Summer is a favorite time of year for many children. There’s no school to keep them from doing what it is they really want to do.

Then there’s you. Mom. Destroyer of plans for a completely lazy summer in front of the computer and television screens. Evil laugh needed here.

Mom. Destroyer
of plans for a completely lazy summer

Not all kids want to laze around the house all summer, but it’s easy for that to happen. They have so much more time to watch favorite shows and play favorite games that they don’t really think about what else they could be doing. That’s where planning for the summer comes in.

Make sure you involve your kids appropriately in your plans for their summer. The older they are, the more effort they should be putting into figuring these things out. You want summer activities to be fun for the kids without running you completely ragged.

1. Turn off the TV and computer.

This is the easiest way to get the kids doing something more than watching TV or playing on the computer. Tell them it’s time for the machines to be off. Include any relevant laptop or handheld electronic devices.

Tell them to find something else to do. You don’t have to order them outside – I personally have no problem with my kids deciding to go read a book when I say “screens off,” so long as they’re still spending enough other time being active or doing things.

2. Enroll them in activities they enjoy.

Not all activities have to be organized team sports. Let’s face it, that doesn’t suit everyone.

Enrolling the kids in activities helps them to find what really interests them.

It takes time out of your day to take kids to activities when they’re too young to get themselves places, but it’s worth it. You’re helping them to develop interests that they may keep for a lifetime or drop in a couple of months. Either way, you’re helping your kids figure out what they love to do.

The hard part is when kids decide to drop an activity part way through when you’ve paid for the whole thing. You have to think about how you’re going to deal with that. Is it acceptable to you?

Sometimes it should be. Sometimes it shouldn’t. Pay attention to the situation and decide which way it should go. Is the better lesson to push on despite problems or is it to find something your child truly loves?

Around here, swimming lessons are a must each and every summer. My inlaws have a pool, so water safety is an absolute must. It won’t ever matter if my kids hate swimming lessons – they will take them until they are highly competent swimmers. That’s the best I can do to keep them safe with access to a pool when they visit their grandparents. Good thing they love swimming lessons for now.

3. Where are the neighborhood kids?

My kids love to play with the neighborhood kids. They run out just about every day to see who’s free to play. I won’t tell you how often the answer is “no one.” It gets kind of depressing at times.

It’s wonderful for kids to have friends all around the neighborhood to play with. Get to know the families in your area. See who is willing to have your kids over or send theirs over to you. Agree that playtime is not TV time.

Playing with
other kids is
great for social development.

Playing with other kids is great for social development. I don’t worry too much about if play with neighborhood kids is active or sitting around playing with toys or just talking. It leans toward active so far, but a big point of it is that the kids are interacting with each other.

The great part about getting to know the neighborhood kids is that it means they’re all safer to play out front, where they can have more space to roam. So many parents have exaggerated fears of kidnapping, but a group of kids is safer than a solitary child out playing… and that solitary child is very safe in most areas.

Judge by where you live, of course, as some places are less safe than others. But don’t let the media tell you to be afraid to let your kids do things you probably did yourself and that were mostly safe. It’s amazingly good for their confidence to do things without adults hovering.

4. Be active yourself.

If all you do is sit in front of a screen all day, why should your kids be any different? Get active yourself and involve the kids. Go on family walks and hikes. Kick or throw a ball around. Play tag.

Not only is this setting a great example for the kids, but it’s a good break for you. If you work at home, you need the time away from your work. It refreshes your mind and may help you to be more productive.

Besides, so many of us mope about wanting to be more active. Get your kids expecting you to play with them and you won’t have much of a choice.