Summer means warm weather, splashing in the pool, vacations and, for many families, long periods of time with children at home. But, don’t panic!

It is possible to enjoy the long summer break and use it as an opportunity to strengthen your family, spend quality time together, and re-dedicate your love and commitment to your family.

The key to a successful summer break is balancing rest, relaxation and fun with structure, learning and productivity.

Here are some tips to help you establish these goals.

Family projects

Working together can strengthen the family bond.

Sit down as a family and identify projects that need to be done around the house or have a yard sale.

Be realistic about goals and set tasks that are developmentally appropriate for your children’s ages.

Older children can participate in more complex projects involving carpentry, painting, and use of tools. Younger children can be given tasks such as carrying, sorting, organizing and choosing colors.

Celebrate the completion of the project by inviting other families or your children’s friends over for a barbecue.

Create an activity jar

Sooner or later, every parent hears the whine, “I’m bored.” Choose several activities that your children might enjoy, will keep them active and even help Mom around the house. Write the activities on slips of paper, place in a jar and bring them out when children say they are bored. Ideas for activities can include drawing with sidewalk chalk, nature rubbings, crafts, baking cookies and scavenger hunts.

Family outings

Family outings can be lots of fun and can create the fondest of childhood memories. Fishing at a favorite local spot, picnics in the park, participating in a charity walk and camping are some inexpensive outings the entire family can enjoy.

Establish routines

Keep regular meal times, bed times and time for chores. Maintaining a routine will help children transition back to school in the fall with less disruption.

Plan academic activities to keep minds sharp. Be sure to plan opportunities for learning and building self-confidence, such as reading books, writing stories, trips to the museum, and summer school, if needed. Build in rewards and make the educational time fun.

Summer camp

Summer camp can help provide structure and additional opportunities for fun, socializing, learning and success. When thinking about summer camp, keep your child’s needs in mind and research the camp’s history and reputation, activities offered, cost and distance.

Outdoor activities

Make sure your children get plenty of outdoor time to play and engage in lots of physical activity. Shooting hoops, playing softball, swimming and just getting out in the fresh air help to keep your children healthy, happy and strong.

Schedule ‘me time’

Don’t forget to schedule time to get out of the house, take a walk alone, visit friends or go to the salon. Also, don’t feel you have to entertain your children by yourself all the time. Choose a day or afternoon a week where you and your friends alternate providing activities for all the children. On your “off” days you can enjoy some free time to yourself.

This article is courtesy of Cedar Crest Hospital, 3500 S. IH-35, Belton, (254) 939-2100; Cedar Crest Clinic, 3106 S. W.S. Young Drive, Suite B-201, Killeen, (254) 519-4162.

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