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Components of a Healthy Summer

By Bill Mulcahy, Head of Lower School

Summer is right around the corner, and I know it can elicit very different reactions for parents. For some, it is welcomed, as it is an opportunity for a slower pace and more time together. For others, it can be a stressor, particularly with less of the structures that are in place during the school year. Although I personally welcome the slower pace, I often find it a bit challenging, particularly at the beginning of the summer, of “getting into the groove.” 

As my wife can attest to, I’m great at giving parenting advice, but not always the best at practicing what I preach! So the advice below, which I share in similar form every May at school, comes with the caveat that I will need to refer back to it over the summer for myself!

The most important component of a healthy summer for our children is a balance of structure and unstructured time. Healthy brain development goes beyond traditional academic areas like reading, writing, and arithmetic, and should include:

  • Unstructured play 
  • Free time
  • Social experiences with friends
  • Access to enrichment activities like camps, playgrounds, museums, and day and overnight trips

Summer is also a time to promote and build upon children’s love of learning. Instead of pushing work or literature that may not appeal to your children, allow for choice. One of the biggest predictors for reading success in young students, particularly over the summer, is choice. While some of your child’s book choices may not be what you would like them to read (I’m still getting used to graphic novels), remember that we are trying to build enthusiasm for reading. Just as many of us like to gravitate to lighter “summer reads” while traveling or at the beach, our children also feel the same way. 

If you’re looking for more information on making the summer as positive and successful for your children as possible, this article from Aha Parenting, 10 Tips to Make This the Best Summer Ever with Your Family (an oldie but a goodie!), provides helpful reminders/tips.