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Bright Ideas from our Readers: Keeping Kids Busy During the Summer

Thanks to our readers who shared their thoughts on whether it's a parent's job to keep kids occupied during the summer. Here are a few of their comments and suggestions:

By GreatSchools Staff

A Florida Mom Recommends Giving Kids Their Freedom

"Our children are 12 and 13. My husband and I work Monday through Friday. Our children are given a list of chores, including reading one hour per day and practicing their musical instruments for one hour per day. As long as everything is done by the time we arrive home at 6:30, they are free to do as they please, within reason.They are not allowed to bike ride while we are not home, but then again, living in Florida in the summer in 95 degree heat, they don't need to be riding bikes until later in the day after the sun goes down.

"We have found that the freedom allows them to sleep in if they choose to do so. After the first few days, by noon, they are all done with chores, reading and practicing. They find extra jobs to do around the house for additional allowance money. It is vacation after all, and just like parents, when we are on vacation, we don't want to be 'working' all the time. We like to sleep in and just be lazy. But come the school year, the freedom is gone! This has worked well for us for two years now."

A Mom in Georgia Thinks Otherwise

"It is definitely a parent's job to find quality educational summer activities for their children. Most children, of course, would succumb to a wasted summer of eating and sleeping if allowed. That's a temptation too great for most to resist.

"Research has shown that children who read during the summer do better upon returning to school because they've kept their minds active. I'm not saying kids shouldn't be allowed to sleep late or take part in lots of extracurricular activities during the summer. But I do believe parents should guide them in participating in activities that will also keep their minds active.

My children are 5, 10, and 13 years old. I am a 10-year veteran teacher and mom. This summer my children will participate in the local library's reading program, swimming lessons and sewing lessons. In addition, they have season passes to Six Flags, will enjoy bowling and other extracurricular activities throughout the summer. When summer is over they will be able to look back at accomplishments they have attained over the course of those short weeks of vacation. In addition, they will return to school refreshed and well rested because I've allowed enough flexibility in our schedules for late wake-ups during summer in spite of all the planned activities."

More Suggestions for Great Summer Activities:

  • Participate in the local library's reading program
  • Make a digital slide show with family photos
  • Help your kids plant a garden
  • Encourage your children to read the newspaper

A California Mother Agrees - It's a Parent's Job

"Definitely it is a parent's job to keep the kids occupied during the summer. It is always healthy for the kids to enjoy the great outdoors, be out there and explore beyond their realms of home life. There are so many ways to do it depending upon the budget allotted for the family.

"I have four boys ranging in age from 6 to 16. You have to assess their interests and then choose what's best for each kid. Then you ask yourself if it is wholesome and affordable. If both parties (child and parent) agree, then proceed. Remember, summer is only three months for them to enjoy. Planning is the best.

"I always do my research before the summer begins. I check what the city offers, Web sites and other parents. For me, swimming, camping, biking, parks and anything that has to do with the outdoors, I do at low cost. It is better than sitting around the house watching TV all day and playing video games. Nature is always the best way to let the kids see the beauty of life.

"I also enroll them in different summer programs so they create new friends and new knowledge that they can embrace. My 6-year-old is in a summer preschool program where they go on library field trips once a week and other fun learning activities for four hours. My 8-year-old is going to a farm for a week to learn about farm animals and to harvest fresh vegetables. Summer sports are another way, too. My 8-year-old will be joining the soccer team for the summer and there are swim lessons for the three younger ones. My 13-year-old is into hip-hop dancing and my 16-year-old is into church youth group ministries. I also involve them with the summer reading at the library.

"At home, on the other hand, either you let them be themselves or you can teach them do chores around the house. Simple tasks like fix their room, help set the table, help in the kitchen and so on. Make them feel they are needed. One fun thing my kids really enjoy a lot is when we borrow books of their choice from the library, sit down as a family and each one, including the parents, reads out loud and then we talk about the story.

"There are so many fun activities for the summer for their physical, mental, spiritual and social being. They deserve that, after all they finished another school year and the next school year is upon them."


Comments from readers

"Growing up, summer was a time to relax, play in the sprinkler, eat ice-pops and watch the starts on a blanket...I think too often we fill our kids every moment with all these 'things' that we think will make them smarter and better...but what they really need is down time. Time to figure out who they are, be with friends, laugh and who knows, they may end up enjoying the summer even more than if we pack it full of day trips and outings etc...let kids be kids."
"I live in Georgia and its too hot to do anything most of the time outside except swimming (Unless you live near the coast). Therefore outside plans are mute and we're stuck inside because of heat+humidity. This is to 6/17/08."
"I was a kid quite recently, and I believe the best thing my parents did to enhance my summer learning and activeness was simply to disallow television and video games. As a result, I read constantly all summer or played fort in the bushes outside with my younger brother. My older brother would usually sign up for a summer soccer league as well. Because simply vegging in front of the TV was never an option, we all spent the summer largely on constructive activities - and valued our fairly common movie nights with our parents all the more. My summers have never been so productive since I outgrew parental restrictions."
"Being a teacher I do have the luxury of being home with my children during the summer, but usually lack funding to make it an on the go summer. I've implemented some inexpensive ideas to get us through-without just sitting at home watching movies. Our local Parks & Rec. department has swim lessons for $3 a week. The kids go four days a week. Our library has a book and movie (with moral) on Tue., and on Thursday we go to story time. Our local movie theater shows old child friendly movies, and for 13 weeks during the summer the entire cost is $7. We also take day trips with a sack lunch throughout our state-Arizona. We have a swimming pool, and a lot of backyard activities for evenings. I provide daily educational lessons, but try to make them fun and interesting. I don't over do it-just about an hour a day. By the time Mom gets home from her job the kids are exhausted and ready for bed."