Summer comes and we can hardly wait for the lazy days of river floating, picnics in the park, and sleeping under the stars. Yet, we quickly realize that while these may happen at certain times during June, July, and August, summer is also full of sibling squabbles, too much screen time, and bored children.
In the absence of the school day structure, we sometimes flounder through our summer days. I’ve tried several methods of fixing this problem. Over the past couple of years we did one of these Pinterest-popular “No Screen Time Until” charts:
It kind of worked. But it also was a little limiting. I felt like the boundaries around it were too tight. What if we didn’t want to do Spanish that day? We could use our brains in other ways. Or what if instead of Bible time, we went on a hike and talked about God’s creation and had some time of silence? This is just as spiritual as a daily devotional time.
As I thought about what I really wanted my kids to do everyday in the summer, I came up with four main elements: Work, Think, Move & Play.
Simple, clear, and flexible. If we could do each of these every day in some form, summer would feel like a win. ALL of these elements are important for the healthy development of our people. And not just for kids! These are important for us as parents as well. How can we, as parents, cultivate these four areas in our own life as well?
We are all meant to have purpose and be productive. Whether we are paid for our work or not, it is an important part of life that gives us satisfaction, makes us feel useful, and develops our skills and talents. Kids can work in all kinds of ways – from jobs around the house, to outdoor labor, to tasks that need to be done.
Summer can be a dumbing down time for school aged students. It’s important to keep their brains engaged, and we can do this creatively. These months can be an opportunity to engage our children in ways that go beyond the classroom. Use nature as textbooks, and their gifts as opportunities for learning (ie. art, music, photography, or engineering). They don’t always get to choose what they study in school, so this is great chance for them to get to learn on their own terms.
I also see spiritual formation being a part of “think,” though it can also be found through the other elements as well. As we learn and grow in the knowledge of God and the Bible during the summer, this is engaging our brains and our hearts all at once. The mind and the heart – they work in tandem!
With the extra time available in summer months, there is more time to get outside and exercise. Screen time goes up significantly in the summer, so I encourage you to put a limit on how much time kids are allowed to be on their devices (our pact is a great app for tracking this daily). When screen time is monitored, kids will be more likely to get outside and shoot hoops, join in a kickball game, or ride their bikes. Encourage exercise as a daily part of a healthy lifestyle.
Play is the language that all kids speak. While this comes naturally to most children, adults have to remember to incorporate this into their daily life. Play builds relationships and ties heart strings together. We are wise to put as much time and investment into play as into these other areas. When people feel connected, they are often more apt to open up and share what is going on in their lives. Play can lead to significant conversations and deeper relationships. It’s that important!
Kids will love their summer if play is a central element. Prioritize it daily!
Download a PDF HERE ————> Summer Work.Think.Move.PlayPDF
I hope these four elements help your family to have a star-gazing, pond jumping, skill building, mind enriching, healthy summer!