Advice from YouthFirst
By ABBY BETZ, MSW, LSW
School is out. The kids are home. Summer is here.
The school bells have rung for the final time of the year, and the kids want to know what is next. If taking a grand family vacation or sending the kids to a fancy camp are not in your budget, there are still many things you can do to keep them entertained and satisfied just being at home. While there needs to be a happy medium between totally unstructured mayhem and an overpacked schedule of “must-do’s,” the key to a happy summer break for all involved is putting the time into planning an easy-to-maintain roster of events and things to do.
It is vital for everyone’s sanity to stick to a schedule. Of course, a lazy summer afternoon sounds great in theory – until it turns into a day of sibling squabbles, and parents watching the clock and waiting for nap or bedtime. Just as in school, kids need structure and a schedule to adhere to in order to be successful. The same goes for summer break. If planning out an entire summer seems like a daunting task, break it down into days and give each day a theme. For example, Make something Monday could be a day to focus on crafts or being creative; Take a Trip Tuesday could center around taking a day trip to a local park or zoo; Water Wednesday could involve a water activity or visiting the city pool; Thoughtful Thursday could consist of volunteering at the humane society or participating in a community-service project; and Fun Friday, the day to do something from a “bucket list” the family has put together. Making a summer bucket list can be a fun way for the family to sit down together and discuss what each person would like to do over the summer – and also explore any goals each child may want to achieve.
With summer also comes the unknown of weather and possible rainy days. Keeping card games and board games handy can help in the case of bad weather. Another idea may be to have a “rainy day jar” where each kid writes an idea on a slip of paper; then, pull one out when they ask, “what can we do next?” Get creative! Create an escape room or make a blanket fort in the living room. Look up STEM activities to keep the kids busy or put on a show using parts from favorite books, letting the kids make props and costumes.
Perhaps the biggest struggle of any extended break away from school can be limiting screen time. The best strategy seems to involve incorporating some video-game or TV time into the daily schedule instead of totally taking it away. The goal then would be to keep the kids busy and entertained with other activities so that they aren’t asking for more screen time or feel they are missing out on that aspect of their lives.
Providing an action-packed, educational, and stimulating summer may seem like an intimidating task; however, including the kids in making these decisions can also help them to feel part of the plan and that their opinions are valued. Moreover, enjoy this time with your children while they are young, and savor each new memory made!
Abby Betz serves as Youth First Social Worker at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Dubois County and Washington Catholic Schools.