How many times have you heard, “Mom I’m bored”? Your kids’ brains do get bored and can even suffer “brain drain” in the summer. They are used to being engaged and active during the school year, a summer of staying indoors, watching TV, or doing the same old thing can get old. Many teachers report that the kids suffer from brain drain and actually lose some of what they learned during the school year if they don’t have their brains engaged and challenged a bit during the summer. So what can you do to make this a fun summer filled with learning experiences?
Get the kids outside playing games. Studies have shown that the skills learned in play will help in school and the boardroom. Be sure not to schedule all their time this summer and give them a chance to play together and just be kids!
Learn about other cultures. If you’re taking a trip this summer, before you go study the culture, food, dress, customs, etc and get excited about experiencing another way of life. If you can’t travel to another country, do a mini vacation and cook up some recipes. You could even do some crafts that denote that culture and decorate the table. Is there a local museum that celebrates a different culture? That’s another rich way of travelling while never really leaving home.
Go on Field Trips. Go to a hands-on museum like the museum of Science and Industry in Chicago…your kids will be saying “just five more minutes Mom? This is fun!” Go online and see what museums are in your area. Are they offering special programs for kids? Discounts? Even week long workshops or camps may be available.
Go to a zoo or a farm that can be exciting and fun. Many offer special activities like picking fruit and veggies, hay rides, feeding or petting the animals.
Factory Tours. Do you have a local factory or food processing plant? Many of them offer tours for the whole family. When I was a kid we sought out these things whenever we were on vacation. I now know that they were free and that was part of the draw for our parents, but we loved it. We saw how Wonder Bread was baked, walked through the entire cheese making process at Tillamook Cheese Factory, even got to see how a lot of different foods were processed and distributed at a Safeway distribution center, and saw first-hand how Jelly Bellies are made. We even saw the fish climbing the fish ladders and the turbines at the hydroelectric dam. I fondly remember some of those field trips when I was a kid and am still fascinated to learn about how things are made.
Need more ideas? Check out local papers and news stations to see if they have a reporter who covers these types of events, they can be a wealth of information. Is there a parent group you can partner up with? Check out Meetup.com. If you’re not familiar with Meet-up you will be surprised at the wealth of offerings. Anyone can set up a meet-up about anything. There are groups for almost anything you can think of, and a lot you can’t imagine: dining out, going to movies, play dates, museum trips, you name it. I just typed in kids and got over 100 hits in the DC area, anything from a family nature club, to jumping rope, bike riding, art classes, archery, wall climbing, insect collecting, walking, even a group for parents of early risers, robotics, computers, and so much more. Try it, see what pops up. Don’t see what you want, start your own group.
Local Parks often have activities. Many of them have craft programs or day camps for the kids. I was at a plantation in Virginia that has a summer American Doll camp. You may be surprised at all the things you find to do.
Get creative. Arts and crafts get the other side of a child’s brain working. Get the kids outside gathering sticks, pine cones, rocks and other bits to make a bird feeder or other craft project. Painting, coloring, stamping or building masterpieces with play-dough will all get the creative juices flowing. Remember making dolls out of flowers, houses out of twigs? How fun was that? And no, you don’t need to bring the crafts indoors. When my daughter was small we invited the neighborhood kids to join us, if it was cold or wet outside, I’d just throw down some sheets on the floor and we’d spread out and do all the messy stuff. When we were done, I’d just take the sheet outside and shake it off.
Encourage reading. The library has a wealth of information on the plants and animals you may have seen on your hikes. If you’re studying another culture, you’re sure to find a wealthy of information. Don’t just choose the informational books, one of my favorite ways of learning about another culture is to read a novel and really experience that life through someone else’s eyes. I just read an article by Dell about a boy who took his notebook with him to help him study and identify insects on his walks.
Partner Up. You may not have the ability to take the summer off and take your kids everywhere. Can you partner up with other parents and take turns taking one day off to provide a special adventure for the kids? If there’s a Day Camp or other activity where you can drop the kids off for several hours, can you car pool just like you would during the school year? Remember the www.meetup.com groups I was talking about? That’s another great source of support, there are parenting groups, mommy groups, single parent groups, and on and on.
Have fun for cheap. You don’t have to spend a fortune going to Six Flags or Magic Mountain or the Water Park, there are interesting and fun things that you can do for free, or on the cheap. What are your kids interested in? I’ll bet you can find a way to bring it to life this summer.
Not only will your kids not be bored and suffering from brain drain, neither will you, and they’ll have found memories of their summers.