School is winding down and soon it will be summer. Parents often ask me how to keep their children stimulated and maintain the academic gains they made throughout the school year.
I recommend that parents prepare themselves and their children for the transition to summer ahead of time. Here are some tips on how to enjoy a low-stress yet stimulating summer.

Create a Routine
One of the beautiful things about summer is that you can slow down. But children thrive when life is routine and predictable, so maintaining a predictable routine throughout the summer can positively impact a child’s mood and behavior. Include in your routine, time for outings, downtime and consistent mealtimes and bedtimes.

Set Limits on Screen Time
Setting limits on screen time can be a challenge during the school year and even harder during the less structured summer days. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 2 hours per day (this includes video games, computer games and television time), but most parents I work with find that their children are in better moods and rely less on screens when they watch less than 2 hours each day. The most effective way to enforce the limit is to be consistent about your rules about screen time, encourage your child to go outside and engage them other enjoyable activities.

Encourage Unstructured Play Time
Incorporate free play into each day. Children have fewer and fewer opportunities for unstructured play time which is beneficial for development and learning. Build in some time for your child to enjoy some unstructured play in the yard, at the playground or with their toys. If you can and they want you to participate, then join them. But, make sure to follow these tips when playing (taking over their play can reduce the benefits of the free play).

Incorporate Learning into your day
The idea that children only learn in school is a myth. Children are learning constantly. When children are skipping rocks in the creek they are developing impulse control, gross and fine motor skills as well as about cause and effect. When children bake a cake they are learning about fractions, measuring, and delayed gratification. When children are playing with their friends they are developing essential social skills including taking turns, empathy and negotiation. Take the time to garden with your children, go for a nature walk, make something together, play a game, create a reading hour and incorporate learning into your day through these activities.

Be Prepared with Boredom Busters
Avoid the “I’m bored” trap by understanding what your child is really communicating when he says he is bored. Is he feeling anxious, does he need time with you, is he over or understimulated? But, it is not your job to entertain your child. You can gently offer a couple ideas or engage them in an activity, but encourage your child to discover the joy of independent play. If you want some specific ideas on how to manage boredom read here.