6 Tips for Keeping Kids Mentally Engaged This Summer
Now that summer is in full swing, you may be finding it more difficult to keep your kids mentally alert and engaged.
Without the structure of the school year, it can be easy to fall into a habit of letting the days pass by. My kids have gotten into the groove of staying up later, which leads to them getting up later and taking longer to become focused and ready to take on the day. Screens are an easy pastime, and despite the great weather, I see my kids opting for lazy activities and indoor play more than I’d like.
So, how can you get your kids motivated to get outside and stay mentally engaged this summer? Here are my ideas…
Start a garden.
Gardening can really bring out the green thumb in your child. My husband and daughter took this on as a joint project a few years ago and are always so excited to check on the progress of their plantings. Not only does it produce delicious food we can turn into tasty family meals, but it has also taught my daughter about the value of patience, and a wonderful
Explore educational apps.
Educational apps are a great way to stimulate children’s brains over the slow summer months. Kids love to play these games, which often feel more like games than learning programs. There’s something out there for everyone, too, from apps that help young kids learn colors and numbers, to apps that help high school students prepare for SAT or ACT exams.
The catch here? There are a LOT of apps out there that claim to be educational, but offer very low-quality learning experiences. Want to know how to screen an educational app for quality?
Foster a love for reading.
Reading is a great way to help kids relax, learn and explore their imagination, sans technology. Not every child is going to love reading… The important thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter what your kids read, as much as that they read.
On hot sunny days when outdoor play might be a bit excessive, take the kids for a library outing. Give free reins, allowing your kids to go up and down the aisles choosing fun and interesting books. If you have a kid or teen who doesn’t show an interest in novels, let them pick out magazines or comic books to encourage an independent appreciation for reading!
Practice a new language.
Summer is the perfect time to learn and practice a new language! Without early mornings or homework, summer is the perfect time to learn a new language! If they don’t want to go to a formal class setting, just about any language they want to learn can be found online. From American Sign Language to Mandarin, the possibilities are just a click away.
Learn a new skill.
Summer is a great time to encourage kids to pick up new skills. Whether it’s hacky sack, surfing or something more practical, like coding, there’s no better time to let kids choose an endeavor and take it on. Computer science has so many options, including “unplugged” ways to learn, such as My Robotic Friends by Thinkersmith that requires no Internet or computer. Encouraging young artists to learn design on computer graphic programs can enhance their talents and build marketable skills for the future.
My all time favorite for keeping minds active and engaging their imagination is creative, unstructured play. There are numerous studies showing the benefits to body and mind through play, and summer seems like the most natural time to do this. Beach time, trips to the park, water balloons… the possibilities are endless.
The Ultimate Parenting Tool to Strike a Balance
One huge challenge I face as a parent during the ‘lax summer months? Managing screen time.
I know I’m not alone. Screens are great, half of the time. Devices are great learning resources, and can be a much-needed distraction when I need to get some stuff done around the house. But when I want them to be set aside? Chaos ensues.
Recently, I found a great application called OurPact. It’s free, and lets me manage my kids mobile devices from afar, and with a touch.
The best part?
Using OurPact, I can set up times during the day when apps and Internet are available on my kids devices, and times that they are blocked. Right now, I have five schedules set up on my daughter’s device: one for her weekly tutor session, one for learning hour, bedtime, outdoor play, and reading.
There are windows during the day when screens are unblocked, but other than that they are totally restricted. If I ever want to grant access over a blocked period (for example, last week our tutor cancelled), I can just grant access manually.
The app is super easy to use and download, and has been a total game changer for my family, especially during these summer months.
If you want to get started (which I recommend you do!), you can sign up on their website.
Finding a balance and keeping kids mentally engaged over the summer is no easy task. By participating in different activities, maintaining a bit of structure, and avoiding screen-time overload, your kids will be well on their way to enter the new school year refreshed, relaxed, and on top of their game!
Can you think of any other activities, tips or resources to help strike a balance this summer? Share in the comments below! J