Keeping Kids Engaged Over Summer

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Keeping Kids Engaged Over Summer I was asked to write this blog post at the beginning of the summer. Actually, probably before that. Before the school year even ended. You know, back when I had all these great plans for adventures with my four kids. Taking them all over to help spark their interests and make sure they’re staying away from the dreaded screen. Okay, so let’s be honest: it’s July 15, and we have done maybe half of what I had planned. I have four kids. Daughters ages 13, 11, 9, and a son who is 7. I’m also a first grade teacher. People seem to think I’m some kind of expert on parenting. I am completely flattered, but (surprise) I’m not. I can tell you that I work really hard to make sure that I learn a lot about kids and try to apply my knowledge to my own kids. So I was a little shocked and very excited when I was asked to write about how to keep kids engaged over the summer. So, with that said, let’s talk about engagement and kids. I know for absolute certainty that I cannot in any way keep kids away from the screen. My 13 year old has a phone, my two middle girls have I-Pods, and my youngest has an Amazon Fire. Technology is a piece of our world today. That’s a fact. We will never get away from it. So, instead, we need to make sure we are embracing it, while being cautious of its addictive nature. I also know that in no way can I be as exciting as that screen. Having taught online for several weeks, I had to really amp up my energy to appear as exciting as any YouTube star. Any normal person would find that exhausting. I’m not going to lie, it was the hardest weeks of my teaching career and parenting life. We should remind ourselves of these truths first. You will never be as exciting as a YouTube sensation. Simple truths. I told you that at the beginning of the summer, I had buckets of ideas for adventures with my kids. If you’re stuck in a rut of TV all day, this is where you should start.Think of things that are low-cost (because, inflation people) and local. I also wanted things that would get all of us out of the house and into the community. I had lists of local hikes, the pool, scavenger hunts, camping and my number one favorite: the library. YES! The library! I know people seem to think the library is antiquated, but in truth, the library is one of the very best and easiest places to take kids. The people that work there are incredibly knowledgeable about what kids like right now. Let’s talk a little bit about reading and kids. I literally just finished a course on teaching the science of reading (yes, it’s a science). In this course it was stated that kids in first grade need to be exposed to 1-2 NEW vocabulary words a WEEK, so that they can develop the necessary connections to be able to handle some 8,000 words by the time they finish third grade. Think about that. That means that students who are in school full-time should be exposed to 10,000 words just in class. Teachers can only do so much. It is VITAL for your student’s success that they read outside of school. Disclaimer, unpopular opinion ahead: I don’t care what your student reads. I could care less if it’s a graphic novel, a young-adult love story, books about space, or books about how to become a MineCraft creator. Seriously! Hint: it doesn’t matter WHAT they read! It matters THAT they read! The best thing you can do is take your kiddo to the library and let them find things that interest them. And librarians will help you with this! They know ALL about books! So. Step one in keeping kids engaged over the summer? Go to the library. Get them a library card. Let them think it’s a credit card for books. Sign up for the summer reading program. Once a week you go back, exchange books, make a craft and let them color in their book marks. Trust me. They will love it. So, beyond having them read 30 minutes a day, what other things do we do to keep them engaged and off screens? Well. Honestly, mornings are really lazy. I’m a teacher, friends. I like to sleep when I can. I let the kids handle their own breakfasts. I also let them watch TV or play on their device. Another truth: I have some things to do too, so I’m on my computer or phone. When lunchtime rolls around though, screens go away. Part of the parameters I set include “doing something with your brain.” Yes, I really do phrase it that way. They can play LEGO, create artwork (this is a popular choice right now), read a book, crochet, or cut up boxes and make a box city. I really don’t care. Do they always play together? NO. Do they have to? NO. But they can’t fight either. This is usually an hour or more of time where I want them to be creative and have fun using their imagination. My 7 year old often tells me he’s bored. Guess what?! That is the POINT! Our best ideas stem from boredom. He usually finds his magnatiles or marble run or LEGOs at this moment because I tell him that it’s okay to be bored. Screens often make it easy for us to be entertained 24/7. We are constantly stimulated by that, and we never let our brain relax. It’s like drugs! Allow your kids to be bored. Their best work will come out of it. At some point during the day I also require my kids to GO OUTSIDE. I know. It’s hot. So, usually once a week or so we go to the local pool for a couple of hours. I try to invite their friends along too so that they aren’t “bored and alone” at the pool. (This never happens by the way. That’s just their way of saying they need some friend time). I will take them on local hikes, sometimes, too. For example, we LOVE to go to Rifle Falls State Park. We will take a picnic lunch, walk around the falls, hang out in the caves and generally just have a great time being active outside. If we aren’t going on a hike or to the pool, do they still have to go outside?! YES. Get your butt outside. Ride your bike, your scooter, jump on the trampoline, or turn the water on and drink out of the hose. Lucky for us, we live on a culdesac where the kids have friends in 3 out of 5 houses on our circle. They also have made friends with kids around the neighborhood, and can ride their bikes (with permission) to the park with their friends. I have slowly been releasing them to be able to do things on their own too. Like going to the park. Kids crave boundaries and responsibilities. Give them some easy ones to follow. They’ll take it and run with it. You’ll love how much it promotes self-reliability. One last suggestion for kids and summer. Get them in the kitchen! I said I let my kids handle their own breakfasts, and often something easy for lunch. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean, get them a cookbook and have them make dinner for their family. If you don’t have a cookbook, there’s Pinterest and an entire world at your fingertips with your phone. Kids WANT to learn how to cook! Let’s be honest, it’s exhausting as an adult trying to figure out what to have for dinner every night. Especially with picky kids. (We all have at least one!) Best solution?! Get them involved! Have them help pick out dinners, go grocery shopping, show them how to budget, and then come home and cook together. They will LOVE it! AND they’ll eat what they made because they’re so proud that they were able to do it. If you’re ready for your kids to go back to school, know that so am I. I love having their routine and knowing they’re being stimulated all day, every day, by an amazing teacher who loves and cares about them. As a teacher though? Not even a little bit. I have three weeks left! Over the next three weeks, I plan on sleeping in and napping. Every day. Also reading and painting and running. Because those are the things I love to do in the summer. Know that on August 15, I’ll be SO excited to welcome your kids back to school. Until then, I hope this gives you some ideas about what to do with your kids and get the most out of your time with them.

