Summer Activities for Kids

By Dr. Keith Kanner

Background: The last thing that children want to think about over the summer is school. After all, in their minds, they work very hard during the school year and deserve a break. In a real sense, they are right and a balanced summer filled with a combination of relaxation, socialization, fun activities, and family time is essential for the optimal development of children and adolescents. Summertime presents an opportunity to invest in activities that might not be possible during the school year and may be the only opportunity for children to learn new tasks and further expand upon their peer relationships.

However, the summer usually goes by quickly and when children do not keep their academic minds active when school is not in session, they may be “rusty” or at least more resistant to get back into school in the Fall. In fact, many children who have to go to summer school are actually sometimes better prepared to take on the academics once their vacation is over. Furthermore, as each grade in school progresses, the difficulty of the work increases as well as the homework and the expectation is that the children have learned and mastered the material from the year before and are ready to move forward. Given the typical minds of children, integration of academic material is a process over time and requires practice and repetition and gaps in review make the recall of previously learned material more difficult which may cause anxiety and insecurity in many children.

Most academics suggest that reading is the single most important activity that children and adults alike can do to keep their intellect consistent or even advanced. In fact, the earlier a parent introduces reading to a child, the better, and the effects of becoming a young reader are enormous and positively affect the capacity of a child to learn in all subjects in school. However, presenting reading to children over the summer is usually not well received for it feels too much like school. Parents, therefore, have to somehow make the activity either fun or part of the family routine. I have always been an advocate of a family reading time. Here, a particular time is set aside in the house where the television, computer, game systems, and cell phones are off, and everyone has a book that they are reading over the summer. Children take their leads from their parents, so if reading becomes a family tradition, most children will adopt the activity.

It is always a good idea to keep close by the academic materials of your child from the previous school year in order to do a brief review a few weeks before school resumes in the fall. Here, the parent is helping their child “brush up” on the most current academic material from the previous grade. Although most schools spend the first week or two of the new school year reviewing, when this is done in a fun and casual manner at home beforehand, the child feel well-prepared and begins the new school year with a sense of confidence which might then translate into greater success.

Other creative activities such as music, art, and other learning camps also exercise the mind over the summer and do well when mixed with some sport and relaxation. Once again, balance is key in helping children stay on top of their busy lives.

Key Points:

1. Reading is the best way to keep children’s minds active over the summer
2. Two weeks before school starts, spend some time reviewing the previous school year material
3. Children who feel the most prepared for the fall get off to the best start
4. Balance the summer with some learning and some fun