Does summer make your stomache cringe? Do the twelve weeks with your little darlings freak you out? Don't let “Summertime Stress Syndrome” take over your life. There are lots of ways to fill those lazy summer days with activities other than electronics and sleeping. Since kids are on a different schedule than during the school year, they can try activities they may not have had time to try before. Summer is a magical time for kids, when they can explore their passions and learn new things – both educationally (such as a new skill like golf or a language) and emotionally (such as going away from their parents for a time period or making new friends). It’s best if children are doing things each day that are physical, educational, creative and fun.
Here are some suggestions from the “field”:
• Sign up for camps. Sign the kids up for day and residential camps. When making your choice, be sure to consider your budget, how long you and your child want camp to last, your other summer plans, and your child’s age and interests. The American Camp Association website has a lot of information about how to choose a camp.
• Neighborhood jobs. Encourage kids to find neighborhood jobs such as pet-sitting, lawn mowing or yard maintenance, or as a mother’s helper (for younger kids) and babysitter (for teens).
• Daily Studies. Keep up a schedule of daily studies. Movie star Sharon Stone gives her kids a subject to study each day, with the directive that they research it as best they can and report on it at dinnertime. It’s best to keep this a fun project and not a chore.
• Daily Chores. Keep up a schedule of daily chores. Movie star Denzel Washington tells his kids “Do what you got to do, so you have time to do what you want to do.”
• Set Goals. Have everyone in the family pick something new to learn over the summer and post these goals where everyone can see them.
• Summer Film Festivals. Plan a summer “Film Festival” at home, using themes such as “Scary Movies”, “Will Ferrell Films”, etc.
• Drop-Ins. Take advantage of the many organizations that offer drop-in activities, including YMCA’s (for members, their drop-in childcare is great) or even visit your neighborhood fast food restaurant play yards for some quiet time for mom or dad. IKEA has a great play place for shoppers and while there, you can go to their café for a break or to read a book!
• Off-hour Visits. Many museums are open late, so you can take kids for an after-hours visit when it’s less crowded.
• Field Trips. Take weekly field trips to many of the attractions your area has to offer; let the kids help pick the place each week. Just head to tripadvisor.com and search "things to do in "town/city name". You'll end up with a list of dozens of attractions, many of them free.
• Family Dinner Out. Make a family night of eating out once a week or whatever fits your budget. Let the kids pick the place. Or try a picnic at an area park if you're not in the mood for a restaurant.
• Neighbors’ Resources. Pool talents with neighbors so that kids can go to different houses to learn different things – if the parents have no special talent to offer, hire high school or college kids to help out (i.e. coordinate swim lessons at a pool, take at-home cooking lessons, drop in to a neighbor’s art studio to create, etc.).
It’s easy to turn “Summertime Stress Syndrome” into “Summertime Fun” with a little help and a lot of imagination!