Keeping Kids Engaged Over Summer

I was asked to write this blog post at the beginning of the summer. Actually, probably before that. Before the school year even ended. You know, back when I had all these great plans for adventures with my four kids. Taking them all over to help spark their interests and make sure they’re staying away from the dreaded screen. Okay, so let’s be honest: it’s July 15, and we have done maybe half of what I had planned.

I have four kids. Daughters ages 13, 11, 9, and a son who is 7. I’m also a first grade teacher. People seem to think I’m some kind of expert on parenting. I am completely flattered, but (surprise) I’m not. I can tell you that I work really hard to make sure that I learn a lot about kids and try to apply my knowledge to my own kids. So I was a little shocked and very excited when I was asked to write about how to keep kids engaged over the summer.

So, with that said, let’s talk about engagement and kids. I know for absolute certainty that I cannot in any way keep kids away from the screen. My 13 year old has a phone, my two middle girls have I-Pods, and my youngest has an Amazon Fire. Technology is a piece of our world today. That’s a fact. We will never get away from it. So, instead, we need to make sure we are embracing it, while being cautious of its addictive nature. I also know that in no way can I be as exciting as that screen. Having taught online for several weeks, I had to really amp up my energy to appear as exciting as any YouTube star. Any normal person would find that exhausting.

I’m not going to lie, it was the hardest weeks of my teaching career and parenting life. We should remind ourselves of these truths first. You will never be as exciting as a YouTube sensation. Simple truths. I told you that at the beginning of the summer, I had buckets of ideas for adventures with my kids. If you’re stuck in a rut of TV all day, this is where you should start.Think of things that are low-cost (because, inflation people) and local. I also wanted things that would get all of us out of the house and into the community. I had lists of local hikes, the pool, scavenger hunts, camping and my number one favorite: the library. YES! The library! I know people seem to think the library is antiquated, but in truth, the library is one of the very best and easiest places to take kids.

