9 Essential Activities for Your Kids’ Summer Vacation Plan
First, make sure you read the introduction: Parents Take Control of Your Summer – Make the Kids a Summer Vacation Plan. The summer vacation activities below are from most important to least important.
1. Bedtime, wake up time, and alarm clock. Insist on a regular bedtime and wake up time for your kids, no matter if they’re 7 or 17, and make sure they set their alarm clock every night before bed. If you let bedtime go, they’ll start waking up later and later. Before you know it, your children are nocturnal and keep such odd hours that your family isn’t spending time together as a family anymore.
No matter what else you leave out of your summer vacation plan, the most important thing is to make your kids keep regular bedtimes and waking times.
2. Chores. Chores not only help ease mom and dad’s workload in taking care of the household, but they help a child contribute to the everyday operation of the family. As young as toddler age, kids can be given simple chores to do around the house. As young as 6, kids can do their own laundry, sweep, clean their own rooms, and make simple meals like sandwiches.
Remember that chores are teaching your children how to take care of themselves during their adult years. Chores keep kids out of trouble, keep them productive and keep them from being bored. Step it up during the summer and give your kids new chores that are at the next level. For example, kids can learn to menu plan with you or learn more about childcare for a possible babysitting job later on.
3. Eat meals as a family.
Mealtime as a family is a lost art. Ever wonder why teenagers are so hard to communicate with and can barely make intelligent conversation with anyone other than other teens? It all goes back to the decline of family mealtime in recent years. Children learn the art of making conversation from their parents, who are supposed to be old pros at it by now.
Meal time is a perfect opportunity to talk about your day and connect with your kids. One of Jesus’ basic activities was to share a meal with people. The time can be used to recall what we are grateful about from our day, or to talk about what’s going on in our lives that occurs outside of the house. If we can’t take time to gather our whole family to the table to eat a meal, our priorities are seriously out of order.
4. Spiritual time / character development. Grab a kids’ devotional book and assign your kids a short writing assignment each day. If you’re not religious, you may want to require them to do 30 minutes of journaling per day on a topic you provide. Soul searching through writing is a great way for your child to get their thoughts out in the open in a way that they can make sense of them. This will help you to connect with your kids on a deeper level, and hopefully help them work through some of the difficult thought processes that come with adolescence.
5. Family outings / family time. Board game nights, family drives, camping trips, adventure walks, and sight-seeing trips are examples of great family activities that you should make time for. A major flaw of parents is planning kids’ solo activities for summer: baseball, foreign exchange trips, cheerleading practice, drama practice, t-ball, etc.
I’m not saying sports and activities aren’t fun experiences, it’s just that it’s much more crucial for you to draw the line and table these activities during the summer. Make your plans for the entire family, not just 1 or 2 family members. Want closeness in your family that will rival the Brady Bunch? Do things together as much as possible.
6. Education. Keep skills sharp by having review materials for the academics. There are several online study sites that can help, like Time4Learning.com. Or, step out of the box with some non-traditional education. Keep chickens for the summer, or teach your kids a new skill like sewing or woodworking. Keep the brain growing and expanding by continuing to learn over the summer, no matter what subjects you choose to work on.
7. Exercise and play. Remember “Go outside and play” from when we were kids? It works! Kids using imagination to keep themselves entertained (while getting fresh air and exercise) should not be something we just remember from bygone years.
Keep your kids active and outside this summer by requiring them to have outside playtime at least once a day. If the day is especially nice, pack up the kids and drive them to a park or school playground. Even older kids can get outdoors and take a walk, help with yard work, skateboard, rollerblade, or ride bikes.
Rainy day exercise is easy too: use Wii Fit for kids or pop in an exercise DVD made just for kids, like Tae Bo for Kids.
8. Socialization. Put together activities with other families. Invite another family to go camping with you, on a fishing trip, out for breakfast, or something similar. Your kids will benefit from having social time with kids other than their school mates and you will form a bond with your own children by doing fun things with another family.
9. Free time. This is where video games, computer time, talking on the phone, texting, and watching TV and movies fall. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to LIMIT the free time and media time your child gets every day. Set a limit and stick to it. Try setting a “media hour” during which kids can be plugged in while supervised. Never allow your child to choose their own media without your approval. EVER.
Kids are actually better able to relate to real-world activities and other people when they are less plugged in and more engaged in real-life situations. Setting a 1 hour or 2 hour max on media may seem different and strange at first, but you’ll be glad you did.
Putting Your Summer Vacation Plan Together
Now it’s time to put together your wants and needs from the list of essentials above and put into play a summer vacation plan that works for your family. Having some of the basics in writing is a great idea. Post it in a high traffic area in your home, like on the refrigerator, so everyone can see the family’s goals for summer vacation.
Most importantly, go over the new plan as a family and make sure both parents have the same answers for your kids’ questions. Explaining why you’re making these changes as a family, and that you want to put more quality activities into your family’s growth and development, will help kids to get on board and try something a little different. Have a great summer!
We originally published 9 Essential Activities for Your Kids’ Summer Vacation Plan on Home Ever After on May 21, 2010.