Rest, relax, and recharge

Whether your child is five or fifteen, he needs to keep busy during the summer months. While it sounds tempting to take a break from the busy school-year schedule, you don’t want to find yourself with a bored child or one that sits in front of the television until school starts again. It is important that your child gets a chance to enjoy his time off from school, but he should also be kept occupied, stimulated, and is able to advantage of all that summer vacation has to offer.

Ways to keep your child busy this summer:

Consider a camp. If you are a working parent who needs your child to be engaged in something all day every day, a camp is a great way to take a break from the traditional childcare you use during the school year. Many camps have full day programs, provide transportation, and offer care before and after. It is not true that the most expensive camp in the most exotic location is the best one. As long as your child is safe and has fun, any camp is a good one. Many community agencies, childcare centers, and schools offer affordable camps. Some camps even have scholarships you can apply for. Ask friends, relatives, and other parents for recommendations. Staff qualifications, safety and emergency procedures, behavior management strategies, and parent communication are some of the things to check out in a summer camp you are considering for your child. For more information, visit Bright Horizons’ article on Choosing Summer Day Camps.

See what your community has to offer. In addition to summer camps, your local community may offer a variety of activities for children, although these may require you to have a flexible schedule. For example, libraries have activities for toddlers through elementary aged children during the summer months. These can include story hours, summer reading programs, and group activities. Children’s museums also often have special events and activities during the summer. In addition there are sports camps, music camps, and other activities that your community might offer for children that have flexible schedules. For more information and dates/times, check your local paper or contact the recreation department in your city or town.

Keep teens on their toes. While your teen may no longer want to attend summer camp or participate in a structured activity, she still needs to keep busy. If she is old enough, she might be able to get a job. Some good jobs for teens include mowing lawns, babysitting, or pet sitting. However, be sure that your teen understands the responsibilities she is taking on and that she has some practice or training. There are training programs that teens can go through to become better prepared to babysit. Find out if your work or that of a friend or relative is looking for some summer help. Another good option is volunteering. Many hospitals or libraries have opportunities for teens. If all else fails, give your teen something constructive to do at home, like watching a younger sibling, painting, or cleaning out the garage or basement and having a yard sale. While your teen will want to have some down time to hang out with friends, make sure you know where she is and that she is safe.

Pencil in some family fun. Make sure that you take some time to enjoy each other’s company without the pressures of the school year. Some ideas include taking a family vacation, to going to the beach or having a picnic in the park, to attending community events such as free concerts or fireworks.

Make time for rest and relaxation. Although you do want your child to be active and engaged during the summer, it is easy to over schedule. Whether you are working or not, you need a break, too, from coordinating everyone’s schedules and activities. Take the first and last week of summer off for both yourself and your child, and just relax, sleep in, and hang out at home.

Don’t forget about school! Make sure you find out if your child’s school expects or recommends any academic preparation for the upcoming school year. Even in elementary grades, many schools have reading lists of books that students can read over the summer, and you should encourage your child to do this. In older grades, your child might be required to do some schoolwork. Many teachers are in their classrooms at some point over the summer, and it might be a good idea to take your child to visit his new teacher and classroom. Also, try to find out ahead of time what books or supplies will be needed in the fall so you can get a head start on that back to school shopping!