The Importance of Summer Downtime

child on the beachRemember the long days of summer of your youth?  Days spent chasing butterflies and digging in the sand until the sun began to set were not just the norm, they were to be expected.  Sadly, those days are gone. 

It seems as if there is a camp for every interest these days, and many kids hop from camp to camp for eight weeks straight beginning just days after school lets out.  While camp can be a great experience for kids and can fill a much-needed childcare void during the summer months, it is also important to make sure that kids have some downtime during the summer months.

Kids are under fairly intense pressure in school.  The expectations are higher than ever before and, as a result, many kids feel stressed and anxious during the school year.

Long story short:  Kids need a break.

While parents everywhere dread hearing the two most feared words in parenting, “I’m bored”, what we tend to overlook is that kids today don’t necessarily know how to relax.  Downtime can feel boring when you spend nine months straight working hard and running from activity to activity, but it can also help kids de-stress and prepare for the next year.

It’s up to us to teach our kids how to appreciate the gift of slowing down.

Try one of these strategies to help your kids to slow down:

Bring art outdoors:

Most young children enjoy some form of art (there are so many choices, after all), and when you switch things up and try a little art in a different environment, it can really prove a fun but relaxing experience. 

Bring the paints and painting equipment out to the yard and encourage your kids to simply create.  Bring clay to the beach and watch ocean-inspired creatures emerge.  Pack up some pastels and head to the nearest public garden.  You get the point.  Get out and relax.

Read outside:

The beauty of summer is that kids can be outside most of the day every day.  But that doesn’t mean that they have to be over-stimulated and moving from activity to activity.  Weather resistant beanbag chairs and some homemade lemonade can set the stage for an afternoon of getting lost in a great book. 

If you build it (and model it), they will come.

Build (quietly):

You know those moments when you find yourself mesmerized by your child building a Lego project of his own creation?  A calm seems to replace the normal business that surrounds while your child is hard at work.  Building can be both engaging and calming for kids.

Get out the Legos, Magnatiles, wooden blocks, and Lincoln Logs and just start building.  Work together to get started, then pull back and watch your child get lost in relaxation.

Rely on music:

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Music can be a great distraction for kids, and has a tendency to inspire some great dance parties.  But music can be very relaxing for kids as well.  Break out of the kid pop mold and expose your kids to some less intense music.  Finding the right mix for each child is all about trial and error. 

Share your go-to relaxation songs and teach your child the power of lying down on the bed and simply listening.

How do you make sure that your kids get enough downtime over the summer?

 

Image via Katie Hurley

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The Importance of Summer Downtime

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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