Children, more than ever, need downtime. Just like the changing of the seasons, our children’s internal clocks require a shift from schedules, homework, and screen time to enjoy the lazy days of summer and all that they offer.
Our bodies are more relaxed with the warmer days and increased daylight—all conducive to enjoying more outside time and new freedoms. Consider letting your children sleep according to their natural rhythms and wake up when their bodies tell them to, not by an alarm. Children generally need 10 to 12 hours of sleep, but few get this during the school year. If your children go to camp, select one that starts a little later than the school day.
If your children are spending more time with you this summer, here are some peaceful activities that you might consider:
Encourage your children to walk, whenever possible, and to use the bus, so that even walking to the bus stop is a change in pace. Visiting a new park every week can be a fun adventure in the city, because your children can see that each neighborhood has its own distinct personality.
Make it possible for your children to have unscheduled time to daydream, draw, watercolor, or take an art class. Nurturing hobbies and interests helps to bring out new dimensions to their personalities and, perhaps, allows them to make new friends. Art not only uses different areas of the brain—working in clay, paints, and other media challenges children to think in new ways—but it also proves therapeutic and soothing.
Explore farmers’ markets and teach children about where different foods come from in our vast agricultural state. Plant a garden in the early spring, or in containers or in a community garden, so that your children learn to care for something. It is rewarding for children to see grow something that they nurtured with their very own hands. Watering and weeding and other slow-motion activities allow them to be one with nature and to focus unhurriedly on one task.
Speaking of foods, change the backdrop where you eat dinner. Go to a park or to a beach and let children enjoy open spaces with a friend or family member before and after the meal. This could be a weekly event to organize as a family, allowing each person a turn to plan the menu, shop for the food, and contribute in its preparation. It shows children that while meals take time to plan, they can also be fun to execute.
Pick a long chapter book to read from every night as a family, encouraging your children to take a turn at expressing themselves through storytelling. In addition, consider acting out plays or puppet shows, which enable children to use their imaginations and be active participants.
More than anything, enjoy the season together and, whenever possible, find ways to break with routine. And don’t forget to capture the night sky while dripping in watermelon juice …. the magic of the season is upon us.