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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Secrets to Summer Success: Giving Youngsters the Vacation They Need

May 30, 2024 06:23AM ● By Thais Harris, BCHN
a group of kids running in the summertime

Robert Kneschke

For elementary school-aged kids, summer represents the promise of no homework and a whole lot of fun, but parents may be less enthusiastic. Figuring out how to keep children entertained, active and engaged while juggling work and household responsibilities, vacation schedules or camp sign-ups can be a little daunting. 

Here are some suggestions for the best summer ever—one that combines playtime, nature encounters and fun with chores, rest and time to daydream. This holistic approach encourages a balance of physical, emotional and creative development so that children can enjoy a sense of spaciousness and possibility during the summer, feeling refreshed and ready for school when it resumes.


Jumping Joy

Summer can be a perfect time to boost connection without having to plan something extra-special, like a trip or a fancy outing, says Caroline Griswold, a parenting coach and founder of Fertile Ground Parenting. She notes that kids are better able to appreciate parental attention and care when they see that their mom or dad is present and relaxed.

One way to promote free-flowing connection is by being playful or acting goofy with children, Griswold suggests. Such carefree playfulness sends a strong message that all is well, and that we find our kids irresistibly delightful. If our goofiness makes the kids laugh, even better, because laughter can help residual tensions of the school year float away, making kids emotionally and mentally available for summer relaxation and fun.

“Play more music, especially if it makes everyone want to dance,” Griswold remarks. “When you dance, get goofy! If your kids laugh at you or roll their eyes, you’re on the right track. Our kids love to see us feeling relaxed and silly and might just join in.” Playing silly games is another winning option. Griswold recommends what she calls the “sock fight”, where family members put on socks and sit in a circle with their legs facing inward. The object of the game is to try to remove the socks off everyone else. “Hilarity ensues,” she promises.


Relishing Rest

It is important to encourage kids to take a break from the constant stimulation of screens and social media. This will help them recharge and reduce stress. “Unstructured playtime is crucial for children to develop creativity and problem-solving skills,” says Dr. Michael Rich, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital. Such free time enables kids to explore their interests at their own pace. 

“Mom, I’m bored,” are not words we often welcome, but there is an increased opportunity for creativity that arises out of boredom, according to a 2014 UK study at the University of Central Lancashire. Allowing a little of it for our kids can make them more open to discovery and inspiration.


Craving Creativity

Activities that provide an outlet for self-expression, physical experience and emotional release while also advancing a child’s intellect can support harmony and balance in our children, says Joseph Cooney, a family doctor at Berkshire Center for Whole Health, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Motor skill mastery and practicing dexterity through artistry and creativity is highly beneficial for the intellectual unfolding of children, nurturing their whole body and mind, he explains. Examples include playing with blocks, building structures, drawing, painting or fiddling with magnets.


Nurturing Nature

Getting outside is a must for summering kids. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “There is increasing evidence that outdoor play environments containing natural elements may offer health benefits that come specifically from engaging in the natural world. Recent studies have demonstrated that a broad range of outcomes are related to access to, and contact with, nature, including increased physical activity, reduced obesity, decreased stress and improved mental health.”

study published in Journal of Attention Disorders reported that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorderwere able to concentrate better after taking a 20-minute walk in the park. Integrating outdoor activities like hiking or swimming can provide a refreshing break from indoor routines. For an even more immersive experience, outdoor treasure hunts or building a fairy-house with items found in nature can transform natural settings into playgrounds of make-believe and connect kids to the wondrous life forms they encounter.


Making Magic

By embracing a holistic approach, we can provide children with a summer experience that not only entertains, but also nurtures their physical, emotional and mental well-being. The secret to summer magic is to boost nonsensical energy at home, encourage unstructured playtime, integrate outdoor activities, foster creative endeavors and remember to allow for plenty of leisure.  

Thais Harris is a holistic nutritionist, bestselling author and international speaker, helping women and families nourish themselves into a more fulfilling life through holistic nutrition, mindful lifestyle practices and functional-medicine strategies.