Beach More, Worry Less : Smart Tips & Activities To Keep Kids Engaged This Summer

“Schools Out!!” Yay for the kids but this time of year can be stressful, especially for working parents who have super active kids on the loose with no clear routine mapped out for the rest of summer.

Don’t be overwhelmed just yet. If you play your cards right, summer vacations can be a time of fun, learning and rediscovery of your own youth! Here’s how you do it.

Create a Routine

It does not end with planning a drive down to the beach or renting the perfect beach-house getaway. I’d recommend chalking out a schedule, planner or routine of activities even before summer starts. That way you will not only be prepared on day #1 but you would have been able to pre-register and save a spot for all those outdoor summer activities as well, you know what they say about the early bird. Obviously, having a plan would also ensure you’re making the best use of time and opportunities during this vacation.

A quick tip on planning the summer for your kids – include a mix of activities because children get bored easy and love variety. While a large part of summer is about the kids, it’s not all about them. Remember that you need to be relaxed and having fun too. Don’t cram your calendar with activities 24/7. Not only will that burn you out (and may burn out the kids too) but it leaves no room for re-adjustment or tweaking, and that’s no fun! Lol. Take on only as much as you’ll logically be able to handle and save room for downtime.

Having said that here are a couple of activities you and your kids can include in your summer routine.

Interactive Learning

Summer is all about Fun and so is Interactive Learning.  It involves a PC, tablet or other devices, interactive software, immediate answers to queries, virtual rewards and badges/ titles for performance and even online competitions. Sound like a video-game? Yes, because it pretty much is and that is exactly why kids find it so much fun. Except they’re learning along the way too.

American educational technology companies like IXL, through their online tools and website, offer students a chance to practice educational material. Often affiliated and recommended by the Public-School System, they provide students an engaging yet focused environment in which to excel. Sign-ups are free, through the affiliated school and students like my kids can use them throughout the year. Hint: even during summer😊

Registering your kid(s) at the Local Library’s online Summer Reading Programme is another great example of interactive learning. These programmes include several other exciting activities that go along with reading. My kids, for example read “The giving Tree” and then completed the lesson by planting a sapling in our backyard. They also enjoyed building their original Legos after reading a book on Lego design; and made their own tin can- robots after attending a book reading at the library which focused on robots and machines. Find IT Virginia and similar free online resources provide opportunities for e-reading and learning.

The possibilities are truly endless and I would have killed to have these opportunities growing up, but am happy my kids have them now. Better late than never.

The great outdoors

Physical activity is as important as mental health. My husband and I start our day with a jog around the neighborhood, while the kids do 2 laps each on their bicycles. It doesn’t matter who beats who to the house first, but we all return awake, alive and hungry. Whoever gets home first kills time playing some good old-fashioned basketball outside.

We take it easier on the weekends and substitute the jogs and bike rides for a day of mini-golf, bowling or the park.

And while a trip to the beach is a must, if you’re looking for local activities, Facebook Events  and Groupon Coupons could be a good place to start. Explore local events and workshops , take the kids to the amusement and water parks or the local fare, state-parks and museums, buy putt-putt, laser-tag, roller-skating and arcade game coupons for the family on Groupon. Explore and thou shall find!

Help Around the House

With great fun comes serious responsibility. If you haven’t already, take this time to teach the kids the nuances of laundry, doing the dishes, helping fix a meal and generally cleaning up after themselves.  It will go a long way in teaching them responsibility and preparing them for success as adults. Initially, I used to get a lot of pushback from my kids. It started with the “do we have to?”  but after gentle persuasion it’s slowly shifting to “can I help?”. Why surely, you can!! 😊

Get a Pet

Now’s as good a time as any to get a pet for your kids to play with. My kids brought home 2 hermit crabs – Hermie and Sebastian – from the beach this summer. They had been after us for a while to get them a dog or cat. Since these cute little crabs are low maintenance, we figured it would be a good compromise. The bonus is the kids learn a little responsibility. They have researched how to take care of the hermit crabs and decorated the crab tank on their own with minimum supervision from us adults. Who knows, if the crabs survive a couple years, they might earn their puppy or kitten one day.

Indoor Fun

Ever heard the phrases “What do I do now?” or “I’m bored” from your kid(s), implying that you as the adult, are automatically supposed to come up with a solution to fix the ‘boredom’? Not anymore. This year I invested in arts & crafts, board-games, books, Legos and DIY projects to keep the kids engaged and entertained all summer long.

Some of the more interesting games that both kids and adults can play include, Connect Four, Jenga, UNO, Scrabble, and Monopoly. These never get old. Lego building is another activity that the boys and my husband enjoy and have organized several competitions around them.

We have family game nights where in addition to playing board games we all descend into the basement for a game of Pool or tag team Video Gaming. Other nights we chill over Netflix. Choosing Trilogies and other movie series like Aliens, The Godfather or Star Wars may work well during the summers when you can watch the series back to back and the kids don’t have school the next day.

Execute the Routine

Having created a schedule, it’s important to execute. The easiest way to do this is working as a team. After drafting the schedule, my husband and I discussed it with the kids to get their feedback and buy-in. Once everyone agreed, I had the kids replicate the schedule on a calendar in their room. Now they too share responsibility in keeping track of daily and weekly activities.

While some kids can be stubborn or rebellious, I honestly believe that all kids want structure and do well when given clear directions. Creating and executing a daily routine during the summers help build structure and discipline into the day. The kids have fun, parents can manage their time better and it’s a win-win all around. You know you’ve hit the nail on the mark when reminders and instructions become fewer and smiles and laughter greater!

Remember to have Fun!!

Summer comes along once a year and so it’s important to remember to have fun, irrespective of the activity on the routine. The routine is just a guideline meant to organize the day, not to limit fun. The routine should be flexible. If at some point activities need to be rescheduled, removed or added to the plan, go ahead and make alterations to the routine. As long as everyone is on-board and having fun, you’ll be fine.

It’s been just a few weeks of summer for my kids. Not only have I survived, but I must admit I’m actually looking forward to the weeks ahead. My secret lies in creating a balanced routine that includes having all out fun while learning, growing, being creative and unlocking hidden talents together! 😊

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