Beat School Break Boredom: How to Keep Your Kids Active and Engaged This Summer
In the dog days of summers past, kids would gladly stay outside from dawn until dusk, roaming their neighborhoods at will. But today, parents want to know their children are safe during playtime. This sometimes puts limits on the activities in which kids participate, especially during school breaks. Granted, experts do say that boredom is essential for learning, and it actually can foster creativity in children. Of course, it can also make it easy to give into digital temptation.
So how do you keep your kids from parking in front of the TV or computer all summer long? Most of the time, kids need a bit of guidance and encouragement from their parents, who can help instill a love of adventure, ingenuity, and physical movement in a safe environment. While that task may seem daunting at first, we’ve come up with some boredom-busting ideas that will easily provide hours of fun and engagement for both you and your children.
Embrace Technology — With a Twist
Keep in mind that technology isn’t inherently bad for kids; it just needs to be used in the right way. After all, technology can promote problem solving and critical thinking, and it can be used to motivate kids to get moving or learn valuable skills. Instead of spending their days playing video games (or watching other people play video games), computer coding classes can actually allow them to create their own game. For tech-savvy kids, this can be a great way to increase their knowledge, let their imaginations run wild, and design a finished product they’re proud of.
Even better, you and your kids can use technology in conjunction with fun physical pursuits. There are tons of smartphone apps that can work in tandem with activities you do as a family. We all saw how the Pokémon Go craze helped get people on their feet, but there are plenty of health and fitness apps geared towards kids. PBS even offers an app that throws an interactive dance party. From sun salutations to funky freestyle moves, you can use apps to find something that speaks to your kids’ interests.
While a lot of these apps work for indoor recreation, you can also use them to enjoy the beautiful summer weather. Summertime is perfect for hiking, and there are dozens of apps on the market that can take those trails to a whole new level. Explore your area, try Geocaching to find hidden treasures, and learn to identify the plants and animals you see along the way. You can even find apps for stargazing on those clear summer nights. Whether you take a trip out of town or camp out in your own backyard, technology can get your family moving and learning in the great outdoors.
Plant Your Own Garden
Another excellent way to promote healthy habits and learn about the environment — all while staying close to home — is by planting a garden. From choosing seeds and watching them grow to picking your favorite fruits and vegetables, you and your kids can work on your garden throughout the summer and gain a better understanding of the work it takes to produce your own food.
Gardening can actually provide a great workout. Digging in the soil can be extremely physical, and both you and your kids will flex your muscles in new ways. It’s also a great stress reliever; if you or your kids are feeling tense this summer, doing some work in the garden can relieve anxiety and beautify your backyard at the same time.
As the months go by, your children will learn how to take care of these plants and watch them develop. They’ll observe their life cycle and determine what these seedlings need to thrive in your local eco-system. And they’ll have a sense of pride when they see the literal fruits (and vegetables) of their labor grow into something they can smell and taste.
Speaking of tasting, cultivating a garden at home will also give you an easy way to incorporate fresh produce into your meals at home. Research shows that children who grow their own vegetables are much more likely to eat them, so you can help shape their food preferences and encourage them to try new types of produce. Kids can pick ripe tomatoes right off the vine for a healthy snack or you can use the carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, or peas you grow in meals you prepare together.
Best of all, you don’t need a huge backyard area to create a garden. Even a small plot can help kids learn and produce high-quality food. You can even transfer certain plants into pots or start an indoor herb garden to continue the fun year-round. By working in the garden together to produce something delicious and nutritious, you’ll help your children form lifelong healthy habits.
Get Cooking in the Kitchen
The best way to use those fruits and vegetables your family grows this summer is in recipes you prepare together. Cooking can encourage independence, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination in kids, and experimenting with food will allow them to be creative in a whole new way. By combining flavors and ingredients, they’ll discover that they have the power to make great-tasting food that can help their bodies grow. To supplement the food you grow in your garden, you can make frequent trips to your local farmer’s market (an excellent way to support agriculture in your area).
The kids can be involved in the actual cooking process, but they can also contribute when choosing recipes to try. You can make it a ritual to look through cookbooks, making sure to highlight brand new foods you all want to try. By including your children in both the decision making and the execution, you can maintain your connection and make them feel needed and important.
