Every year, kids go on summer break. And many of us, especially many kids, see summer as a time celebrate the freedom of being a kid. Others understand the reality of summertime isn’t always so rosy for some kids. There are some key areas where summer falls short when it comes to helping our kids grow up healthy, strong, and capable.
For example, learning all but stops for most kids in summer. And that’s where the forgetting starts. As does the need to spend lots of time playing catch up when school resumes. Lots of kids just don’t have chances to learn or to experience positive, enriching activities during the summer. They wind up losing ground academically and developmentally, creating knowledge gaps that grow year after year.
For many kids, summer also means healthy meals (or sometimes even any kind of meals) are scarce. Lots of families who depend on school meals during the school year don’t or can’t get healthy and reliable alternatives in place for the summer. Even the best intentioned of hard working parents will find it difficult to be sure their kids are fed well over the summer months.
Additionally, caring adults are often not as present in summer for many kids. That means lots of them are without positive role models for much of their time, putting them at risk of a whole range of issues from too much screen time to far more troubling problems, like bullying or substance abuse and more.
Other summer time dilemmas include not being able to find that summer job a kid really wants or needs. Or lacking access to a safe place to exercise or play.
So, what’s to be done? Recognizing the potential pitfalls summertime is the first step. Then, it takes someone taking responsibility. Parents, older siblings, grandparents, neighbors, friends, and more can each take steps to fill some of these gaps in children’s lives June through August. Here are a few ideas to start with:
- Take some kids on a nature hike. Start with your own, but don’t forget to invite their friends. We not only have some great trails in our area but also a powerful device in almost everyone’s pocket (your smart phone) to help make your venture outside a richer learning experience. If you use your phone at all on your hike, use it to look up facts on the flowers, trees, birds, and animals you encounter around you.
- Visit your public library. Platteville has a brand new one just open, making it the perfect excuse to go check things out. Literally, check them out and take home some books to read.
- Take some time on the weekend to plan a week’s worth of meals. Then, prepare some appropriate, ready-made options for your kids to enjoy when you’re not around. There are lots of resources online where you can find nutritious, easy-to-make ideas. Or, find them at the local library.
- Get busy with the local food bank. Platteville’s food pantry is on Facebook at facebook.com/plattevillefoodpantry/. Or, call them at 608-778-8572. Donating, volunteering, and advocating are all options to get involved.
- This Thursday, July 13th is Summer Learning Day and the perfect pretext to introduce learning opportunities among kids you know. But, don’t let it end on July 14th. Start talking now about what you and others can do, and keep the interest in learning alive all summer long.
- Start a summer reading club. Collect some books at home, and invite your kids’ friends to join, too.
- Turn off the tube, and begin a new family tradition. Maybe a story night once a week, giving you a chance to invent some tall tales and stretch the minds and imaginations of the young people around you. Without the Hollywood special effects.
- Be the person you want your kids (and everyone’s kids) to be. YOU are a powerful influence, and what you model makes a difference. If your home is one that sets the example of getting involved, using imaginations, being active and engaged and inquisitive, the children around you will find some of that in themselves, too. That’s just the way it is. Challenge yourself to remain active and alert in the evenings. Put down your phone and turn off the TV. Instead, paint, write, read, play, and go outside.
Keep looking for those teachable moments. Be intentional. Set aside some time to be present with your kids as a nurturing adult role model in their lives. With less structure in summer for children, you might even find there’s more time for you to help them grow and learn all summer long.