“School’s out for summer!”
That notorious verse by Alice Cooper brings with it thoughts of all the possibilities 10 sunlit hours brings. Aside from no schedules, studying and homework, summer means many wonderful days of hanging out at home.
The Challenge of those Wonderful Long Summer Days
Along with the fun of summer comes a bit of angst for parents. There lies ahead the challenge of keeping the kids busy and fending off boredom and bickering while all the while resisting the urge to stare at screens. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that kids shouldn’t have any screen time. The challenge is how to fill it with more hours of the day doing something else, preferably outdoors. If you have a game plan for each day, it will be easier to keep the day full with fun, quality activities. As a result, children will reap the many benefits of spending time in nature, and you will be able to carve out some time for yourself in the process.
The Plan for Success
- Turn it off – Yes, turn the damn thing off! Neither your children nor you need it. Do yourself and your family a favor and stop the constant glow. Create rules that limit them to a reasonable amount of time. This link can give you information to help you determine what amount of time is best for your family
- Write a plan – Ok, now sit down and figure out what you want to do this summer. It’s not about all those projects you have been meaning to finish. It is about developing a family outdoor fun plan. List all the activities (camping, biking, hiking, swimming, picnicking, etc., etc.), you would like to do and all the places you would like to go and see.
- Set goals – Determine how many activities and or/day trips you want to do each day or week
- Develop a schedule – Put your goals into a daily schedule. This will help keep you focused and prevent the urge to turn on the TV or another screen. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your summer calendar will fill up once you start filling in the days. Plus, you and the kids will have something to look forward to all summer. ***Added bonus, your children will appreciate having a schedule as it will help thwart the boredom bug. Plus, they can help stick with the plan.
- Be prepared – There are two ways to be prepared. First, you will hear the inevitable complaints about not wanting to do the planned activities for all the typical reasons (I don’t feel like it, it’s boring, so-and-so doesn’t have to do all this stupid stuff, I’m too tired, etc., etc.). If you are prepared for the complaints, you will be better able to ignore them. Second, if you have everything organized for the activity the night before, you’ll be ready to go and won’t waste time in the morning trying to prepare and then give up because you feel like it’s too late and there are other things you could be doing.
- Let It Go – Don’t worry so much about what’s not getting done and try to remember that your children are only young once and that summer provides a precious opportunity to spend quality time with them. Plus, you will notice over time that because they have had exercise, were able to breathe fresh air, felt the freedom that being in nature brings, had your undivided attention for a solid block of time and, as my dad says, “had the stink blown off of them,” they will be more willing to play independently and give you some time to yourself.
- Go Outside – Even if it is as simple as digging in the dirt, drawing with driveway chalk, or lying on a blanket in the yard and watching for and listening to the birds, just get out there!
- Enjoy – Yes, enjoy all the benefits of connecting your kids to nature while creating wonderful family memories.
Are you with me?
Writer’s Note – Inevitably some of my reader’s will have the opinion that summer is a time to do away with schedules and take a break from the planning and scheduling. I do not disagree. However, planning to BE OUTSIDE is very different than planning for the school year and all the activities and expectations it brings. The purpose of my 8-Step Plan is to provide parents with a strategy for breaking the screen habit and creating a new, healthier one. Experts say it takes 21 days to break an old habit and adopt a new one, so this cannot be accomplished without a serious plan of attack. Once you do it, you will find you can ease up on the plan because being outside will become a normal part of your life.