Ah, summertime. It’s the season we’ve looked forward to all year. A time to slow down, take a break, relax, and unwind. Our kids are glad to have another year behind them and excited for a break from studying, taking tests, and learning things they assume they’ll never use in life. We as parents are all too happy to not have to get up early each school morning and coax tired children off to school.
But as we all know, it doesn’t take long into summer break before we start hearing that phrase all parents dread to hear: “I’m bored!” We also know how quickly all they’ve learned during the school year seems to dissipate by the end of summer and they end up spending the first couple of months of the next school year re-learning how to spell their own name.
The truth is, while a break is good for us, we also need consistency in our lives. We need to have structure, limits, and boundaries. While we all need rest, too much rest makes us lazy. This is true for both parents and children.
This summer, it’s important that while we enjoy our vacations and our time off, we also find a summer rhythm— for ourselves and our children.
1. Finding a Daily Rhythm: When the kids aren’t at a camp or you aren’t away on a family vacation, establish some kind of rhythm to your day. At the same time each day, have your children do their chores. Set aside certain times of the day for going to the neighborhood pool or playing outside with neighbors or running errands. If watching television or playing video games is part of their routine, establish set start and end times for those activities as well. Having some sort of structure to their day helps your children know what to expect. It gives them boundaries. Without such boundaries, children are likely to spend too much time on one thing and neglect important things. We all function better with some sort of structure to our days, children and adults alike.
2. Finding a Spiritual Rhythm: With structure-less days and a carefree schedule, one of the easiest things to let go of in summer is our daily time with God in his word and in prayer. While our schedules may change during the summer, it’s important that we make time with God a priority. We can’t take a vacation from God. This is true for not only ourselves but our children as well. Consider reading through a book of the Bible with your children during a meal time each day or studying something about God such as his names and their meanings, his promises, or his attributes.
3. Finding a Reading Rhythm: It’s easy to let the television or video game console keep our kids occupied during the summer. It makes them happy and keeps them from saying, “I’m bored.” But we all know it’s not the best thing for them. Consider instead having your children read a certain amount of time each day. Enter them in a reading challenge at the local library or bookstore or make one of your own. When they’ve completed it, take them out and celebrate or provide an award of some kind. I’ve given my own kids a reading challenge to read books outside their usual favorite genre. Instead of only reading fantasy or fiction, they are to read a theology book, a biography, a non-fiction book, a business book, and a classic. Set aside a certain time each day for reading. It’s also fun to read books aloud to children. Consider having a read-a-loud time each day.
4. Finding a Learning Rhythm: Our children need to keep learning or they will struggle when they return to school. That’s why many schools give children reading lists for the summer or other projects and worksheets to complete. There’s nothing wrong with having children complete 30 minutes or even an hour of learning a day. Set a time of day for learning and make it part of your summer routine. There are many workbooks on the market for each grade and subject in school.
5. Finding a Rhythm Even for Boring Days: And for those times when you hear, “I’m bored!” prepare activities ahead of time for your children to do. Make a list of ideas and have your children choose one. Perhaps everyone can pitch in and help make a new cookie recipe and bring a dozen to the new neighbors or a widow in your church. Make up a fun scavenger hunt to complete around the house or out in the yard. Bring out a new board game you’ve been saving. Try out a fun and messy science experiment. Create an obstacle course in the front yard. Thinking and planning ahead for times of boredom will help everyone—including yourself—have a more enjoyable summer.
How about you? Do you find that having some sort of rhythm to your summer helps you and your children?