blog summer with kidsSummer’s here and the kids are out of school - think parks, picnics, and the pool. But is it all sunshine?

While summer can be the highlight of a kid's year, for parents it can have its challenges. As summer wears on we begin to hear, “I’m bored.” We may even start to countdown the days until school begins again.

But there are some things we can do as parents to set our kids up for a great, creative, and active summer. 

Part of the magic of summer happens when we let the kids play without a plan or direction from adults. There is so much to learn while playing uninterrupted. And remember, being bored isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


Include Time for Unstructured Play

Let the kids have plenty of free and unstructured play! Many of us spent nearly our entire summer outside playing with friends in the neighborhood. We were responsible for our own fun, and we learned so much through it!

Unstructured play gives children the opportunity to explore their own interests, while developing creativity, and independence. When playing with friends outside, they learn to negotiate and cooperate with others, while often being quite active. 

According to Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot, “It is during free play, where children move and challenge their bodies in new ways, constantly testing their limits and getting to the next developmental level. When we take away their time for free play and replace this time with adult-directed exercise, it limits the type of movement experiences these children receive”.

On their own, children are required to develop skills such as compromise, communication, and conflict resolution. Without adults solving their problems, children are forced to work things out on their own. Sure there will be days that someone quits a game and goes home upset, but over time left on their own kids can develop the skills to handle these situations.

This is not to say that adults should never get involved. Obviously little children need to be supervised, but the adults can step back and give them a little room rather than being involved every moment of the time. Some children struggle with social skills and might need a little more direction; this can be true with some older children. And it goes without saying that interference is necessary if there is a true danger to someone's physical or emotional safety.



Pursuing Interests and Passions

We all want to encourage our children to pursue their interests and passions. Sometimes this involves working with them or getting a teacher, but oftentimes an opportunity to be on their own with the proper tools will benefit them quite a bit.

When children have time on their own they are able to pursue their individual interests and passions at a deeper level. They can immerse themselves in the aspects of the hobby that they are most interested in. Questions are explored at their own pace, and when they discover the answer it is more satisfying than if they were simply told.

They may get frustrated and that is okay. Think of all the skills they learn when they work through it - distress tolerance, problem solving, reaching out for help when they need it, etc. When you see them discouraged you can absolutely help them work through their frustration, but try to guide them in thinking through their problem rather than solving it for them.


Let Them Be Bored

While it is great to play with your kids and plan some special outings, there is nothing that says you should always keep them entertained. In fact, being bored can be an opportunity for creativity.

When we keep the kids scheduled and entertained there is little need for them to find their own fun. Think of all the fun you had building forts, skipping rocks in the lake, or playing imaginary games with friends. These things may not have happened if you had exciting things planned all the time.

Slowing down and simply being is important for everyone, even kids. Their minds and body need sometime this summer to decompress after a full year of school and activities. Don’t take this away from them by believing it’s your job to entertain them every moment of every day.


Use Screens Wisely

It is really easy to give kids screen time, especially when they (or you) are grumpy, tired, or bored. Children often have a way to wear their caregivers down even when limits are put in place.

While there are some benefits to limited screen time, a majority of their time is best used engaged in other activities. Too much screen time can lead to eye strain, sleep issues, poor posture, weak muscles, obesity, behavior problems, impatience, difficulty making friends, and academic difficulties. 

So how much is too much? It is typically recommended that screen time is limited based on the child's age. Below are some general guidelines (for more information check out this article.)

  • babies and toddlers do not get any screen time at all,
  • 3-5 year olds get one hour or less 
  • 6+ get two hours or less

If you feel like screens are getting out of hand in your house it can be helpful to do an electronic fast. This would be a set amount of time in which screens are off limits. It's a time to detox and reset. You can use this time to spend time with people you love or to explore other interests (reading, writing, going out in nature, exploring your city, etc.)


I want you to have an amazing summer! If you have kids, I hope these ideas set you up to enjoy the summer and handle the “I’m bored” moments.

Dr. Jamie