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.”

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.”

How a stay-at-home mom keeps her children busy

“I find it very important to keep my children learning while they are home. I have them do an hour of work everyday and make sure that they are rewarded with crafts at the end of each job. One day we do math, the next day we do English, and each day we make it a different subject. The kids love to do science on Fridays because we make goo, or crayons or many different things. They enjoy it and at the end of the day we have a fun time at the pool, beach or park.

“I believe it to be a good idea that children of all ages have some activities set up by their parents over the summer time. I don’t think it needs to be nonstop from Monday to Saturday, as children should not be overburdened with activities, or the parents either. Remember it’s the parents themselves who do all the driving here and there, and especially if parents are working outside of the home, it can often become exhausting for them.

“Children need to learn how to entertain themselves too. Nowadays it seems to me that some children are being over-stimulated. If you’re a stay-at-home Mom or Dad, one great way of creatively stimulating your child is through arts and crafts. Also bake with your child. Gardening is another low cost activity to get your child involved in. Get a friend or two over to join in. It doesn’t always have to cost a lot for us parents!”

A working mom shares her solutions

“Being employed full time means we have to provide a safe place for our kids when we are away. We had to get real creative this year to keep our eldest daughter, 13, occupied during the summer. We weighed our options, like getting a job, attending specialized summer camps, staying with friends and family or volunteering. Travel, time and cost prohibited most activities from being considered.

“During the work week my daughter volunteers with the local library. She gets to earn volunteer hours for future college applications. She tackles her service as if it were a wage-paying job. So far, her eyes light up about the things she is learning to do and she is gaining pride in helping others.

“Our youngest daughter, 11, is able to attend the local daycare summer camp. She doesn’t want to go, but it’s not feasible to use any of the other options. I don’t blame her for wanting to do the same things as her older sister, but I believe it would be a burden to the staff rather than helping at this point, without my parental supervision. Summer camp seems childish to her, but her older sister would trade in a heartbeat, to go swimming, bowling, do arts and crafts and watch movies.

“By using local camps and volunteering, we have managed to find a fit for our family. It provides flexibility and support when we needed it most. We were seriously considering hiring an adult to provide “sitting” services to replace lost summer camp programs. In a couple of years my eldest can apply for a paid position during the summer if she chooses or we could hire her to watch over her younger sister.”

More suggestions for great summer activities

The local library

“Many libraries offer a book club during the summer for no charge. Both my children participated last summer and are really excited to read again this summer. The library offers small prizes for so many books read and the children get their picture on the library wall when a greater number of books are read. The school also honors the students at the beginning of the school year with a certificate. When I initially asked my two boys if they wanted to do this program last year my 4-year-old was so excited and my 7-year-old said he was not interested. He soon changed his mind after seeing the little one come home with a cool new bookmark, bag and sticker just for signing up. My 7-year-old ended up reading about 25 books last summer. What a great way to get kid’s to read! Check out your library!”

Family photos

“I have had a great deal of success keeping my grandchildren occupied over the summer by showing them how to access my collection of digital family pictures. They use my laptop computer to run a slide show of the whole collection or just selected folders. They will watch for hours.”

Your own backyard

“My son and I started realizing that some of the plants in our garden attracted different kinds of insects and birds. We did some research and decided to plant certain plants in various areas in the front and back yard. Before it gets too hot in the morning we go out with shovels and garden tools and plant. Now all summer long we can watch out the window to see which animals and insects come to our garden. So far we’ve seen lots of butterflies in the butterfly garden and hummingbirds in the flower garden.”

Reading the newspaper

“Starting tomorrow, the first full day of summer vacation, my kids are to read an article in the newspaper and write a summary paragraph. I will add an additional paragraph as the summer progresses. Who knows, they may become writers one day!”