Plan Some Summer Fun

All school year, our kids cry for summer.
Then when it gets here, and they’ve run through the sprinkler a few times, they’re bored. So how do you beat the “There’s-nothing-to-do blues”? You make up a play plan and schedule some fun.

It may seem odd to actually plan for fun, but according to Susan Williams, editor of “Summer Fun” (Williamson Publishing), it’s one of the best ways to make sure it happens — as long as you’re willing to be flexible. “If one plan doesn’t work, then take a moment to think of something else to do,” Williams said. “If it rains on a beach day, shift gears to indoor fun. There should be grins no matter what.”

So get playing! Not only will it make your children happier, they’ll be healthier, too.

Play gets children moving around and exercising, and is one of the best educators there is. It encourages creative thinking; helps hone motor and sensory skills; and teaches the importance of getting along with others, learning to help oneself and playing by the rules.

It also sharpens the mind. Like any other muscle, the brain needs exercise to keep fit. The more it’s stimulated, the more it’s exercised. And the more it’s exercised, the greater its capacity for complex thinking and problem solving.

And you thought play was all fun and games.

While parents can come up with some activity ideas, kids should also be involved in the decision-making. After all, they’re the ones who need to best fill up the roughly 75 days between school years. So take time to brainstorm with your children, and write down everyone’s suggestions — even the ones with which you don’t agree. You might be able to compromise on some or come up with others that are even better.

Outdoor Play
Remember to apply plenty of sunscreen before your child goes outside to play. Even on cloudy, hazy days, your child should wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. A single, blistering sunburn doubles the child’s risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Children should also wear hats, sunglasses and lip balm with sunscreen whenever possible.

Here are some outdoor activities that experts from the Parents Place Web site recommend:

Set up a backyard bowling alley. Use 2-liter soda bottles, partially filled with water, as the bowling pins, and set them up like a bowling alley. Then, roll a soccer ball or basketball to try and knock down the pins.
Explore your neighborhood after dark. Take a flashlight, unless the moon is bright enough to light your path. Everything looks and sounds different at night.
Bring a treat to the elderly at a local nursing home. It can get pretty lonely for some residents, and your visit will surely brighten their day. Your child will also quickly learn the benefits and good feelings that come from helping others.
Organize a water balloon toss. It’s cool fun on a hot day.
Catch lightning bugs. Save them in a mayonnaise jar with air holes poked in the lid. (An adult should do this.)
Go to bed with your natural night-light at your bedside, then release the bugs the next morning.

Sit outside at night, cuddled up under the stars and tell ghost stories.
Camp out in your backyard.
Indoor Play
On rainy days, make your first activity a trip the library. Most school-age children have summer reading lists to complete. And as countless people will attest, there’s nothing as delightful as getting lost in a good book.

Other great indoor activities include baking cookies or muffins (with proper supervision); making homemade bread and jam; starting a journal; creating your own newspaper; coloring and stringing macaroni; and tie-dying T-shirts.

You can also create a special daily indoor (and sometimes outdoor) activity with your toddlers and pre-schoolers. Play Butterfly School — a daily learning activity that helps you foster a love of learning with your kids while teaching them valuable health and hygiene lessons.

Don’t Plan Everything
Summer days are great days to be outside and, if you want, just do nothing. In fact, health experts encourage parents to make sure children have plenty of unscheduled time each day.

Like adults, kids need downtime to unwind, recharge and clear their heads. They need time to stretch their creative muscles and use their imaginations — without an adult directing them.

Sitting on the floor playing quietly with toys, or running through the backyard with the neighborhood gang helps kids learn to develop their own interests, as well as build self-esteem and a sense of independence. It’s also just plain fun.