Preventing the Summer Boredom Blues
By Lee Vander Loop
CP Family Network Editor
It’s the first full week of summer and children have been out of school just a few weeks. Already, many parents are beginning to hear the growing mantra: “I’m bored!” As a parent of four children, I have a very clear memory of the frustration and challenges of keeping my children busy and entertained through the summer months. The last thing any parent wants is to watch their child spend their summer vacation in front of the television or enthralled in countless hours of playing video games.
Most children have a preconceived notion that every day of summer should be exciting and adventurous. Children with special needs are no exception. As parents, we feel an obligation to provide our children with memorable summer breaks, without breaking the bank! Determining how to manage that day-to-day challenge can be exhausting for parents of a special-needs child, especially when you factor in possible accessibility issues that may arise for children in wheelchairs or with mobility challenges.
During the 27 years I spent raising my children, I found that you need only look in your own backyard to find quality, fun-filled hours for many children. When I asked my children, who are now in their 20s, what their most memorable summer memories were, I was surprised to learn that it wasn’t the expensive, extravagant trips to Disney World or other costly vacation adventures. Their fondest, lasting memories are of time spent with family and friends. Memories of pool parties, sleepovers, cook-outs and quality activities in their own backyard were some of their favorites.
The key to a boredom-free summer is to “Keep it simple.” Summer vacations are about spending quality time with our children and family and creating lasting memories, both of which can be achieved on a budget and close to home!
How can you get started planning an entertaining summer for your family? First, get out the calendar. As you come up with activity ideas, choose a day and note the activity or outing on the calendar. Your children do not need to be involved in your planning and brainstorming sessions! You can present the “agenda” to them after you’ve ironed out the details. It may also be beneficial and productive to communicate with other parents. If your child has close friends from school that they don’t get the opportunity to spend time with during the summer, call their parents and try to arrange play dates. Even if it’s just one day a week, your children will appreciate the opportunity to spend time together. You can discuss activity ideas with the other parents and even rotate planning responsibilities, with each family taking turns providing the day trip or whatever activity is chosen.
There is no shortage of fun, local summer activities to excite the whole family. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Day Trips – Day trips to local, inexpensive attractions are wonderful ways to surprise the children with an unexpected adventure and hours of enjoyment! Putt-putt golf courses, trips to a local botanical garden, petting zoo, water park or other small-town attraction provide a day of entertainment and something out of the ordinary.
Get Outdoors – Studies show that today’s kids spend far less time exploring the outdoors than their parents’ generation did. Contact your local Department of Natural Resources for information on accessible outdoor recreation opportunities in your state including camping, fishing and other outdoor activities.
State Parks – Your state park is a wonderful place to enjoy the great outdoors. Today, many local and state level parks provide handicap accessible and adaptive activities and programs. Check with the park ahead of time to find out what is offered in your area.
Local Zoo – What child doesn’t enjoy a day at the zoo?! Pack a picnic lunch for an inexpensive day out. If possible, visit on a weekday to avoid crowds. Some zoos offer discounts mid-week, so be sure to check their website when planning your visit. Check the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to find an accredited zoo or aquarium in your community.
YMCA – The YMCA exists in many communities and offers a variety of adaptive sports programs and activities for children with special needs. Check their website for programs in your area.
Fun at Home – Plan a day’s worth of backyard activities and invite your child’s friends over. Fill water balloons for water balloon tosses or other water play, plan backyard campouts, crafts and games and activities that everyone can enjoy. Search the internet for ideas. Sites such as Disney Family provide wonderful and creative ideas for hours of fun-filled activities in your own backyard!
An enjoyable and memorable summer vacation doesn’t have to put you in debt. It doesn’t require cross-country trips or fighting the crowds at the big-name amusement parks. It just takes some planning and exploration of your own community!