I was reading something a few months back that was talking about measuring your child’s life in seasons e.g. Summer, Winter etc. It has stayed with me and came to me in quiet moments, that this will only be the 11th Summer that my daughter has experienced. I am left feeling humbled and grateful to bring about experiences, opportunities and routines for my daughter that will allow her to flourish but also be bored over the Summer!
Over the years, I have done a great deal of research, discussed with friends and spent hours on pinterest to create the BEST Summer ever, BUT I am always left disappointed at my lack of ability to follow my own plan. This Summer, I am to take what has worked and am not going to feel the guilts, I am going to let go of my need for being in control of what happens and adopt a more ‘light hearted’ attitude, perhaps dare I say a more ‘go with the flow’ existence.
To set us up for success and to ensure that all the boundaries we have put in place do not self combust, as lets face it children love to know their limits and where they stand, I am going to take forward a few practices:
- My daughter and I have set up a Summer count down with paper chains, where each School day between now and the end of the School year she will take one off, until there is only one left and summer can begin
- Family Meeting – I am going to bring our Family together to discuss ‘the Summer’.
- What does everyone want to get from it?
- What are their ‘non-negotiables’? (in relation to rules, activities, learning etc.)
- What will they be disappointed in/with, if they do not achieve come the 5th September when School starts and normal reality prevails?
- Create a Summer Bucket List, call it an ideas list of what everyone would like to do. You may need to discuss budgets, time frames etc. You can put on it what you already have planned such as an over seas trip or something more local, having people to stay etc. However, I encourage you to fill this list with wonderful low cost ideas that you can look at each week or day and add an activity to your plan. If you are devoid of inspiration just Google ‘Summer Bucket Lists’ and seek ideas from others.
- Summer Family Night once a week for the duration of the Summer we take it in turns to pick a family focused adventure, experience to do. It could be picnicking by the river when my daughter should be in bed or staying up late enough to watch the sun set (living in the North of England, this is harder than you might think to witness as the sun sets around 10pm), playing board games with family, or going bowling. I have a poster that we put up in the kitchen that I have laminated and we write on each week, the day, time and what the experience is that we are going to do.
- With my back ground being in Education, a Summer could not pass without a bit of learning being thrown in, however, it does not have to be learning sitting at a table learning times tables (although there is a place for this and if your child enjoys it, go for it!). It could be going to a museum and coming out with 3 new things that you did not know or writing a postcard to a friend or family member about things you have been doing. It is much better for your child (depending on where they are in their education) to sit down each day and ‘learn’ for 20 – 30 minutes than it is to sit for a day, once a week. My philosophy is the ‘drip’ method is best, little and often, reinforcing concepts learning something new and coming back to it. It might be that you set up a weekly schedule – Monday – Maths, Tuesday – Writing, Wednesday – Art, Thursday – History/Geography & Friday – Life Skills, do what ever works for you, your kids and your Summer existence.
- Join in with Summer Reading Challenges that your local library puts on or start your own. In the past and something I am going to do this Summer for both my daughter and I is to set up a time each day where we read, down time from fun and screens. Once a book is read or a chapter finished (depending on the age group of your child or their reluctance to read) you can add a paper chain/a sticker/a tick/marble in a jar (anything!) to a reading log. This can give your son or daughter such a sense of achievement that by the end of the holidays they have read x number of books/chapters and here is the visual representation of this.
- Outside time, fresh air and exploring there is so much out there, even if it is your own back garden! Could you paddle in a stream, take a walk, try out a new park, weed the garden, plant vegetables, lay on the grass and find shapes in the clouds (do not look directly at the sun!) to name but a few.
- Allow us all to be bored, with boredom comes great problem solving, creativity and thinking outside the box. It is not my job as a parent to entertain my child 24/7. You could create a boredom basket/box filled with games, toys, colouring that you have found around the house that your child has long forgotten exists or there are lovely ideas out there on the internet for boredom jars and posters that break the word boredom down into an acrostic poem whatever it is you choose to do, boredom is OK!
- Hold fast to your Family Rules, Routines and Boundaries – work out your non-negotiables. It is much harder to claw these back after a relaxing Summer than it is to just keep them ticking over.
- Life skills – are you able to take some time over the Summer to teach them to cook a meal, light a fire, or do the washing up?
- Screens – this could end up being a fight, but if you have communicated with your child, husband, wife about screens and discussed boundaries and usage then there should be no problem when time comes to reinforce it. I have seen posts from parents who change the wifi code and it is only released once the child has done other stuff that contributes to the household. The important thing is to discuss, as screens can be a powerful tool to learning.
- Something I completely learnt the hard way, don’t over schedule the Summer – allow for down time, late nights, going with the flow, seizing opportunities, perhaps aim for an activity a day whether that activity be doing nothing, or going to the park.
At the end of the day, you are your kids parents and what ever works for you is where you need to be. If you look at what I have written and go well ‘I can’t do that because…’ I challenge you this Summer to perhaps step out of your comfort zone and try one new thing or do one thing slightly differently. Who knows you might enjoy yourself!