I was sitting outside my child’s classroom waiting for my turn at the parent-teacher conference when I chatted with a fellow parent who was waiting as well. With our kids’ school opening moved to July (their school in particular; I don’t know about the rest!), we had different reactions: I was ecstatic for the kids to have a longer break, while she was concerned. But then I found out why: it was because of a concern we both shared — how to fill up their days without losing them to the digital world!
So if you are a parent with the same concern, have a look at what I gathered from this mom and some ideas I got from other parents and their kids (and mine!):
Classes. You already know this. There are a host of classes being offered for children to take every summer: sports, music, dance, arts and crafts, culinary, advanced academics, etc. Your choice depends on your and your child’s interests and goals. Be on the lookout for class schedules!
Naps. Just as with us adults, many things are going on when our kids are on their gadgets: it’s their source of entertainment, information, and channel of communication with friends. Yet both my new mom-friend and me agreed that there needs to be a limit on just how long a child is on his gadgets each day! At first they will resist having a limit (as we adults probably would, too), but there will be benefits to it — like taking naps. I remember how important adults said naps were for growing kids!
Active play and hangouts (supervised). When kids are not on their gadgets the whole day, with guidance, they can rediscover the world around them. They are “forced” to play with their siblings and neighbor friends or even visiting classmates on hangouts. They rediscover board games and toys. They learn how fun it is to play outside. They learn to innovate using the materials around them to play. Since this generation may no longer be used to outside play, adults can teach them the neighborhood games they used to play.
A good physical workout. One of the concerns the mom I talked to had was what being on their gadgets would do to them physically; they might become lethargic and inactive. So what she did was to strap activity trackers on each of her three growing boys each day and require from each of them a certain number of steps they needed to complete within the day. It was a good thing, she thinks, because it requires them to get out of the house and away from their gadgets and at the same time addresses their fitness needs each day, every afternoon within the vicinity of their village (along the street, actually!).
Creative work. Right after my 10-year-old daughter and I agreed on a screen time limit, she picked up her ukulele and started to make up a song — no matter if it’s a song lamenting her limited gadget time :D! It got her going to her elder sister’s room, who finished the song with her (and another one about Chocnut). Who knows? Today’s parody songwriter might become tomorrow’s hitmaker!
By the way, it was the same Ate who suggested this bullet about creating things. She has spent many summers drawing, creating stories, writing songs, scrapbooking, photography, designing inspirational posters, etc. Now that she’s in senior high, she’s pretty much honed her skills in creative arts!
Summer jobs or a small business. Kids love earning, especially if they have a particular goal in mind! My eldest daughter once organized an online bazaar to benefit a friend whose loved one has cancer. My younger child, when she was about four years old, offered to hang laundry on hangers and take them off their hangers once dry and fold them all for 20 pesos per basket. A couple of summers ago, both sisters helped out in their dad’s business, preparing mail-outs for events, and earned a couple of thousands (never mind that it was from dad’s own pocket!) A friend’s kid helped out in their family business to save up for a toy he wanted to buy. My daughter’s friend is an expert baker and could really run a small business with her baked goods because she has been helping out in their family’s bakery for years.
There are so many good things that come out of children learning that money doesn’t grow on trees, and that it requires hard work to earn some. They learn the value of money, and more importantly, the need for hard work.
Chores. And of course, there’s housework that don’t necessarily entail a salary, but just the wonderful “privilege” (as I used to say) of helping at home. Whether or not you have househelp, it will benefit your child to take on some responsibilities at home – starting with their own turf – their rooms. But more than that, they can do more age-appropriate tasks around the house. Let them help around the kitchen. Let them plan and do the groceries with you, even do the budget and pay bills with you. Not only will this help you get things done; it will build their character and their confidence to handle responsibilities. They may have been excused from this all school year-round, but summer break is the time to make this happen.
There’s so much more that can be done by our kids this summer! I haven’t started on gardening and growing things, ticking through a reading list, and having fun, learning, and making new friends through church camps or Vacation Bible School for kids. There’s a whole world for kids to discover this vacation. Hope your kids and mine have a fun, productive summer!