The days are longer, the temperature is rising, and kids are finishing up school. That means summer is here! It’s usually where we spend time together as a family and do things we can't usually do during the rest of the school year. It’s when kids have ample amount of time on their hands and parents can be out of ideas on how to keep them entertained all day during the entire summer.
What do kids do these days when they are out of school? Going to a pool, a water park, or Six Flags is fun. Do your kids enjoy playing outside? Do they go over to friends houses and play basketball? Those things are great, but most kids spend their summers glued to a screen.
If kids have the option, they might stay on their devices all day, every day, during the summer months. They might not spend time with friends or get out of the house for any reason because they feel all they need is right there, in their house. Here are two things you can do to make the most of your summer and not rely on screens: building relationships and supporting exploratory learning.
Building Relationships During the Summer
Parents have a fantastic opportunity during the summer to spend more time with their kids. Don’t get me wrong, we need a break from our kids at times. But the summer gives us a precious thing we cannot get during the school year: time. Rather than getting lunches ready, taking and picking up kids from school, and spending hours making sure they finish their homework, we can devote that time to fun experiences and strengthening relationships.
You can make a breakfast with your kids rather than having to grab a bar and run out the door. You can work on a fun project with your child or encourage them to get into something they didn’t have time for during the school year. Board games are a great way to interact with each other and build relationships.
Building relationships with our kids can happen during every day activities. Through conversations and small interactions around the house, we as parents can communicate love and support to our kids. We can connect with them. We do this during the school year, but we are given more time during the summer than the school year. Enjoy the time you have this summer with your kids and be intentional about strengthening your relationship with them.
Like most parents who have to work during the summer, we can encourage healthy activities for our kids to do rather than spend all day on screens. Encourage your child to find something they would like to do in the community. Help your child learn the joy of reading for fun. Take them to a public library where they can pick out any book they want. Encourage playing outside. Try to let them do things they enjoy.
The Power of Child-Driven Learning
The summer offers parents great opportunities to build relationships with our kids. It also provides kids with the opportunities to learn, explore, create, and do things they don’t get the chance to during the school year. Rather than teachers being in control of what they learn, your kids can be in control of what they learn, explore, and create during the summer. There can be great joy and excitement when kids decide what they create rather than it being handed to them.
Don’t get me wrong, the classroom and teachers are needed. Our kids need to be guided and taught. But it is also healthy for kids to explore and learn things from trial and error. From doing something, even if it’s wrong, and learning from their experiences. They can increase their confidence when they have the freedom to explore and learn on their own.
They can explore through reading books that are not on their summer reading list. They could build a fort or take something apart and put it back together. They can build something new with Legos or if they’re old enough, with real supplies. They could also go online to learn something new like how to build a bird house or how to scrapbook. Once they learn the skill online, they can do it in real life.
Not Completely a Screen-Free Summer
The summer does not have to be completely screen-free. Think about how much screen time you would like your child to have every day. It’s okay to give them a few hours every day during the summer. It can be part of their activities but not their main one. If there is an activity on a device that promotes learning and is not solely entertainment, it could be a great activity. It’s also okay to talk to your kids about why you don’t want them to be on screens all day.
You and your kids don’t have to rely on screens to enjoy this summer. Do fun things together as a family. Give your child the support and encouragement to do things on their own. Most importantly, enjoy the time you and your child have been given this summer.