It’s here, it's here! With the final toll of that gleeful school bell (is it my imagination, or is the last bell of the school year set at a more pleasant pitch than all the rest?) summer vacation has started. For many happy kids and a hoard of giddy teachers, a wonderful sense of freedom dawns on that first school-free Monday. Long, lazy summer days yawn before us and September seems a lifetime away.
How will your kids fill those sunshiny weeks? What should they do to keep their brains in learning and growing over the summer break? Here are my top-ten, teacher-approved, must-do activities to do with your kids this summer:
Spend time as a family. Humans learn best from each other. Interactions make brains grow, strengthen relationships, raise endorphins and have all sorts of other wonderful health and learning benefits. Call up the cousins, invite the grandparents, carve out some time and be around the ones you love. The best thing you can do as a family this summer is to simply be together.
Enjoy the all-too-short Canadian summer. Have a picnic, take a hike, doze under a tree, put your feet in some sand. Get away from the computer screen. Can't you hear the birds calling? They are saying, put down that phone and get outside.
Read to your kids and have them read to you. Let your kids read by themselves and let them see you read for your own pleasure. Read books, read magazines, read online. Make reading fun. No reading logs, no quizzing kids about content. Let everyone in the family enjoy getting lost in a good book. Show your kids that reading is not something to be associated with school, but rather something to be associated with life.
The art of creative play is slipping away. Too often kids are looking for rules, guidance, screen time and scheduled activities to fill their days. Childhood should overflow with made-up games that are designed (and possibly only understood) by kids themselves. Encourage imagination by just giving them time and space to fill.
Take the kids somewhere you’ve never been before. Sure, you could plan a big journey and explore some lesser known corner of the world, but if that isn’t in the time or budget this summer; there are other ways to travel. Take a road trip somewhere new; visit a farm, go camping, climb into a cave, stand on top of a cliff. It’s all about getting a new perspective and enjoying an experience together.
Have your kids donate some of their time to someone else. Walk a neighbour’s dog, help someone with their garden, volunteer at a soup kitchen, spend some time at a retirement home. Encourage your kids to do some sort of charity work, even for an hour. They will gain empathy, make connections and have a greater understanding of the world.
Summer and water go together better than Kanye and Kim. Be sure to let your kids enjoy some splish-splashing summer fun and you get in there too! Jump in a lake, dive in a pool, stomp through a splash pad, use a super soaker, run through a sprinkler (although, I think I read on Facebook that classic summer activity is now considered dangerous). Enjoy the cool, refreshing joy of getting soaked this summer!
I know, I know, we are all trying to have more low-sugar, chemical-free, only-eat-what-grows-on-trees kind of diets these days. However, its summertime, the sun is beating down and the ice cream truck is playing its jaunty tune through the streets of the city. Go on — relax the rules. Let the kids eat a neon-coloured popsicle, watch an ice cream cone drip down their t-shirts, permit yourself to indulge in an icy margarita. The days are hot, let the treats be cold.
Throw a slew of art supplies on the picnic table and let your kids glitter and paint until their hearts are content. Get out some face paint, explore a messy science experiment, play in a puddle, build a creation out of mud. The garden hose is great for spraying the kids down and the lawn is there to keep spilling creativity off your carpet. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a good mess.
It’s called summer BREAK for a reason. Did you notice that none of these activities include things like drill basic arithmetic facts or study a new language? Summer should be full of fun, relaxation and joy. Give their brains a chance to recharge. Lie on a dock, look at the stars, relax in a park. Sleep every chance you get and encourage your kids to do the same. The hustle and bustle of a new school year will be back before you know it. Fill their summer days and nights with making memories, not with making education gains.
Summer is here. Days are long and to-do lists should be short. It’s the best time of the year to enjoy the journey!
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