5 Summertime Tips to Support Children’s Development
School breaks, warm weather, longer daylight hours—these are a recipe for more relaxation and fun as parents and kids enjoy a few weeks free of school-related commitments. On the other hand, summer can be challenging when kids have time off but parents must continue their regular work schedules and responsibilities.
Numerous studies have shown that parental involvement is key to children’s health and overall development. But how can parents maintain this involvement and nurture their child’s development in a season where kids might be on break but adults are not?
Our parenting class, Raising Highly Capable Kids (RHCK), has tools to help parents—and any adult caring for young people—answer this question. RHCK teaches the 40 developmental assets that are essential for raising healthy, responsible, caring kids. Several of these building blocks provide simple, inexpensive, and effective ideas that adults can use throughout the summer to support kids’ development. Plus, all of these ideas have a larger benefit of cultivating overall family well-being and connection.
- Embrace evenings for family activities
In our Raising Highly Capable Kids parenting class, one of the developmental building blocks we teach is “Time at Home”—where a child spends some time each day interacting with their parents and doing activities at home that don’t involve TV or video or computer games. This type of interaction has been shown to improve young people’s leadership skills, health, and achievement in school.
One benefit to summertime schedules is that flexible bedtimes and longer daylight hours can free up evenings for quality time as a family. For many families, summer evenings can be good opportunities for connection and fun, especially if parents are working during the day or if a vacation isn’t feasible for your budget.
Activities to try:
- Game night with your favorite board or card game
- Family movie night
- Visit a local pool or playground
- Go for a walk after dinner and talk about favorite moments from the day
- Plan a picnic for dinner
- Cultivate responsibility by getting kids involved around the house
Building personal responsibility in kids goes beyond rule-following. It’s about giving kids opportunities to practice caring for themselves and their environment and learning from successes and mistakes in the process.
When it comes to the developmental asset of responsibility, summer is a great time to get creative. As kids get a break from school assignments, they can practice cultivating responsibility in other areas of life. For example, parents could have their child pick a household chore to be in charge of throughout the summer. Or, they could involve kids in tasks that introduce new skills and experiences—things like gardening, cooking, reading to siblings, or taking care of pets.
The important thing is to involve your child in selecting responsibilities for the summer. Being able to choose, even if it’s from a limited list of options, encourages young people to feel that they have positive control over their choices and actions.
- Let your child choose a special hobby for the summer
Participating in creative activities two or more times helps kids develop several important skills: intellectual comprehension, communication, cultural understanding, and overall creativity and problem-solving.
Summer can be a great time to encourage kids to explore new interests. Plus, parents can use new hobbies as a tool to set much-needed routines in the midst of a less structured season. Have your child pick an activity or two to try this summer, and if it fits within your budget, take them to the store to pick out items they’ll need for their project.
Activities to try:
- Creative writing or journaling
- Painting or drawing
- Building (lego sets, puzzles, block sets)
- Listening to or playing music
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- Encourage reading for pleasure
Reading is strongly connected to developing positive values and learning concepts, facts, and emotions in creative, inspirational ways. Summer is the perfect time to help kids experience the pleasure of reading for fun, not just for school assignments.
Activities to try:
- Put reading material—chapter books, picture books, comic books, etc.—in easy-to-reach places around the house.
- Set a family reading time once a week to read aloud to younger kids or hang out with older kids while reading different books.
- Take advantage of summer reading programs through local libraries or bookstores. These programs often set up reading challenges or adventures to get kids excited about completing a goal.
- Join forces with families in your neighborhood to create a summer book club for older kids or story time for younger children.
- Pick one way to serve others
One way to have a memorable, satisfying summer is to dedicate time to making a difference in the world around you. Research shows that young people who serve others are more likely to develop respect, kindness, patience, and helpfulness. Get together with your kids and brainstorm some ways that you could help out in your community. It could be as simple as weeding the yard for an elderly neighbor, or perhaps you could plan a volunteer activity or a home project for the whole family to help out with.
Get your kids involved in picking summer goals for the family
For many families, the key to a rejuvenating summer is to set a few goals that will be meaningful and enjoyable. Not sure what to prioritize? Consider having a conversation with your family to brainstorm what you want your summer to include.
Here are a few questions to use as starting points:
- How do you want your summer to feel?
- What are some local attractions or activities that you could enjoy as a family?
- What is a hobby or project that your child would enjoy spending time on?
- What are some books you would like to read or movies you would like to watch?
- How could you invest in your family’s physical health? How much time should your kids be outside playing or staying inside and relaxing?
- How much screen time will be allowed?
- What seasonal meals or snacks would the family enjoy?
- How do you want to build friendships during the season?
Finalize your list by choosing a handful of things that appeal to your family or by allowing each person to choose one thing that appeals to them. Then, go and enjoy your summer!