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Parents’ Guide for a Productive Summer

Part 1

For many Muslim families, summer can be a time of great connection and adventure. It’s often a time of long road trips, exotic vacations, and jam-packed camps and events.

However, for other families, summer can also be a very stressful time. With children and parents in tight quarters it can lead to arguments and hair-pulling. It can also be difficult for single parents and low-income parents to arrange childcare and expensive activities for young children while they work to make ends meet.

No matter what your situation, it’s important for all families to make a plan.

Children’s development, especially in the summer months, can be fueled by scheduled activities and outings that break the mold of academic rigor. But summer is also a time for activities that allow for a safe (and sane) blend of low-cost boredom plus healthy in- and outdoor activities. These can keep everyone, of all ages, entertained and active.

Schools out!

For a child, one of the best parts of summer vacation is the freedom and lack of structure that these long days bring. For parents, on the other hand, throwing routine to the wind can be a difficult thing to do.

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Fortunately, more parents are understanding that a big part of healthy childhood and parenting involves letting go of the need for packed schedules. It’s okay to let children just be bored at times. In fact, studies show it’s actually healthy for them.

This is not to say that you should forgo all planned activities to keep kids active and engaged. However, there is mounting evidence that the creativity nurtured from the “boredom” of summer can give an academic boost in the fall.

Arrange new experiences

Summertime is a great season to skip the strict and rigorous academic training. Instead, nurture your children’s other senses and help them learn new skills.

And when it comes to new skills, there are a few types of activities you may not have considered.

You may have already taken stock of available summer camps, or checked out local programs recommended by family and friends. However, there’s one Muslim instructor shaking it up in the summer camp space.

Jordan Richter, a pro skateboarder, educator, convert to Islam, and founder of the Jordan Richter Skateboard Academy is an athlete putting his skills and experience to amazing use. His academy teaches the skills and mindset of skateboarding to young children. He also offers summer skateboarding camps, skateboard create-a-skate camps, and private lessons all around the San Francisco Bay Area.

For children who struggle with team sports, summer can be a great time to try a completely new individual activity – like skateboarding – to see if it’s a good fit. The sport teaches determination, skate park camaraderie, and positive attitudes towards skill mastery. These are all traits that will serve a young rider well in other academic pursuits.

Summer is also a great time to let kids loose to deeply enjoy their favorite hobbies, or find a new one!

Local parks and recreation centers offer a whole range of classes and courses for all ages and abilities. Some of my fondest memories of summer enrichment classes involved me being the youngest person in the room. I learned beginning watercolors with my fancy professional artist paint set. I took gourmet cooking classes alongside much older adults.

I’m thankful to my parents and grandparents for giving me such enrichment opportunities at a very early age.

So don’t be afraid to sign your kid up for courses that you may feel may be out of their skill range – they may actually surprise you and rise to the challenge. So long as they meet the listed minimum age requirements of a course, you’re good to go!

Activities for older children

For older children on their way into high school or college, there are plenty of projects to work on. Summer is a great time to prepare in advance for the years ahead.

Older children and young adults might consider a summer job or internship. Taking advantage of opportunities like these can help them earn money and gain marketable skills. These types of summer activities can also help with letters of reference and job responsibilities – adding to their fledgling resumes as they enter their college years.

Additionally, if it’s the summer before junior or senior year, incoming students can spend time getting organized for their final years of high school. It’s easier to prepare some things ahead of time instead of waiting until fall activities have them too stress and busy to keep up!

Her Campus recommends getting a head start on college applications with activities that include:

  • Narrowing down the college list.
  • Making spreadsheets of important deadlines.
  • Creating a Common App account to save time filling applications.
  • Starting the scholarship search (if one hasn’t done so already!)
  • Narrowing down who will be asked for letters of recommendation.
  • Completing additional community service hours.
  • and getting started writing those essays!

The more administrative activities that a child focuses on completing during the summer, the less stress there will be come fall.

Indoor learning activities for all ages

If you want to stay indoors, there are a few things you can do besides whipping out the video games. Here are a few tried and true ideas:

Learn a new language

Summer is a great time to get a head start on new language, or brush up on a learned language from the year before. Many local public libraries offer free language learning programs like Rosetta Stone to their cardholders. See if your nearest library offers access to these free courses!.

Watch documentaries

Websites like Free Documentaries offers 100% free access to hundreds of educational documentaries. The site offers films covering a variety of topics to suit every interest. Paste Magazine also offers a list of the 50 best documentaries streaming on Netflix this summer.
There are other places to find documentaries online as well. Resources like the National Film Board of Canada and Frontline and two more examples. POV films, also produced by PBS, are another great resource.

Attend a free lecture or course

Find free online lectures and course material from prestigious colleges and universities like MIT, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Columbia on the website Academic Earth.

Read a good book

If your looking to just settle in with a good book, websites like What Should I Read Next? and Goodreads can help you find new titles that match your interests. They can also help you narrow down your reading list to only include, for example, books written by Muslim women.

This list has something for every family no matter how you decide to spend your summer – plan in place or no plan at all. These ideas should give you a jumping off point for finding new and interesting activities to keep your children active, engaged, and productive this summer on any budget.

First published: July 2017

About Janet Kozak
Janet Kozak is a content strategist who helps businesses grow their brand with creative copywriting and content marketing. When she’s not writing and designing, you can find her indulging in masala fries or elbow deep in scraps of paper creating her one-of-a-kind art collages. Meet Janet and get ready to grow your business at http://janetkozak.com/