Unfortunately, not every summer day is filled with sunshine. However, spending time together in the kitchen can also be a great rainy day activity. Baking, in particular, can stimulate the mind (and the appetite!) when the weather won’t cooperate. You can actually use vegetables you grow in your garden to make sweet treats like zucchini bread or cupcakes made with beets, carrots, or sweet potatoes. You can even make your own granola or dried fruit chips for snacking.
Not only will you create delectable meals together, but you’ll also be keeping those little minds engaged. Both cooking and baking make math and science a lot more relatable; they’ll be using fractions and observing chemical reactions in ways they don’t even realize. By promoting these activities over summer break, your kids will be in a much better position come fall — mentally, emotionally, and physically. Ultimately, it’s an effective and enjoyable way to aid their personal growth and confidence.
Hit the Books at your Local Library
Although your home can provide a lot of opportunities to engage as a family, venturing outside of it can give kids the chance to explore the world around them — or several, if they escape into literature! Your local library likely offers a ton of summer resources for both kids and parents. By going to the library on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you’ll be creating a shared tradition that places emphasis on a love of learning. If you read aloud to your kids or encourage them to read regularly on their own, they’ll gain new perspectives, improve their proficiency and vocabulary, and stave off boredom.
Most libraries host summer reading programs or competitions to increase child literacy and inspire a love of the written word. When children explore different genres and subjects through reading, they use their imaginations and learn how to apply those lessons in their everyday lives. Plus, they’ll become more familiar with the kinds of stories they like to read most and seek out similar books to devour.
Your local library may also offer other classes and educational workshops for families. Storytime hours are popular for younger kids, but some also offer arts and crafts, theatrical performances, computer courses, educational games, and much more. Kids can continue learning and explore new hobbies in a familiar environment — and best of all, these programs are typically free of charge. Whether the day is hot and humid or damp and dreary, the library can immerse your child in new and beneficial situations.
Give Teamwork a Sporting Chance
Frequent peer socialization is an important part of a child’s development, too. While play dates can help serve this purpose, being part of a team can really enhance their ability to cooperate, share, and work together towards a common goal. Many children find that being part of a local sports league can be an extremely enjoyable experience, allowing them to make new friends and discover new skillsets.
Not only can involvement in summer sports help kids make connections with others their age, but it will ensure that they get 60 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis. And because sports are so much fun, they probably won’t even be aware of the health component of the game. Even children who aren’t as athletically inclined can reap the benefits of playing a team sport. In a supportive environment, they can focus on the parts of the game they do like and regularly partake in exercise.
More than likely, your city or town offers several leagues or programs kids can choose from. Talk to your children and see what sport might pique their interest.
Head to the Museum
If you want to escape the rain or the heat, you should consider paying a visit to your local museum. There are so many different kinds, so whether your child loves art, history, science, or niche interests, there’s likely at least a few museums they’ll enjoy. While they’re educational in nature, they’re designed to be engaging and relevant. This will make kids excited to visit and learn a lot in the process.
In addition, most kid-friendly museums are interactive in some way, which will keep them from getting bored. Exhibits often engage all the senses, so they can look, listen, hear, and sometimes even touch what’s on display. And when you walk through a museum, you probably won’t even realize that you’re getting a bit of physical activity, too.
Museums can make you see your city or region in a whole new way; you might even discover offerings you never knew existed. And because many of these institutions offer free admission days or discounts during the summer specifically for students on summer break, you won’t have to break the bank to expose your kids to culture.
Sign up for Summer Camp
There’s one more popular pastime we can’t neglect to mention: summer camp. Day camps provide the chance for kids to immerse themselves in a new environment, make new friends, and learn new skills. Many local park and recreation centers will offer free or inexpensive camps during the summertime to aid in kids’ personal growth. Camps can be only a week long — which may be helpful for children who don’t like to spend too much time away from home — or can last the entire summer.
At camp, they’ll participate in a wide range of activities. Some camps are more focused on sports and games, while others emphasize the outdoors, arts, crafts, music, and the performing arts. There are others that are perfect for science-lovers, the youngest foodies, or tech wizards. And still other summer camps strive to offer something for everyone, providing a mix of all of the above. Whether your kids are ready for overnight camp or not, you should have no trouble finding enriching summer camps for them to attend year after year.
While kids may not always be enthused to trade in the TV or iPad at first, they truly do crave some sort of structure for their summer days. By scheduling fun family activities or signing your kids up for camp, you’ll keep both their minds and bodies engaged during summer break.