Summa, summa, sum-ma time! Summer is here and school is officially out for most kiddos. While this fills many children with excitement, it can cause anxiety among parents and caregivers. Travel can be cost-prohibitive for larger families and/or those who haven’t already secured vacation plans. Camps are often extremely expensive and competitive, pricing out some working and even middle-class families. And many children experience the dreaded “summer slide” when school is closed, causing them to fall behind academically. So, what’s a mom to do?
We checked in with Connecticut-based therapist and certified life coach, Venice Garner Moore, to get her expert suggestions. Moore owns Embrace Your Difference, which offers mental health and wellness counseling, with her husband, Vernon. The couple are raising four children together (three sons, ages 15, 11 and 7, and one daughter, 4) so Moore certainly knows a thing or 10 about keeping kids busy. We checked in with the busy momrepreneur to get her tried-and-true advice for practical activities for your child to engage in this summer. The best part? All her tips are low-cost or free!
Rediscover Old-School Pastimes
“Make a list of activities you used to engage in outside when you were young. Depending on your children’s age, try to introduce one new thing each week,” she says. “Red Light Green Light, Double Dutch and Freeze Tag are some fun examples.”
Bonus tip: Pediatricians at Nationwide Children’s Hospital note that physical activity optimizes brain performance while natural outdoor light can improve wellness.
Explore Local Luxuries
“Try visiting your local zoo and/or local libraries. Your local zoo likely has a free admission day each week,” says Moore. “Most libraries distribute a monthly newsletter filled with free activities from arts and crafts to summer reading contests. Be sure to sign up for the ones in your area.”
Experience Fun at the Fair
“Find out when your town’s fair or festival is…There is usually one or two each summer. These events have child-friendly activities and vendors that can offer even more free or reasonably priced activity suggestions for your family upon request,” she notes.
Teach ‘Em Young
“Create a chore list based on each of your children’s ages so they can learn the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves while staying productive,” says Moore.
Let the Games Begin!
“Make game night a monthly (or weekly) ritual, depending on your schedule,” she shares. “Think of games that are tailored to your family’s interest. We created a game called Name That Moore when we imitate each other and each of us must guess who we are. It cracks the kids up!”
Don’t Rule Out Camp
“Yes, most summer camps have already started. However, there are always last-minute cancellations at day camps, which create unexpected openings. Also, most camps—even the large ones—offer financial aid. Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for aid, it doesn’t hurt to ask!” she says.
Ditch the Screens
“Create a ‘no electronics’ weekend (or day if a weekend is too much) and have fun together as a family sans phones, tablets, computers and televisions,” she suggests. “You can even make it a contest if your family is competitive like mine.”
Take it to Church
“The local church has a lot of kid-friendly activities each summer as well, no matter what your religion is,” she shares. “So inquire at yours to find out what is being offered and when.”
Create One-on-One Experiences
“No matter what ages your children are or how many children you have, try to create a day for each of them and you,” she advises. “It doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be bike riding, going out to lunch or even playing a sport. This allows your children to have uninterrupted time with you and get to know you as a person, not just Mom. I have created a mother-son day with each of my sons and a mother-daughter day with my daughter. With four children it is sometimes hard, but I am intentional about it. Why not try it this summer?”
Give Yourself Grace
“Lastly, be gentle with yourself! If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already doing a great job. Being a mom is a big deal and we often carry a lot on our shoulders,” says Moore. “Consider joining a community of other mothers to remember that you are never alone.”