Someone once told me summer is like a giant weekend: June is Friday, July is Saturday, and August is Sunday. Before you know it, it’s Monday again and time to head back to school.
This fabulously long “weekend” presents a unique opportunity for kids—an extended period in which they can freely play, explore, create, and understand themselves better.
Sometimes, the temptation to watch a wee too much television and engage a few too many screens throughout the day leads to a sense that this precious time is being squandered. Likewise, some families sense their summer slipping away if they are over scheduled with sports or other obligations and unable to soak up free time.
Well, no need to fret! There is still time to seize the day and make this summer a memorable and inspiring one for your kids. What’s more, it’s easy! Just a few tweaks to your family’s regular routine can make all the difference.
Before another moment of summer goes by, try incorporating some of the following into your parenting mix. You may find one or more of these ideas become your new normal long after summer ends.
Crank Up the Classical
Don’t warn them. Don’t ask, “Hey, kids! Do you want to listen to some classical music?” Just pick a playlist from your favorite music service or choose from your personal library, and put classical music on in the background.
This doesn’t need to be a formal lesson on music theory. You don’t need to know a thing about classical music at all. Just play some and let the kids read or play or craft or do whatever they wish while its on.
In addition to exposing your children to just how amazing music can be, you’ll find there is less of a temptation to put the TV on and kids will be able to enjoy a state of flow, so to speak, in their endeavors.
Eventually, they may become curious about what they’re listening to and note the composer’s name and possibly when the piece was written. Perhaps more questions will follow.
Do this regularly. Spotify’s playlist, “Classical For Everybody,” is a great place to start.
Set the table
No not for dinner. For creativity!
After your kids are in bed, pull out the paper, the paints , the crayons, the craft supplies, or whatever elements you’d like to encourage your children to work with. Display them on your kitchen or dining table in an enticing way that will delight your kids when they wake up.
The morning surprise will offer them an exciting invitation to dig in, create, and make stuff! You may not have to say a word. Let their natural curiosity and joy drive them.
Start in the Garden, End in the Kitchen
Summertime offers a particular opportunity to grow your own food. Involve your children, or better yet, give them their own spot in the garden and grow the ingredients of salad or a soup! Too much? Start simply with a tomatoes and basil for a nice snack at the end of the season.
Utilize YouTube videos and gardening books when questions come up. The lessons inherent in caring for a garden coupled with the delight of harvesting what you’ve grown and sharing it with your family will open your kids to a world of possibility.
Plus, it’s delicious!
Put the Kids in Charge
You could use a day off anyway, am I right? Single out a day and tell the kids they are in charge all day. What they say goes. The entire day is their responsibility.
Obviously, kids must be of a certain age for this one, but probably not as old as many would think. If they can pour a bowl of cereal and peel a banana they probably won’t starve. (HINT: stock the kitchen with easy to grab snacks.)
Tell them they can ask questions but you won’t direct them in what to do. Cooperate with them when they say, “We have to go to the store … the beach … the park.”
The hardest part of this will be to stop yourself from doing things for them, but stand firm. They’ll exercise their problem-solving muscles and relish the freedom of this “bizarro” day.
Know Before You Go
Planning a vacation getaway or a field trip or two? Do some research beforehand with your kids. It will be the difference between a good experience and a great one!
Consider two kids: One happens upon Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, recognizes the first U.S. president, and moves along.
The second child, before heading to the museum, reads about Washington’s life, checks out the American Wing on the Metropolitan Museum’s website, and watches a YouTube video about this moment in time in colonial America. This child’s experience will be much more impactful when he or she happens upon the original painting.
Before you head to your vacation destination, take out every book in your local library on the location and peruse the web with your kids.
Whatever your adventure, taking advantage of the internet and books for learning about what you’re going to do will make the experience all the more meaningful.
“There is no better way to learn than to teach.” —Benjamin Whichcote
Even kids who aren’t too keen on “real” school enjoy “playing” school according to their own ideas. Visit a school supply store or head to Pinterest to find some academically appropriate worksheets for your kids. If you have a chalkboard or whiteboard in your home, your kids can “teach” you, each other, or their stuffed animals. Stickers as rewards for correct worksheets will encourage more engagement with them.
This is a great way to identify any basic “school” concepts they may be struggling with or are particularly strong in.
Books. Books. Books
Perhaps the most obvious, but possibly the most important tip here: expose your kids to a plethora of books. Hit the library often. Trade with friends. Leave books lying around. Let your home be piled high with books!
When shopping or visiting the library, in addition to children’s books, be sure to check out the adult nonfiction section, where kids can hone in on their interests, whether it be sewing, singing, cars, nature, cooking, you name it.
Read to your kids long after you think they’re too old for it. Present them with books that are beyond their so-called reading level. Allow them to keep books that are below their so-called reading level because they love them. Don’t forget to read, yourself, showing your kids you appreciate books, too.
Go bonkers for books!
Set Things Write
Get their amazing ideas and creative stories out of their little heads and onto paper. Encourage your kids to write!
Even the youngest of children can dictate their stories to you. In which case you can write down exactly what they say. Don’t edit for grammar or “improve” their words in any way. You’ll treasure their creations in their own voice an they’ll be amazed that they wrote their own story!
Older kids can be given writing prompts (“Your main character is Pointy the Pencil and he’s having a rough day. What’s your story called? What happens to Pointy?”) or complete freedom.
While pen to paper is really just fine, iBooks Author is also a user-friendly tool for Mac users to create a digital book.
Celebrate their creations! If they are really awesome, get them self-published. (Not kidding—it’s 2015 and amazing things can happen!)
Start Something BIG
Speaking of 2015, have you discovered your child’s “thing?” What lights them up? Can they make art? Put on a show? Do they know a lot about dinosaurs? Space? Animals? Cars?
Why not help them create a blog or a YouTube channel! Keeping their security in mind (of course) the online world is their oyster. If they are motivated in some way, help them to create something to share with the rest of the world. It will teach them a ton about creativity, technology, and the world. Who knows where it will lead!