How to Encourage Good Summer Habits
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Wondering how to tackle some of those not-so-desirable summer habits your kids have developed this past month? Here are a few thoughts from the experts—turning the summer Don’ts into summer Dos!
Sleeping Late and Staying Up Late
Ari Brown, a Harvard-trained pediatrician in private practice in Austin, Texas, suggests that sleeping in late may sound great in theory (catching up after a busy school year), but in reality it changes a child’s body clock and makes it more difficult to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. “Nothing very good ever happens at 1:00 or 2:00 am,” Brown says. “Parents are usually asleep to get up for work the next day, leaving kids unsupervised—playing video games, texting, surfing the net.”
Staying up too late can impact younger children, too. Playing outside until dark often means that kids don’t fall asleep until after 10:00 pm by the time baths and snacks are finished, and these kids either sleep in too late (starting the cycle all over again) or wake up too early, making for a challenging day.
How can you turn this don’t into a do? Entice children into going to be early by discussing a fun activity that will begin at dawn the next day. Tomorrow we’re getting up early to go FILL IN THE BLANK! Sometimes just breaking the cycle is all kids need. A full-day excursion somewhere can entertain and exhaust children and teens to the point where they collapse into bed at a reasonable hour.
Or, for younger kids, it might even be simpler. Tomorrow we’re going to wake up early and pick blueberries! If you get groans in response, try to add an element that will make the activity more exciting. Maybe your child will be tempted by the prospect of baking with the blueberries or bringing a good friend along for the picking festivities.
Nancy Darling, Professor of Developmental Psychology at Oberlin, says enticement or tempting children is a great way to turn don’ts into dos. And making healthy desserts is sweet temptation for just about anyone! She said a favorite for her son is making homemade ice cream with blackberries he had gone out to pick, a coffee can, sugar, cream, and Epsom salt. "Picking the berries, assembling it all, rolling the can, and freezing it took several hours of chatty fun with a friend,” Darling said
Increased Media Use
Many kids are inclined to stay indoors during the heat of the day, especially when there isn’t any homework or formal structure or routine to follow. And being indoors with no structure often means media as entertainment. Brown reminds us that more media can lead to decreased physical activity and, depending on program content, can also expose kids to advertising and violence.
Brown suggests parents help get kids outdoors to do something interesting they haven’t done before. For instance, you might consider playing tourist in your hometown. “Get your kids to research the history of your hometown,” Brown suggests. “Pretend you are on vacation and find hidden places you’ve not visited before. Let your child be the tour guide and you’ll all learn a bit more about your city.”
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