Six Ideas for Your Child's Summer

by Rita Cheek

Summer for today's child can take on a whole new meaning. Children today, including the homeschooled child or traditionally schooled, like the children of the past still need a change from the normal routine of the year. Seasons provide naturally for those changes and I believe parents can take advantage and use the changes as an opportunity for growth.

As a parent and an educator I see the need in children to have time to explore their personal strengths and weaknesses. Think of "time" as the key word here. The summer can be the time to learn what books would be enjoyed after all required reading and some pleasure reading is done.

When there is more extensive free time what are the choices made? Does the child need to focus more on "hands on" experiences or what I call "information gathering" experiences? What resources does the child come up with on his own?

A good way for the child to learn more about himself is to be bored. Parents seem to get uncomfortable and feel guilty and immediately jump into action when the child whines, "But, I am bored!" States of boredom have created in many a deeper imagination and the impetus to take control. Garrison Keiller talks of the time as a boy he spent on the hard backed bench in church where he was required to sit for hours on Sundays as a time where his imagination was developed.

I remember as a child the luxury of being bored. I don't see that often enough today. I would lounge around being bored after chores were done. Then, before I knew it I would have a huge burst of energy for some new project. The books I read fueled my imagination and the energy spent in swimming lessons boosted my self-confidence. I never stayed bored long because my imagination took over. Today I consider myself a highly imaginative person because I was allowed periods of time to be bored. Children can come up with creative energy and a deeper imagination when left to their own devices and time.

The wise parent realizes that the child needs structure and boundaries around the so-called time freedom I am talking about. The unavailable parent is not off the hook; the child needs time to investigate yet needs the parent near by. The parent or the adult caregiver needs to be available as a resource person and of course, always the one who ultimately sets the appropriate boundaries for the child. Those boundaries give the child security and the resources give the child a means to do what he needs to do.

The boundaries need to be clear, depending on the family situation. The resources again are dependent on the family situation. As the resource person the parent need not feel they are at the child's beck and call, however, because the child needs to understand parents have a life, also. The parent can provide some stimulus and boundaries and allow time for open free time. The child does not have to be constantly entertained and the parent does not need to feel guilt when the child will ultimately announce sooner or later that they are bored.

Here are some summer suggestions:

#1. Start at the library. Schedule at least a once a week trip to the local library. Work on a time when you do not feel rushed. If your child is older perhaps you can use that time to run an errand. Better yet, use the time to model for your child how you enjoy reading and learning and get involved in the books for yourself that interest you. Notice what areas your child is interested. You may find out the child has interests that neither of you were aware of. This knowledge leads to the next step.

#2. Visit museums. After learning more about your child's interest, perhaps in his choice of reading material, then explore what local museums are available. If he were interested, for example, in aviation a trip to an aviation museum in a nearby area would be time well spent. This is where the parent as a resource person comes in. The library or local newspapers can help you find appropriate museums. The art museums are always a must because art touches on something good in all of us. Most art museums have a child's area just waiting for you to enjoy. Pack a lunch and take the bus downtown and enjoy the museum and have a picnic too. My children will tell you they treasure the memories we made on our outings.

#3. Learn or improve on a physical skill. I always looked forward to swimming lessons in the summer. Team sports are great, but just gathering up the neighbor kids or even siblings for a game of baseball, badminton, croquet, tree climbing, bicycle riding, hopscotch, or some of the stand by games of chase and hide and go seek are good. When everyone is out of sorts, consider packing the whole gang up and grab a basket of fruit and jug of water and head to the park. When I was a child the whole neighborhood loved it when my mother taught us some of the running and hiding games she played as a child. I still remember those games and enjoyed teaching them to my children. So much is involved in teaching boundaries and working together in physical play.

#4. Provide a creative environment and tools needed. The creative environment must have boundaries, but the child needs to feel the creative freedom to explore. The kitchen table is the logical place, and ideally there is a cupboard for supplies that can be used as needed. The supplies need to include paper, cardboard, (save an area in the garage for some big boxes), paints, smocks, brushes, colored pencils, markers, pastels, glue, etc. Look around the house and pull in any three dimensional objects that are destined for the trash to help fuel your child's imagination. Painting a box is a totally different experience than painting a flat object. Be sure the child understands the boundaries and takes responsibility for using a smock, newspapers, etc. If you are skirmish about a mess then either get over it, or provide an outdoor easel for your child. I am talking about experiences at home the child is involved in as opposed to art classes, which can be wonderful but provide another type of experience for the child. The child can benefit from a safe place in their home to express their creativity as needed.

#5. Include your children in grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is an outing all on its own for the school-aged child. Involve them in helping you find what you need. Enlist them in the decision making offering several acceptable choices. Figuring out the best buy for the money and the best buy for our bodies is a lesson all of us can benefit from. Include the farmers market in your shopping or at least a store that has really nice fresh produce and some ethnic foods. When a child is exposed to fresh produce their imaginations can really be stimulated. The colors, the textures, and the smells are God's gift to the world. Involve your child in the grocery shopping and the next step will be a natural.

#6. Set aside time for your child to be by your side in meal preparation. Mealtime is an important time in the family and the child should be encouraged to participate in its preparation, and must learn how to take care of himself. Knowing how to cook in a nutritious manner is a life skill. Maybe this would be an opportunity for parent and child to grow. Check out healthy recipes and include those recipes in your meal planning and grocery shopping. Find healthy snack recipes and provide the ingredients and equipment needed then let the child do the snack preparation on his own. Save money on not buying junk food. Don't have it in the house. When my children got hungry then that hunger propelled them into creating a tasty wholesome snack that we both found acceptable. Be ready for a mess in the kitchen. It happens. It is okay. Think of it as an opportunity to teach your child the lesson of finishing a task from start to finish. With the pleasure of having a treat comes the responsibility. I have come up with many delicious, nutritious recipes any school age child can follow and enjoy. My children are grown now and are grateful they know how to cook in nourishing wholesome way to take care of themselves. I feel it is as essential to their well being and certainly was and continues to be good for their self-esteem.

Summer is a wonderful opportunity to do those things you are always putting off. When you see your child sitting in front of the television eating his chips then think of all of the above experiences he is missing and know it is time to take action. Turn off the television and set some boundaries. The rewards are infinite. You or your child will never regret the time spent together learning, growing, and sometimes just being bored.

Rita Cheek is the author of THE VEGETABLE LADY monthly FREE newsletter. It is a wonderful resource for you in your journey to a healthier life. From her years of practical and professional time spent in the kitchen, you will be privy to recipes and tips on subjects such as time management and optimum nutrition. She will bring you a new type of creativity in the kitchen, and at the same time, do away with the guilt of not eating the way we know we should.

Treat yourself to this fun and helpful collection of timely ideas!


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