Kids Need Summer Break

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Good routine, schedule and nutrition are important in the summer

While no school districts in New York schedule school year-round, numerous districts do nationwide, citing reasons such as decreasing remediation, reducing need for daycare and using school resources throughout the year. The districts typically sprinkle their time off throughout the rest of the year, with week-long breaks during each quarter (so much for decreasing daycare!). While parents of children who have a typical summer break may feel that scheduling academic camps and reading lists will keep them ahead scholastically, enjoying summer as a break from rigorous mental activity offers benefits, too.

“Some time should be used for free play that isn’t structured or planned,” said Arthur Becker-Weidman, Ph.D., Center for Family Development in Williamsville. “It fosters creativity. I used to go out and play with my friends all day until lunch or maybe dinner, although that depends on the environment. 

“Play develops a sense of efficacy. You have the ability to make things happen as opposed to everything happening to or for you. Sense of efficacy is vital for doing well in school. If you have no sense that you can make things happen, when things get hard, you’ll give up. If you have that sense of efficacy, you’ll persist.”

Summer break offers a chance for children to step away from the busy grind of school and learn and practice their soft skills and engage in nonacademic interests.

Free time for play helps children learn how to entertain themselves. However, they need the right tools for play. Assess their playthings. Are their toys outgrown, broken or missing parts? Provide some age-appropriate outdoor play equipment, such as sporting goods, bikes and skates, sidewalk chalk, water squirting toys and swing set and slide. Plan for rainy days with some new coloring books and markers or crayons; craft supplies and kits; modeling clay; Legos and other building kits; dolls, action figures and puppets; and pleasure reading material.

While summer should represent a time of relaxation, it is important to for parents not to leave summertime as a completely blank slate.

It is tempting to let all the rules drop during summer, but that is not a good idea, according to physician Alberto Monegro, with the Pediatric & Adult Sleep Medicine and UBMD Pediatrics & UBMD Internal Medicine, and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

“For most Americans, we have the idea that when we are on vacation or when summer starts that the most restful thing to do is to stay up late and have inconsistent bedtime schedules, as we try to maximize every hour of our day,” Monegro said.

The “non-schedule” is stressful on the body and especially for children, who crave routine for when they sleep, eat and exercise.

“When that routine is thrown into disarray, their health is affected,” Monegro said. “It’s very difficult for a child with poor sleep habits in the summer to get back into the rhythm of going back to school.”

Summertime sleep is hard enough with the longer daylight hours throwing the body’s circadian rhythm out of whack. Sticking with a consistent bedtime and a cool, dark bedroom can improve children’s rest.