Yesterday was officially the first day of summer for my kids. Summer comes with mixed emotions. While I love having the kids around, I fear the academic regression that happens as I picture their brains turning to mush from wanting to do nothing but engage in media all day. I think most parents struggle with this “what to do with my kids all summer?” problem to some degree or another. How do we as parents help our children keep learning?

Every year I try valiantly to come up with some plan to combat my dilemma. Last year I enrolled my kids in every “camp” known to man (e.g., science camps, sports camps, language camps, space camps). While they had a great time, it cost me a small fortune and was hard to juggle with a new baby. Today I piloted the new and improved Wonnacott summer plan. I’ve decided to share highlights of it, in case you’re in need of some ideas. Now, I’m not suggesting that the way I’m doing it is the only way. My suggestion is to get a plan with expectations for your children this summer and stick to it.

I am a chart kind of girl. I do well with lists, and so it comes naturally for me to impose them on my children. This summer, I have carefully chosen a couple of summer camps and a few online programs to work with and everything else will be based on a list of daily expectations that I created. The charts all start with daily chores (see previous posts on importance of daily chores).  Then I created items based on my children’s individual needs. I took their weakest areas (from academic performance this past school year) and decided to focus on them this summer. Here are my examples:

My 9 year-old’s list:


My 5 year-old’s list:


Note: The listed math, science, and worksheet are all based on assignments I will give them. The keyboarding/typing is using a program online to help improve my children’s typing skills (I’m tired of the hunt and peck approach). The Rosetta Stone is to help maintain foreign language skills that they are obtaining in a dual immersion language program. So you can see, it’s very tailored to their needs. It would be easy enough to figure out what your individual child needs.

My plan, if correctly executed (which let’s be honest, is only day one) should take a couple of hours in the morning and allow them all afternoon to go outside, play with friends, be active, and use their imaginations (an important part of development in my opinion). To get my kids to do it, they know that they can’t watch any media or play with friends until it is done (which works really well to motivate my kids). There are other ways to motivate kids though.

How to motivate your kids?

  1. Remember that they need you for everything (e.g., rides, cell phones, spending cash). This puts you in a very good position to negotiate.
  2. Establish rules. Example: Once “A” (your chores, homework) is done, then you can “B” (play on the iPad, play with friends).
  3. Allow children to go at their own pace. If one of your children finishes all the expectations first, then don’t make that child wait for the other children to finish before you allow him/her to go play with friends. Seeing siblings get rewarded can be extremely motivating.
  4. Work by them. It is easy for a child to get distracted and feel like things are “unfair” if they are working solo (children will never see the bevy of other things you do). For example, when my older children have to fold laundry, I will often make an effort to fold parent laundry and the baby’s laundry at the same time. When my children are doing homework, it is usually at the kitchen counter where I can easily answer questions.

As you can see, it’s very easy to tailor your summer plan to your child’s needs. Whatever you do, it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can check out summer programs at your local elementary school or city recreation center, check out books out from your local library, or try a number of online programs. Just do something, so you’re child stays engaged and learning. Good luck!

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About The Author

Dr. Monica Wonnacott

I'm a pediatrician and a mom. I've been doing this doctor thing for 10 years, and love it. I'm known for giving parents the straight scoop without always sugar-coating it. And I believe in educating parents. The more you know, the better care you give your kids.

Dr. Monica Wonnacott, Pediatric Answers ™

I'm a pediatrician and a mom. Pediatric AnswersTM is where parents can get the straight scoop on their child's health, largely based on my experience in the office and at home. I don't diagnose on the site, so please don't ask. These are just my opinions. Use this site as a resource. And trust your parent gut.

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