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By Jordan Beach, LSW – May 28, 2019

Summer vacation is here! If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start planning summer activities for your children.

We perceive summer to be a laid back, more relaxed time, but parents know this is actually a time that requires a lot of forethought. With more hours of the day becoming your responsibility, the pressure to find fun, enriching activities is definitely on.

Have you resolved to limit your child’s screen time this summer? If so, great!  But now how will you fill their time? You don’t have to be a Pinterest-perfect parent to create a memorable summer for your children.

Summer camps are the obvious first option, but they can be pricey. There are summer camps and programs offered all over the area that range in price and provide children with ample opportunity to have new experiences.

Camps are also helpful for working parents. However, keep in mind that this option comes with a price tag that might not be reasonable for your family.

There are a lot of ways to have fun and create memories for your children at home without spending a lot of money. If you’re looking to have more of a “Do-it-Yourself” summer with your children, there are a lot of options to spark their creativity and nurture their imaginations in your own backyard.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Build a fort. A fort can be left up for days. All you need is chairs, blankets and a little imagination. This can be used as a reading nook or expanded into imaginative play for younger children.
  • Create a breakout session in your house. There are many ideas online that can help you design an escape room for your kids. This is a good way to mix in some academics with the fun. Topics range from math to conflict resolution. Your options are really limitless.
  • Put all of those Amazon boxes to good use. Cardboard boxes are gold in the world of imaginative play. You can create a living room “drive-in” where your kids sit in the cars they’ve designed while watching a movie or reading a book. You can make instruments using cardboard and rubber bands. Also, free drawing on boxes with markers or paint always seems to be a good time for little ones.
  • Help your kids expand their culinary skills. Let them pick out recipes and help you shop for the ingredients. This is a great activity to help your child become creative in the kitchen while also teaching them planning and budgeting.
  • Go for the classics – water balloon fights, running through the sprinkler, washing the car. It gets hot in Indiana during the summer months, so cool off in fun ways!

This is in no way an exhaustive list of summer activities. A little creativity and planning can really help you and your children stay busy while bonding this summer.

Summer fun

By Dena Embrey, LCSW, Courier & Press, June 7, 2016 –

Summer break is here, and families often look forward to sleeping in and not rushing through the morning routine. Maybe you have a vacation planned, or your child is looking forward to summer camp.

For families with school-aged children, making the transition from the highly structured routine of the school year to the relaxed feel of summer can be difficult. Before too long you start to hear those dreaded words, “I’m bored,” or “There’s nothing to do.” Soon siblings start fighting and everyone’s stress levels go up.

Planning ahead and keeping a schedule can help you avoid this being your summer reality. A schedule brings order to your days, giving your child needed structure and reducing anxiety.

It’s good to have set times for waking up, meals, chores and preferred activities. Display your daily schedule for the whole family to see and review together. Include your children in the process, letting them have some say in what activities are included.

As a parent, you have to be prepared for unexpected changes and those days when things just don’t go as planned. Rainy days, illnesses or canceled play dates will inevitably get in the way. Having a list of fun ways to engage your children as a backup plan could be a life saver.

Here are some activities you may want to include on your list:

1. Go outside to play and explore. You can keep it as simple as taking a bike ride, blowing bubbles, visiting a playground, watering the garden or taking a walk around the neighborhood.

2. Go on a hike at a nearby park.

3. Plan an outdoor scavenger hunt and create a scrapbook of everything you find.

4. Visit a nature preserve and get a guided tour.

5. Set up a tent in your backyard and camp out with a bonfire, s’mores and stargazing.

6. Go old school and teach your kids some of your favorite childhood games. Hide and seek, monkey in the middle and tag are always good go-to games.

7. Look through old photos and compare your child’s baby pictures and your own or create a family tree together.

8. Spend some time in the kitchen making old family recipes.

9. Work a puzzle or build a fort out of blankets and cushions.

10. Get creative with your kids by busting out the play dough (or make your own).

11. Use sidewalk chalk to make an outdoor mural.

12. Create art using only materials found in your recycling.

13. Write and illustrate a story together, or turn your favorite book into a play, acting it out with costumes and all.

14. Have a family talent show or karaoke party.

15. Do something nice for someone else — visit a nursing home or elderly person and read to them. Plan and prepare a meal for a family who is going through a difficult              time, pick up trash at a local park or volunteer at an animal shelter.

16. Go through old clothes and toys and donate items no longer needed. Take lemonade and cookies to your local fire station.

Following a schedule during the summer teaches children time management, responsibility and organization, all healthy life skills. How loose or rigid your schedule needs to be will depend on your family’s needs. Finding the right balance of structure and relaxation will help create the peaceful and fun summer your family deserves.