Six tips for a smooth summer with your children

Plan ahead to avoid summertime chaos at home.

Keep safety in mind during outdoor play.
Keep safety in mind during outdoor play.

The weather is warming up and schools around Michigan are starting to wrap up the school year. The days are long, the weather warm, the kids are unscheduled and will quickly begin to create trouble at home. Many parents are wondering how to best structure their summer for success. Michigan State University Extension offers these six tips for a smooth and successful summer.

1. Maintain a schedule

Children do better with routine and predictability. This doesn’t mean you can’t stay up late to watch a movie on Friday night, or sleep in and enjoy a lazy morning. However, the predictable routine of the day provides security and comfort to children. Set up a summer schedule with your children. Create a routine: Monday is library day, Tuesday is errands, Wednesday is the park, etc. Consider creating a schedule – with pictures for younger children – for your children to follow. This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but will make your days flow more smoothly. An example might be: breakfast, TV time, outside play, snack, lunch, quiet rest and reading time, outside play, snack, etc.

2. Limit screen time

As tempting as it can be to let children cool off in the air conditioning in front of the television, studies have shown that an excess of screen time contributes to children’s lack of attention span, obesity, difficulty sleeping and aggressive behavior. Remember that time on any and all electronic devices – tablets, televisions, computers and hand-held electronics – counts as screen time. Set a limit and stick to it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time at all for children under two and no more than one to two hours a day for older children. Furthermore, the AAP recommends parents establish “screen-free zones” by turning off the television and all devices at the dinner table and not allowing televisions, computers, tablets and video games in children’s bedrooms.

3. Read

Did you know children who do not read in summer can lose up to three months of reading progress and start school in the fall further behind than where they left at the end of the year? However, children who participate in summer reading programs have been found to make gains in their reading achievement during summer months. Sign up for your local public library’s summer reading program. Make weekly trips to the library a summertime priority. Let children read books on topics they find interesting. Download audio books for long car rides – and while you are getting the kids’ books, don’t forget to pick up a few for you too! Reading in front of your children is a great way to demonstrate the value you place on reading.

4. Stay active

Encourage children to spend time outside during summer. Build a tree fort, play in the sand, go bike riding or go for a walk. Visit one of Michigan’s many state parks and forests. Did you know there are more than 3,200 miles of shoreline in Michigan? Go on an adventure to find your perfect beach and watch your children build sand castles and splash in the waves. Experts recommend 60 minutes a day of physical activity for optimal health. Join in on the fun and bike, hike, swim, climb and run with your children this summer! Get a Michigan Activity Pass at your local library (or print them from home) and gain free entrance to hundreds of Michigan’s beaches, parks and forests as well as cultural attractions such as museums.

5. Chores and responsibilities

Even children as young as two and three can contribute to household responsibilities! Assign your children daily and weekly chores according to their age and developmental abilities. Making their bed, tidying up, setting the table, feeding pets, etc., will help your children learn responsibility. Avoid the temptation to “fix” what they’ve done after the fact and instead teach them how to accomplish the task and enjoy their own successes. Wondering what your child can do? The Center for Social Emotional Learning offers some great tips in their handout, “Teaching Your Child to Become Independent with Daily Routines.”

6. Keep safety in mind

Summer brings a lot of fun, outdoor experiences, but the risk of accidental injury increases. Be sure to keep sunscreen on your children during outdoor play. Stay well hydrated. Carefully supervise children during water play. Wear helmets when biking and riding scooters or skateboards. Always properly restrain children in the car – do not be tempted to skip car seats and booster seats when on vacation. Remember to be cautious to prevent heatstroke, look before you lock and never leave your child unattended in a vehicle. Find more information about these safety topics and others at Safe Kids USA.

Take time to plan ahead for a successful summer with your children! Include your children in creating their summer plans. Find out what they would like to do and schedule in their desired activities. Keep safety in mind and expect your children to contribute. Working together, you can help ensure everyone has a great summer!

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