Its official, summertime is almost here! How will your kids kick off their break from school? Will it be action packed activities or filled with easy mornings and sleeping in?
Summers look different for each family. Your children may spend their days in formal childcare or home with you; gone weeks visiting out-of-town relatives or at several local day camps. Regardless of how your summers are shaped, finding balance that works for your family is key.
The latest research shows that ample unstructured play is critical for children’s development. Free play helps grow numerous skills like making friends, expanding creativity, learning self-control, problem solving and more. Summer by nature has less structure than the school year and is the perfect opportunity to allow your children unstructured playtime. But what exactly does that mean? Unstructured play, or free play, is open-ended and without directions. For example, building with blocks using your imagination is unstructured while building a Lego set using the instructions is structured. Playing make-believe, inventing games, drawing and running around a backyard or park are all examples of unstructured play.
If you’re like me, unstructured play sounds wonderful – until you hear your child’s dreaded, “I’m booooorrrrrreeed!!!!” Recent studies show a certain amount of boredom has been proven beneficial for children. If they can work through their boredom complaints, they are likely to begin the creative process of learning to entertain themselves.
But weren’t we talking about balance earlier? Yes, having a few planned activities may also be healthy for your kids and your sanity. One of the best ways is to develop a “summer bucket list.” Involve your kids and work together to create a wish list for your summer activities. Think back to your favorite summer memories and try to incorporate your own nostalgia into their summer fun. Here are 25 of our favorite ideas:
- Miniature golf at Sooner Junior.
- Kiddie Park.
- Catch fireflies.
- Explore trails at Osage Hills.
- Summer reading challenge – with the library or make up your own at home!
- Flashlight tag.
- Play in the sprinkler.
- Ride a bike, scooter or skateboard around the neighborhood.
- Bubbles or sidewalk chalk.
- Watch the stars come out.
- Local pools or splash pad.
- A Pathfinder nature walk.
- Build a blanket fort.
- Water balloon/water gun fight.
- Make homemade ice cream, lemonade or s’mores.
- Movie night in the backyard. Find a projector and a sheet, pop some popcorn and you’ll be all set!
- Plant a garden.
- Backyard camp out. Pitch a tent or sleep under the stars on your trampoline.
- Have a living room dance party. Add a disco ball and flashing lights for bonus points with your kids.
- Create homemade cards to send to grandparents or out of town family and friends.
- Master a new skill . . . learn an instrument, an art technique or magic tricks.
- Visit the zoo.
- Pay it forward. Find a fun way to do something nice for someone in your home, neighborhood, church or community!
Type up your list or let your kids draw it on a poster and hang it in the hallway. You might even roll the dice to pick a fun activity or two each week. Whatever summer fun you put on your bucket list, remember to balance it with a little summer learning, some unstructured free time and then have a blast.