Summer is a refreshing and wonderful time. School is out and frantic schedules blur into unstructured free time. For a while, this lack of routine is very relaxing. Then the relaxation gives way to boredom, and parents start wondering what in the world they are going to do with their kids all summer!
When my daughter was young, we spent the summer doing typical things. We went on vacation and joined the summer reading program at our local library. She invited friends over and attended several day camps. Even with what seemed to me to be a steady flow of activity, she would complain of being bored.
These complaints made me realize that my child was used to structured days. Not that I had any interest in putting her or myself on a strict summer schedule. But, having a couple of hours everyday set aside for a particular activity was appealing. From this idea, the After Lunch Hour was born.
The After Lunch Hour was a perfect way to break up long summer days. Every week, I would plan five activities, one for each day. These activities would require an hour to an hour and a half to complete, and we would start after lunch. It was the perfect time. This left the mornings open to sleep in or lounge around. It also left our afternoons free for the pool and day trips.
Some weeks, we did the same activity everyday and others were a hodge podge. Sometimes it was just me and my daughter. Other times we would invite school friends and neighborhood children to join us. Other than the weekly planning on my part, the After Lunch Hour was very relaxed and an enjoyable way to spend a summer day. Here are some of the After Lunch Hour projects we took on over the years.
- Families Rock. There were several open fields in our neighborhood, which were perfect for rock hunting. We visited the fields and gathered interesting rocks to bring home. With these rocks, we would make rock families. I would set the table with doll eyes, glue, funny noses, fake hair, and paints, all of which came from the local crafts store. The children used these tools to bring their rock families to life. Word of this fun activity spread, and soon every child on the block had attended the After Lunch Hour and had a rock family of their very own. The children then took the activity one step farther and would put their families in baskets and bags and go visit the other neighborhood rock families.
- How Does Your Garden Grow. Gardening is a great activity for children of all ages. The process fascinates them. We started this project from the ground up. We built a raised bed along our side fence. If you don’t have a backyard, try container gardening. Plastic pickle barrels, available for free from a local restaurant, are perfect. I chose seeds that germinated quickly, such as sunflower seeds and green beans. My daughter and I planted them, mulched them, and watered them everyday. Soon, we saw the fruits of our labor and enjoyed them for dinner too.
- Pet Project. Most children love animals. My daughter repeatedly asked for a pet. I wasn’t sure she was ready for the responsibility, and the Pet Project was a great way to find out. This activity was one that lasted for several days. On the first day, I announced we were going to the library. While there we got a book on goldfish care. We finished out our After Lunch Hour by reading up on the subject. The next afternoon, we visited the pet store in the mall. We asked one of the salespeople to talk to us about what we needed for a goldfish. We took this information home and prepared for the next day when we brought our fish home. We have repeated the Pet Project over the years with different animals, including a gerbil, cat, and eventually our family dog, Aberdeen. With each one we learned all we could about how best to care for him. Then put our knowledge to work.
- What a Jewel. Jewelry making was another favorite activity of ours. It started when my daughter and her friends learned how to make friendship bracelets. I supplied the string and they wove it into beautiful bracelets and a love of jewelry making. Soon they moved on to making necklaces from bead and shells, and designing their own hoop earrings.
- Now We’re Cooking. Like gardening, cooking is another favorite among children. Both my husband and I love to cook and love sharing our skills. We started the children off with kitchen basics and safety. Then we taught them how to slice, dice, and sauté. Next came cookies, and before we knew it the kids were making dinner!
Whether you are interested in broadening your child’s horizons or encouraging an existing interest, summer is a great time to do it. There are so many things that can be done in an hour to break up the inevitable monotony and boredom that surfaces every summer. Who knows, you might just discover a passion within your child that lasts a lifetime.
About the Author:
Dr. Caron B. Goode is the founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International, a training and certification program for parent coaches. In addition to duties with the academy, Goode is the founding editor of the website www.InspiredParenting.net, and the author of ten books, the most recent of which is Nurture Your Child’s Gift. For more information on The Academy for Coaching Parents International or to sign up for academy announcements, visit www.acpi.biz