Hey Alexa, play “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper!
School’s out for the summer, which sparks all the excitement of fun in the sun! Most of us associate the end of the school year with a sense of freedom and relaxation, but for some kids the lack of structure, physical and mental activities available, and the sense of community they are used to receiving can be a difficult transition.
Long days, late nights, junk food, increased screen time, and inactivity can have negative effects on the physical and mental health of a child. Mentally stimulating activities are imperative for school-aged kids during the summer to help curb depression and keep them happy and motivated.
Here is a quick list of mental health activities you can do with your kids this summer:
There’s a sense of safety and security when we know what to expect each day. We certainly don’t need to fill every single day with activities for our little ones, but having a few things planned that they could look forward to is a great way to build structure and stability throughout the summer.
- Create and post a calendar with activities and plans listed.
- Create consistency such as every Monday, we go to the library, or every Friday is movie night.
- Build daily routines that are easy to follow. (i.e. wake up, make bed, help with breakfast, read for 30 minutes, get dressed, brush teeth, play outside)
Kids may need an extra push to beat the summer blues, especially when boredom strikes (which if your kids are like mine… is quite frequently). Here are a few ideas to help spark some creativity and engage their minds through crafts and creative play:
- Collect rocks and paint them.
- Make DIY fidget toys.
- Pick an arrangement of flowers, leaves, and recyclables to make something new.
- Write a story.
- Create a sensory jar. Fill a jar with water, food coloring, glitter, and small objects.
- String beads or make jewelry. My daughter recently made a “Breathe Bracelet” that serves as a small reminder to take deep breaths when needed.
Outdoor play provides the opportunity for kids to be creative, build curiosity, develop problem-solving skills, and learn more about themselves and their environment. Climbing trees can help build self-esteem and confidence, while falling and scraping a knee promotes resilience. Here are a few ways to encourage outdoor play:
- Plan a treasure or scavenger hunt around the house or at a local park.
- Do outdoor yoga.
- Create an obstacle course.
- Incorporate elements of nature while playing (rocks, branches, tree stumps, logs).
- Although this may mean more laundry for you, encourage your child to get messy while they are exploring the great outdoors. Let them know that it’s okay to get wet, muddy, and messy.
Visit one of the many amazing parks Fishers has to offer! I recently made this little popsicle jar with all the parks listed on each one. Whenever the kids want to go to the park, I’ll let them draw one… it’s been a hit so far!
Pick Up a Book
It’s essential to encourage your children to read over the summer to retain the knowledge and skills learned from the previous school year along with developing new and improved skill sets. Build reading into the family schedule with these ideas:
- Go to the library and let your kids pick out their own books.
- Choose a chapter and read it along with your child.
- Celebrate the completion of a book. Print a free chart or track your reading progress through the Fishers Library Summer Reading Program.
- Write a letter to your child and drop it in the mailbox. Kids LOVE getting mail and rarely do, so this could be a fun, surprising and stimulating experience for them.
- Start a diary or journal.
- Subscribe to a magazine.
Healthy habits are what we are striving for here, right? Although I know my own kids want to believe that chips, candy, and juice are all dietary staples, they are not. Keeping up with our kids’ eating habits and physical activities over the summer is paramount for growing and maintaining a healthy mind and body. Here are a few tips on getting your kids active and choosing healthy foods all summer long:
- Make healthy eating fun! I follow @schoollunchbox and @lunchesandlittles on Instagram for fun, unique, and creative foods that even the pickiest of eaters will love.
- Plant a garden. Often times, picky eaters will try a new food if they have grown it themselves.
- Go on a bike ride or walk around the neighborhood.
- Create an obstacle course on the sidewalk with chalk.
- Have a water balloon fight.
- Visit a splash pad at Billericay or Holland Park.
- Plan a park playdate with school friends. Maintaining that sense of community our kids are used to is vital when school is out, and friendships are distanced.
With teens, it’s very important to encourage a healthy balance between screen time and unplugging. The unstructured days of summer often mean more hours spent gaming, binge-watching a new series, or scrolling social media. Here are a few alternative ways your teen can enjoy their summer break:
- Volunteer: Encourage your teen to make a difference over break and enrich the lives of others by volunteering. A few volunteer opportunities could be helping elderly neighbors, reading to residents in nursing homes, stocking food pantries, picking up trash, and more. Visit volunteerfishers.com for local volunteer opportunities.
- Join a Club. Whether it’s a book club, chess club, or an art club, finding local clubs with teens of similar interests can be a great way to socialize over the summer and meet new people.
- Take a Class. Summer break is a great time to explore a vast range of topics. Find classes through the library or at the Maker Playground.
- Get Outdoors. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, a trip to the park, biking on the trails, or having a picnic soaking in the scenes, getting outdoors is the easiest way to unplug.
- Become an Entrepreneur. Whether it’s babysitting, mowing lawns, or selling handmade goods online, teens can learn valuable skills running and managing their own enterprises.
- Roots Weekly Hangout. Fishers Parks recently announced a new hangout area at the city’s Spark!Fishers festival on Saturday, June 26. Teens can head to the Flexware parking lot to the north of the NPD AMP for an all-day dance battle with 31Svn Dance Academy, a DJ, game trailor, and a mobile skatepark.
Depression and anxiety can flare during unstructured summer days, so it’s important for children to adopt a healthy summer routine early on. So, let’s all unplug from our devices, get active, read daily, get outside, and above all… HAVE FUN! – Enjoy your summer break!
Amanda Merriweather has lived in Fishers for eight years with her family of six on the northwest side of the city. She is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer who enjoys reading, blogging, crafting (her new favorite hobby is woodworking), as well as spending time with her family finding new trails, exploring new places, watching movies, and playing board games. You can find her at The Yard at Fishers District, local coffee shops and boutiques, and the Fishers library and parks with her kids. Her favorite aspect of Fishers is how family-oriented the city is, and how many family-friendly activities there are to enjoy throughout the year. Follow her on Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and on her blog.