The Importance of Your Child’s Summer

By Peter Thompson; Lead Psychologist, Douglas County School District
Posted

Summer melts the shackles of winter and allows us to live once again in the great outdoors. Summer provides the environment and wondrous playground necessary, (yes, necessary), for the proper growth and development of children.   

In fact, neuroscientists tell us that humans need enriching experiences to reach our potential. The more children actively explore and interact with their environments, the more neural pathways are created in the brain. (Sorry, playing video games or watching movies all summer doesn’t cut it!)

As mentioned I've mentioned before, we live in a hectic society that over-emphasizes achievement at the expense of a balanced life. Children should be exposed to robust experiences with their families and develop their social foundations. Summer is a time to unplug the television because TV is not an effective means to grow the brain. 

Humans learn by actually doing something, not sitting submissively observing a screen. Children and families need to experience life together because in a few short years, the river of time sweeps us along and we cannot recapture lost opportunities. 

Show your children how to savor the flavors of life by creating new social relationships and reconnecting with existing friends.  As Michael J. Fox said in a documentary on optimism, “Happiness is about connecting with people. Life is about relationships.”   

We know routines and consistency are important aspects of a child’s development, so have established weekly events this summer that foster a sense of appreciation about outdoor life. 

Plan on day hikes, play I-spy games along the trail and have children engage with their surroundings. Have children mix academic skills with enjoyable summer games. For example, children can read about places they might visit on upcoming vacations. Children can prepare dinners by creating recipes, or they can plan and organize family “fun” nights.

Summer is a gift for families, but be forewarned; there is some wisdom in the old adage, “Idle time is the devil’s handiwork.” When kids are left unsupervised or do not have activities this summer, they are much more likely to get into trouble.

I urge families to take advantage of our excellent recreation centers, enroll in summer camps, frequent museums (natural history, planetarium) and explore our remarkable state. If I have one request for parents this summer, it would be to do whatever is necessary to build the positive memories that will last a lifetime for you and your children.