How to Help Children Make the Most of Summer

Luke Whitmore

It’s almost summer vacation – the roughly eight weeks each year that kids live for and parents often dread. Cries of “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to do” can send many parents over the edge. But with a bit of pre-planning and the consideration of a few guidelines, the summer can not only be a great opportunity for children to rest and recharge, it can also prepare them for a successful start to the school year in September. Here are few suggestions to help you and your kids make the most of summer:

1. Limit screen time

It can be easier for parents to set limits on screen time during the school year, but it is no less important to also maintain clear limits during school breaks. As a parent, you can avoid these issues by deciding how much time per day children are allowed to play video games, watch TV and movies, or use social media. Once you’ve established limits, communicate them clearly, and don’t forget to enforce them. Screen time is often the easiest way to fill the time, so make sure there are other choices available to help fill the time.

2. Get outdoors

During the school year, kids may walk or ride their bikes to school, or play outside at recess or in gym class – being outdoors is built into their daily routine. Although routines change in the summer, it is still important for children to get outside. In order to encourage more time outdoors, create space in your yard for your children to play. For younger children, invest in some supplies such as sidewalk chalk, bubbles, assorted balls, or other outdoor toys. Create a mini golf course, or give each child a plant to take care of for the summer. For older children, you may want to assign outdoor chores, or perhaps there is a space where they can relax and set up a chair and their outdoor speaker. There are endless possibilities for time outdoors in the summer months – find the ones that work for your children and go for it.

Taking the time to plan for the summer with your children will ensure they get the down time they crave, while also setting them up for success in the fall. 

3. Help your kids stay active

As part of their daily routine at school, most kids have assigned time for physical activity. Encourage your children to engage daily in some form of movement or activity. Riding bikes, scooters, roller blading, hiking, swimming, playing almost any sport – there is something for everyone. Write out various activities your kids enjoy on slips of paper and toss in a few new ones they may not have tried yet. Put the slips of paper in a jar and invite them to pull one out each day, while also encouraging them to try that activity for at least half an hour. This is a good way to expose them to new ways of moving their bodies.

4. Don’t abandon all learning

Though kids may relish their time without homework, the transition back to school can be easier if they haven’t abandoned all educational activities for the summer months. To make going back to school a little easier, get creative and find ways to sneak in learning. Create summer reading lists (many public libraries have reading programs for kids to participate in), or encourage your child to write about their days and weeks. If they enjoy gardening, have them measure the height of the plants they are caring for and track the results. If you are going on vacation, invite your child to do some of the research about the area you are travelling to and present it to the family. Although some kids will actually be in summer school, you will have to create your own (fun) version of school for the rest.

5. Maintain some structure and routine

As a parent, the first week of summer vacation is often a delight! No activities to drive to each evening, no remembering school forms and homework, and no dragging your kids out of bed at the crack of dawn. However, I have come to realize that some degree of structure and routine helps my children feel better in the summer. To make this happen, assign a different theme or task to each day of the week (Mondays everyone does their chores, on Tuesdays child A makes dinner, child B on Wednesdays, etc.). It’s also important to create a consistent wake-up and bedtime schedule. This ensures that kids still get the sleep they need to function. Make sure they are eating throughout the day and support them to find a balance between free time and planned activities. It’s okay for kids to feel bored at times, and summer can be the perfect chance for them to figure out how to handle monotony without turning to technology.

Summer can be a wonderful time for parents and children to relax, recharge, and prepare for the new year of routines, schedules, expectations, and opportunities. Taking the time to plan for the summer with your children will ensure they get the downtime they crave, while also setting them up for success in the fall.


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Lana Dunn, MEd, RPsych
Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute Inc.
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