning that there is not a specific result expected from them.
Hangin’ Around the House
Kids need down time, so it’s good to spend some time at home, too. This shouldn’t be a problem when kids have enough variety in their week to keep them from getting bored. You can let them roam freely and entertain themselves for a little while, which will provide you with a little down time as well.
No matter how well prepared you are, there is always a chance that your plans won’t turn out the way you want them to. It’s a good idea to have a repertoire of “backup activities,” easy alternatives you can convert to in a flash if the something unexpected happens or if the plans don’t seem to excite the children as much as they excite you. Be flexible, and don’t feel insulted if the day doesn’t go as you’d imagined it would. Instead, save the day with a fantastic Plan B!
Emergency Entertainment Kit
Boredom can strike at any time, and no amount of planning can avoid it completely. Of course, the worst time for a child to lose interest is when you are on the road or in a place where individual preferences can’t be readily addressed. For these occasions, keep an “emergency entertainment kit” stashed in the car. This kit can include things like a small box of crayons, paper, playing cards, and other portable, non-messy forms of entertainment. Just don’t tell the kids about this until it’s called for, or the kit will quickly lose its novelty.
For the days at home when boredom settles in, reserve a few crafts that make use of common household items and don’t require any special shopping. Making playdough or paper mache are two activities that require only kitchen or household ingredients, and very few kids will turn down the opportunity to make a mess!
Every caretaker is familiar with the occasions that kids have an inexplicable excess of energy, causing them to act out and cause trouble. On these days, active play will make use of the excess energy. Keep a reserve of fun outdoor games to try out whenever the need arises; you can collect ideas for these by searching the internet or flipping through activity books at the library. You can also stash a new toy, such as a new basketball or new jump ropes, to assist you in ushering the kids outside. Or, announce a surprise trip to the pool or a park. Be spontaneous and get rid of your kid’s extra energy in the best way possible: by encouraging healthy exercise!
Things to Remember
The thought of having to entertain your children all summer long can be a daunting prospect. Remember, however, that the idea is not to entertain a child all the time, but to provide them with ways to entertain themselves. Teaching children how to make good choices in everyday life is a lesson to be worked on throughout the summer. Let your kids help come up with ideas and plans for summer activities; you’ll find they have good ideas, and when they have participated in planning they’ll be more likely to enjoy themselves and take ownership in the day. Above all, counteract boredom by making sure your kids almost always have several choices available to them. Make summer vacation a fun time for your children – and yourself!