It’s that time of year again – school is ending and summer stretches before us. Most school age children are elated – but many parents and nannies are dreading the next 10 weeks or so. Trying to keep a children entertained and busy for the entire summer can be a bit daunting.
Some children go to summer camps and others go to daycare programs. These institutions have mastered the summer. Their secret is organization. They look at the time they have available and fill it with activities. While parents and nannies don’t have all the resources of a camp or daycare, they can use this secret of scheduling to their advantage.
The first step is to look at a calendar and see what is already scheduled. Families may have scheduled vacation times and children may have scheduled camps for scouts, bible study or sports workshops. Once the scheduled activities are identified and entered on the calendar, you get a clear picture of the ‘open’ days.
Include the Children in Planning
Before just trying to fill the days with activities, talk with the children involved. A child who is into animals will be more interested in a trip to the zoo than a trip to the art museum. Keep in mind that the schedule doesn’t have to be completely full and that not all activities should be based on a field trip.
Identify what the child or children like to do – hobbies, sport, etc. Make a draft calendar that incorporates these. If a child has a favorite book series, you can focus on the book – talk about the setting and maybe re-create it in the form of a living room fort or castle. Discuss the types of food the characters like and create a picnic with the appropriate foods. Create character costumes and act out scenes from the book. If a child is into boards games, set up a play date with friends so they can have a contest. Offer nutritious snacks and drinks and make it a day.
Create a weekly theme
You can incorporate ideas day by day or turn them into a week long theme. For example, if you have a child into Harry Potter – you can plan a week’s worth of activities around the series – discussing the stories and picking favorite characters, dressing up in costumes, acting out a scene or portion of a book, assembling a Harry Potter Lego set, creating art depicting the story or characters, watching one or more of the movies, etc.
Screen time is not tabu – as long as it’s managed. Video game tournaments, movies on a rainy afternoon and even playing games alone are ok. Intersperse the schedule with typical summer activities – playing in the sprinklers, water balloon fights/games, swimming, bike rides, nature walks, etc. Mixing in a physical activity each day helps the children stay fit and burn energy.
You should make sure you don’t overschedule and definitely allow for flexibility. Weather or other things may impact a planned activity and cause you to rearrange the schedule. You should also allow free play time. Make sure to discuss the schedule with the child so you plan things that they will enjoy. The benefits of a schedule are that you and the child know what to expect and don’t start everyday with “I’m bored, what can I do?”