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Keeping Kids Engaged During Summer

Another wild weather week here in Omaha. Our clinic was without power for a few hours on the day of the storm. Boy was I impressed with the positive attitude of our patients who not only braved the storm to make it in for their appointments, but made it through those appointments by the warm glow of emergency lighting and flashlights. That dedication to wellness is awesome and inspiring!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about scary weather and how to help our kids. Even though we had some scary weather earlier this week, this blog, while still about our kids, is more about how they are spending their summer. Summertime can be challenging for parents who, whether they are stay-at-home parents or working parents, need to make sure their kids are staying engaged in age-appropriate activities. Summertime can pose new challenges for families because the routine and structure of the school year is not on the radar. Since children (and adults) thrive in structure and routines that are age appropriate and skill building, it’s a good idea to have some ideas as to how to best manage the “downtime” of summertime.

Discussing this blog with my colleagues here at the clinic, I got some great suggestions for activities in the Omaha area that I want to share with you:

  • Reading clubs at the public libraries
  • Swimming lessons
  • Day camp
  • Vacation Bible Studies

One of the BIG ideas I consistently heard about was to encourage our kids to GET OUTSIDE AND PLAY! Several comments from colleagues included turning off the TV, putting down the iPad, cell phone, or other technology and getting outside – jump rope, play tag, or ride bikes.

On rainy days, when you can’t get outside:

  • Practice learning a foreign language.
  • Read a book.
  • Create an indoor treasure hunt.
  • Bake cookies or try cooking a new dish.

ParentFurther suggests a “gentle nudge” to kids of all ages to get creative with their time away from classroom activities. “Of course,” ParentFurther also states, “that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave a list of chores on the kitchen table.” UGH! The dreaded “chore list”! But it’s actually a great idea, since kids also need to participate as family members and share in the responsibilities of the household.

For kids with or without mental health issues, staying in some type of routine – even during the summer – is important. recently wrote about kids, anxiety and summer. They report that anxiety can become more apparent during summer because of the lack of a consistent routine, compared to the school year. This website suggests that, “…participation in a sport, a camp or other club, volunteer activity, or a job” can benefit the anxious child. The website also offers that, “Kids do better when they are part of something … they are happier (and) less restless” when there is a plan and they are part of the plan.

This structure, or routine, for our kids can have a nice payoff for parents too. Parents can feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that their kids are not just sitting around bored, waiting for school to start – but instead, keeping their brains and bodies engaged in meaningful, age-appropriate activities that help them discover new things about themselves and their world, grow in confidence, and have fun doing it.

Obviously, these are only a few ideas. I’d really like to hear/read your ideas on what you and your family are doing this summer! I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Williams, LIMHP
Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

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