The people that work there are incredibly knowledgeable about what kids like right now. Let’s talk a little bit about reading and kids. I literally just finished a course on teaching the science of reading (yes, it’s a science). In this course it was stated that kids in first grade need to be exposed to 1-2 NEW vocabulary words a WEEK, so that they can develop the necessary connections to be able to handle some 8,000 words by the time they finish third grade. Think about that. That means that students who are in school full-time should be exposed to 10,000 words just in class.

Teachers can only do so much. It is VITAL for your student’s success that they read outside of school. Disclaimer, unpopular opinion ahead: I don’t care what your student reads. I could care less if it’s a graphic novel, a young-adult love story, books about space, or books about how to become a MineCraft creator. Seriously! Hint: it doesn’t matter WHAT they read! It matters THAT they read! The best thing you can do is take your kiddo to the library and let them find things that interest them. And librarians will help you with this! They know ALL about books! So. Step one in keeping kids engaged over the summer? Go to the library. Get them a library card. Let them think it’s a credit card for books. Sign up for the summer reading program. Once a week you go back, exchange books, make a craft and let them color in their book marks. Trust me. They will love it.

So, beyond having them read 30 minutes a day, what other things do we do to keep them engaged and off screens? Well. Honestly, mornings are really lazy. I’m a teacher, friends. I like to sleep when I can. I let the kids handle their own breakfasts. I also let them watch TV or play on their device. Another truth: I have some things to do too, so I’m on my computer or phone. When lunchtime rolls around though, screens go away. Part of the parameters I set include “doing something with your brain.” Yes, I really do phrase it that way. They can play LEGO, create artwork (this is a popular choice right now), read a book, crochet, or cut up boxes and make a box city. I really don’t care. Do they always play together? NO. Do they have to? NO. But they can’t fight either. This is usually an hour or more of time where I want them to be creative and have fun using their imagination.

My 7 year old often tells me he’s bored. Guess what?! That is the POINT! Our best ideas stem from boredom. He usually finds his magnatiles or marble run or LEGOs at this moment because I tell him that it’s okay to be bored. Screens often make it easy for us to be entertained 24/7. We are constantly stimulated by that, and we never let our brain relax. It’s like drugs! Allow your kids to be bored. Their best work will come out of it.

At some point during the day I also require my kids to GO OUTSIDE. I know. It’s hot. So, usually once a week or so we go to the local pool for a couple of hours. I try to invite their friends along too so that they aren’t “bored and alone” at the pool. (This never happens by the way. That’s just their way of saying they need some friend time). I will take them on local hikes, sometimes, too. For example, we LOVE to go to Rifle Falls State Park. We will take a picnic lunch, walk around the falls, hang out in the caves and generally just have a great time being active outside. If we aren’t going on a hike or to the pool, do they still have to go outside?! YES. Get your butt outside. Ride your bike, your scooter, jump on the trampoline, or turn the water on and drink out of the hose.

Lucky for us, we live on a culdesac where the kids have friends in 3 out of 5 houses on our circle. They also have made friends with kids around the neighborhood, and can ride their bikes (with permission) to the park with their friends. I have slowly been releasing them to be able to do things on their own too. Like going to the park. Kids crave boundaries and responsibilities. Give them some easy ones to follow. They’ll take it and run with it. You’ll love how much it promotes self-reliability.

One last suggestion for kids and summer. Get them in the kitchen! I said I let my kids handle their own breakfasts, and often something easy for lunch. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean, get them a cookbook and have them make dinner for their family. If you don’t have a cookbook, there’s Pinterest and an entire world at your fingertips with your phone. Kids WANT to learn how to cook! Let’s be honest, it’s exhausting as an adult trying to figure out what to have for dinner every night. Especially with picky kids. (We all have at least one!) Best solution?! Get them involved! Have them help pick out dinners, go grocery shopping, show them how to budget, and then come home and cook together. They will LOVE it! AND they’ll eat what they made because they’re so proud that they were able to do it.

If you’re ready for your kids to go back to school, know that so am I. I love having their routine and knowing they’re being stimulated all day, every day, by an amazing teacher who loves and cares about them. As a teacher though? Not even a little bit. I have three weeks left! Over the next three weeks, I plan on sleeping in and napping. Every day. Also reading and painting and running. Because those are the things I love to do in the summer. Know that on August 15, I’ll be SO excited to welcome your kids back to school. Until then, I hope this gives you some ideas about what to do with your kids and get the most out of your time with them.

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