Awards ceremonies, field days, and warmer weather can only mean one thing… Summer has officially arrived!  Summer break has a tendency to create a flurry of emotions for children and parents. Some see it as a time to rest and catch up on sleep; others may see it as a time to take vacations and visit family; while others cannot erase the fact that their child will be in their care ALL DAY/EVERYDAY for the next two to three months!

Come on, be honest… which category do you fit in?

Summer break is a stressful time!  While most parents are excited to spend time with their children, many also struggle with ways to keep their children entertained and busy without breaking the bank.

Sound familiar?

Boredom can create serious issues for some children.  While some are capable of sitting, listening, and not talking for extended periods of time, others are not so lucky!  For these children, boredom has the ability to create silly and/or acting out behaviors.

In turn, these behaviors can lead to warnings, redirection, and possibly consequences if the behavior isn’t corrected; therefore, to keep the children ENTERTAINED and BUSY and the parents HAPPY and SANE, I thought I would offer some ideas for low-cost Summer activities.

Along with being low-cost and fun, the activities I’ve selected below also work to strengthen mental health-related issues!  The best part?  You’re already doing most of them!

Low-cost + Improved Mental Health = SCORE

  1. Creating Art – Coloring, drawing, and painting have numerous benefits. First of all, who doesn’t like to color? Art is fun for all ages and has no limits; it allows expression of feelings, improves symptoms of stress, serves as a distraction, clears the mind, and creates a sense of accomplishment.  Children aren’t the only ones that can benefit here!  Be sure to take care of your own mental health this Summer, as well.  Adult coloring books have become extremely popular.  Research has shown them to be effective in reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  2. Playing Legos – Have you heard of Lego Therapy? If a therapist works with children, you can almost bet you will find Legos in their office.  Children love playing with Legos!  Legos are in most households and serve as effective tools in building social, cognitive, and motor skills. They allow children to clear their mind, focus, build, and create, again, with no limits!   If children choose to follow an instruction book to create an animal or plane, they are then required to pay attention to detail and follow instructions.
  3. Playing at Parks and Playgrounds – Parks and playgrounds not only allow children to run around and burn energy but provide great opportunities to interact and socialize with other children, as well.  These are great resources especially if you have only one child at home.  Interacting with other children will help to strengthen social skills, communication skills, problem-solving skills, and conflict-resolution.
  4. Riding Bikes – Exercise, Exercise, Exercise. Physical exercise has so many health and mental health benefits.  Studies have demonstrated the positive effects exercise can have on mental health-related issues, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.  If you don’t have a bike, feel free to replace with any other type of physical exercise, including soccer, basketball, swimming, or tag in the front yard.
  5. Playing Board Games – Board games are a great opportunity to get the family together and partake in a little family bonding! While this in itself is a plus, some board games can also improve social skills, academics, and cognitive abilities.  Monopoly, for instance, has all of the above benefits.  It allows children to practice important social skills, such as taking turns, waiting, communicating with others, and experiencing feelings associated with winning vs. losing; all of these benefits while, also, strengthening focus, attention, forecasting, strategizing, brainstorming, and Math skills.
  6. Play-doh/Slime – Both so simple yet so effective and loved by most children. Play-doh and slime are great tools for children; especially so for those who love sensory play!  There is something about rolling it in your hands, squeezing it through your fingers, and smashing it on the table.  Can you tell I do this often?  Play-doh and slime can serve as great calming and relaxation tools for children.  During play, children are able to clear their mind, create structures, and practice muscle relaxation!
  7. Baking/Cooking – I can see so many benefits here. Have you noticed all that goes into baking a dessert, much less cooking an entire meal?  These instances are great opportunities to spend time with your children, teach them some of your family recipes, and get a little help in the kitchen!  The need to communicate, follow directions, learn exact measurements, and pay attention to detail ensure these experiences to be great learning tools for children.

The best thing about the majority of these activities??  Most items are ALREADY in your home!

The most important thing to remember in all of this is to really be present with your child.  Studies conducted on American and British families have shown that the average family spends less than 40 minutes of UNDISTRACTED time together per day during the week due to electronics and hectic schedules.

Take this opportunity to spend quality time together without the distractions of all the electronics in our lives.  For this time, put away all phones, ipads, and laptops and catch up with your child!

Now go out and make some memories!

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