Every year when school gets out I have this urge to over plan our summer days. I try and dedicate time to school lessons, plan crafts, and trips, swim lessons all to try and cram in anything extra we can’t do during school days. But when I look back at the summer days of my childhood, really didn’t have any of that! Our school days are so scheduled out all year with after school activities and holiday plans, our kids rarely get down time.
I’ve found several articles out there touting the benefits to letting kids be bored. Now a days with Pinterest full of ready made structured activities it seems to go against the mainstream to not have piles of activities ready to help your kids through out the day. This is the first summer I’ve really decided to lower my expectations and just go with the flow! And I have really seen the benefits of this ‘let the kids get bored’ philosophy.
A lot of parents choose to sign up the kids for day camps, or continue daycare and although those programs are all great and useful (and my kids would LOVE IT if I signed them up for either) it’s just not in our budget even for my 2 youngest but especially my oldest with disabilities, camps and daycare would require extra expense to get him the support he needs.
So this summer I decided to really leave it all open ended. Here are 5 ways we’ve been keeping busy and off screen while not over scheduling and staying on budget!
1) Library Time!
At the end of every school year our classes taking a walking field trip to the local Library which is just a block and a half away. Our library does a fantastic job putting together fun summer programs to keep the kids of all ages engaged in reading, and learning. Our city summer reading program gives each kid a free book when they’ve read 8 books or if they can’t read themselves parents can read 16 book to the child to get the free book.
I’ve been dedicating Wednesdays for Library day, so we go for their all ages Magic School Bus program, where they watch a video and do some related activities after. Then we. get to pick out books and play on their touch screen computers (which my kids are fascinated with!) I limit how many books we get so that way we only get enough to last us until next week! I’ve been known to forget due dates when we’ve had too many books LOL!
2) Pool Time!
This year I have been determined to teach my kids to swim. It is such an important life skill and we just haven’t had the means or opportunity to focus on it in previous years. So we invested in a small Intex pool that’s shallow enough the kids can still stand up but allows them to move around enough for swimming.
My girls have found new ways to include their brother in their play, they love to make believe and create stories and theater and now they include him in their adventures. They gather materials from around the house and create props for their stories and toys. And every time we go to the library they find books about subjects they are curious about!
A lot of times Pinterest makes it look like we have to setup these step by step craft activities, and help our kiddos create picture perfect crafts. Although doing those kinds of activities are fun, I’ve found my kids also really love to just create with no planned project in mind! So I’ve collected a lot of random craft supplies and a few times a week they pull it all out and go crazy.. cutting, gluing, glittering to their hearts content!
We are a Lego obsessed family and over the past year we have collected tons of Lego from sales, Craiglist, and holidays. I’ve organized it all by type of brick so the kids can easily spend hours building to their imaginations content!
5. making videos!
I remember back when I was a kid and my friends and I would spend our free time creating shows, and putting on performances for each other and our parents. So last year when my daughters wanted to start a Youtube channel I set it up with the idea we can make videos as a family. You can read more about how we did that here
Another benefit to giving the kids time to be bored and open ended activity I’ve noticed is they rarely ask for the ipads, of course they still have those moments when they whine about it and want to spend the day on Youtube but some days they forget we even have ipads!
Hopefully this summer is starting off as easy going and carefree as you would like it to be! Do you structure your summer schedule or let it flow or a combo of both?