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

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By GreatSchools Staff

Another Mom Says It Depends on Their Age

"I work full time, therefore summer camps are of vital importance to me, especially with my 7 year old, but for my middle schooler, who will be entering eighth grade this fall, I let him choose activities that we both will be happy with. He entered a program through his school which is three days a week, that gives him two days to sleep in or plan activities with his friends. He also joined a summer soccer team and will go to a Bible summer camp for one week. Last year he was too old for the summer camp program and too young to choose his own activities so I enrolled him in the seventh grade summer school program. He had just finished sixth and this helped him to be on top of things for seventh grade in the fall. The cost was $50.00 and that was four days a week plus he took swimming lessons. I feel that middle schoolers starting at seventh grade need to have choices, but ones that are agreeable to all. There is too much mischief children can get into. They need structured time as well as free time. The amount I say would depend on the child and how mature and responsible they are."

One Mom's Creative Way to Motivate Her Child

"All the free time that summer brings inspires children to inventory their games and toys to see what fun stuff is at their disposal. It isn't often that they are satisfied with their findings and games are expensive! You know the kind I mean: video games.

"A child's feelings of deprivation combined with all that free time can create an opportunity to build important life skills, while putting to use the 3 Rs that can fade a bit over a summer.

"Have your child pick the top three to five items on their wish list. Ask him to estimate the cost of each item and to write that estimate on the paper. The next step is to prioritize the list. Suggest some things for your child to consider, such as the potential hours of enjoyment and degrees of glee expected. Try not to sway your child in prioritizing regardless of what you think of his choices. Now tell your child to find out the actual prices of the items on his list. He can check store ads, go to the stores, look on the Internet or even call the stores for a price check. Talk to your child about good ways for him to earn money over the summer, such as neighborhood yard work, car washing, babysitting, pet sitting or dog walking. Or make, package and sell something special (perhaps a favorite cookie recipe or a custom lemonade mix that has a creative twist like a dash of clove, powdered tang or iced tea powder). My personal favorite, for many, many reasons, is to have a couple of yard sales. Have your child choose a name for his business.

"I like to give kids the opportunity to rethink their choices once they realize the actual prices and that they'll be the ones paying for it with their well-earned dollars. My son is 13 and quite the business man."


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."