5 Parenting Hacks for Your Family’s Best Summer Yet
What if you could snap your fingers and—poof!—parenting suddenly became easier? While such a miraculous finger snap doesn’t exist, these parenting hacks may be just the tips and tricks you need to keep you and your kids happy this summer.
1. Help your kids play catch-up.
Many parents worry that their children have fallen behind in their learning after educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While students enrolled in Stride K12 schools did not experience the same level of learning loss as other students, all learners can benefit from summer enrichment, which helps them combat summer learning loss.
The difficulty with addressing this issue, though, is that after a challenging academic year, it can be challenging to motivate children to continue learning throughout the summer. But catching up on any lost learning does not need to look like how it might in a traditional classroom. Genevieve Shaw Brown, Good Morning America’s family editor and the author of The Happiest Mommy You Know, explained that children can learn essential skills like teamwork and collaboration through traditional camp games.
2. Prompt some undercover learning.
If you were to tell your child that they would spend several hours brushing up on their math and reading skills, you’d likely be met with a fair bit of resistance. However, if you said that your child could select an activity from their personalized choice board, you’d get a much more enthusiastic response. These boards, which are available for free online, allow your child to feel like they have a say in their activities. They can play independently or play with a friend, and they can learn in the process. Some of the most effective learning takes place when children don’t think they’re learning at all. This is especially true for social learning, which isn’t easy to achieve by reading from a textbook.
3. Find fun and easy activities.
Children’s imaginations often enable them to have fun with very little in the way of physical objects or materials. A handful of foliage and a pitcher of water can transform into a wizard’s magical potion, and a stopwatch and some sneakers can transform into an Olympic trial. According to the child psychologist, Sally Goddard Blythe, imaginative play “allows children to tap into their creativity and really run with it, without any boundaries, in a way that’s very freeing.” Imaginative play isn’t just for children. When teenagers are creating content for their social media pages, they’re often using their imaginations to visualize images that don’t yet exist. For example, they may carefully compose a photo with their friends or think up a hypothetical scenario to create a humorous TikTok skit. With a little creativity, you can help your child’s imagination run wild, regardless of their age.
4. Keep it simple.
You don’t need to stage elaborate games or find new curricular materials to help your child have a great summer. Simple things like keeping a consistent dinnertime can be tremendously beneficial. Research indicates that there are several benefits to regularly having dinner together as a family, including greater academic achievement and improved vocabularies and reading skills.
Keeping a consistent dinnertime doesn’t work for all families, but there are still ways to create easy-to-follow routines that make room for familial bonding even on the busiest days. You may decide to have a weekly movie night where you let the local pizza parlor take over dinner-making responsibilities. Or, you might go for a walk around the neighborhood as a family, striking up conversations with neighbors who are out in their yards. Children are drawn to routine, and even loosely structured days help give them a sense of security and stability. Even if their daily schedules change, they know they can count on certain recurring plans that give a more concrete shape to their daily lives.
5. Don’t forget about your own needs.
As the writer Eleanor Brown once said, “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” This is an apt quote for parents who need to take care of themselves before they can take care of their children. Summers can be very draining for parents—many of whom have to balance the demands of childcare with their workload.
While many kids look forward to their restful and carefree summers, it’s important to recognize that you deserve some time to recharge your batteries as well. Incorporating more independent activities into your child’s routine will give them the benefit of structure while also giving you time to do something just for you. Try to carve out protected time for you to focus on your own needs on a daily basis. You may participate in a workout class or find a hobby that allows you to connect with other adults. You could start journaling or watch your favorite TV show.
Learn more about parenting hacks on this episode of the On Learning Podcast. Have a summertime parenting hack of your own? We’d love to hear them using the hashtag #StrideSummerHack.
AnnElise Hatjakes is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff. Her career in education began in 2010 when she worked as a teaching assistant while earning her master’s degree in writing. She has taught in a wide range of educational settings, including a public school, a school for gifted students, a university, and a county jail. She’s interested in issues of equity in education, which she strives to address through her own teaching practices and writing. AnnElise is the recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and her fiction has appeared in literary journals. As a third generation Nevadan, she loves all things Western, from wide open spaces to wild horses.