Turning Summer Boredom into Opportunities to Grow and Learn

by , M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)

How will your children be spending their time this summer? Will there be a struggle to set limits on their amount of screen time? Summer vacation with time off from school provides many opportunities for growth, fun and also trouble. It's the trouble that you want to avoid!

Concerns about How Kids Will Spend Their Free Time

Some parents look forward to the unstructured time their children can enjoy during the summer. Others worry about how their children will fill those extra hours. What are your greatest concerns about the amount of free time your kids have during the summer?

A group of parents gave these as some of their concerns:

  • Spending too much time watching TV
  • Arguing more due to having so much time together
  • Kids being home alone
  • Going to a friend's house where there is no adult supervision
  • Knowing what they are really doing when they are away from home
  • Playing too much Xbox or other video games
  • Forgetting what they've learned in school
  • Struggling to figure out what to do that doesn't involve watching a screen
  • Not wanting to read because "I'm not in school now."
  • Getting into a routine that will be difficult to break when school starts again
A number of the concerns these parents expressed revolve around the fact that they and their children have different priorities. Not many children are concerned about having too much screen time or too little outdoor playing time!

kids on screens

Developing a Plan for a Successful Summer

Before sitting down with your kids to discuss the plans for the summer, it can be helpful for you to clarify your top priorities. Do you really want your kids to advance their academic skills? Get exercise? Learn something new? Contribute running to the household? Go on vacation together? Develop a new skill like making meals? Reconnect with family or friends?

Determining your values will shape your idea of a successful summer. Knowing that your kids probably have a different viewpoint on the elements of an awesome summer, it's wise to sit down and make a plan that takes into account everyone's desires.

Plan a time to get together as a family when nobody has to rush off. Bring a calendar and a notebook to the meeting. It's extremely important to choose someone to write down what is agreed on so that everyone walks away with a common understanding.

One way to make sure everyone's voice is heard is to go around the circle giving each family member the opportunity to respond to topics like:

  • One thing you would really like to do this summer
  • Something new you would like to learn this summer
  • What you would like to earn money for this summer
  • Commitments that are already made (lessons, camps, vacations)
Another topic you will probably want to bring up is the limits on activities. For example, you may want to establish time limits on watching TV, being on the computer and playing video games. You may also want to discuss limits around where your kids can go when they're out in the neighborhood and when they need to check in with you.

After the meeting everybody should review the notes to verify their correctness and make any changes necessary. Put the calendar and notes somewhere easily visible. Plan to have another meeting to track how things are going and determine if any changes need to be made.

Creating a "Fun Ideas" Box with Boredom Busting Ideas

Do your kids ever struggle to find something constructive to do that doesn't involve watching a screen? If so, have your kids write down things they like to do that don't involve screen time on small slips of paper. Next have them create and decorate a "fun ideas" container to hold these pieces of paper.

When your children need inspiration for an activity, they draw two or three papers and then decide which idea they want to do, either as a group or individually. If you want some ideas that other kids have written, a "boredom busting activity ideas" list is available.

It's not your job to entertain your kids all summer. It's their job to figure out how they would like to use their time in constructive ways. By giving them freedom within limits, you can help them develop new skills and find ways to enjoy themselves without having to be entertained by some outside entity. Developing this ability will serve them well thorough out their lives.

About Kathy Slattengren

Kathy Slattengren

Parenting expert Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., is dedicated to supporting parents in doing their best parenting. She helps families create homes where everyone feels accepted, heard, respected and appreciated.

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