• Val Harrison

SUMMER THRIVING: No More Bored Kids Staring at Screens, Blog & Podcast #93

Click Picture to listen to Episode 93: More IDEAS for SUMMER GROWTH for your Kids. NO MORE BORED KIDS STARING AT SCREENS, with Emma & Val.


Those 18 or less summers that your child has at home can be a special time of growth in several key areas while still being fun and relaxing.  It just takes some intentionality to make it happen! 


Go ahead and give some of these ideas a try, you might just happen to create some lifelong memories on your quest for your child’s summer success. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to # 93.


Emma with some of her tomato & pepper plants

Nature Exploration – There are lots of studies on the important ways our kids thrive both physically and emotionally when they spend time in nature. Have your child make some nature collections, plant seeds in a garden or in some containers, take nature photos and follow up with research on these different new discoveries.  If you can, provide a magnifying glass, some jars, a catching net, flashlight, microscope, binoculars, and a sketch pad.  Check out books from the library on birds, gardening, bugs, the water cycle, and earth science. Or, do like I did and find an inexpensive set of used encyclopedias and have them to - gasp- the unthinkable - look things up in an encyclopedia! Last month, I had Emma pick one topic each day in the category of math or science to look up and tell me about it before she was free to get on any screens for the day.


Emma reading on the front porch with Copper

Reading Adventure


If we can help your children develop a love for reading, that will help them both in their academic futures and in all the rest of life as well. Likewise, being a poor reader can hinder them throughout life as well. Do all you can to foster a love of reading.


I have my kids pick out their reading choices for the summer at the beginning of summer.  I approve the books, but they get to choose them. 


I do also give them some categories that they for sure need to include in the summer selections.  Generally, I have them pick

* two books about any Christian missionaries in other countries,

* two books about the time period of whatever history they’ll be doing in the coming  school year (such as reading the Little House on the Prairie series if they’re going to be studying early American history, or they might choose The Hiding Place if they’re going to be learning about WWII next school year)

* two books from a topic of their choice (often these books are discovery based, like how to play the guitar or a book on volcanoes),

*one self-improvement book. 


Now I’ll be honest with you, I don’t give allowance at our house (not that I’m against it, I just don’t), but I do give money for reading books.  And this money provides them with some good summer spending money. 


Enrichment Outings


Summer is the best time for special events and family fun at new locations. How about we schedule events that include enriching our family members’ character while we’re at it. 


Sure, go to the museum and to the lake, but also, let your kids experience the wonderful emotion of caring beyond themselves.  


Here are some Enrichment Outings that we do with a focus on caring beyond yourself:



*Go to a Nursing Home once a month to play games with residents in the memory care department (We have kept this up during Covid. It took some planning, but we did it! We take a karaoke machine with a wireless mic. We're outside some windows and the residents are inside with the amplifier. We sing songs, we play wheel of fortune with them by holding up pages with letters on them and they guess on a white board inside, and then we finish up with some exercises they can do in a chair.


*Volunteer in the church nursery or kids’ department or any other way at church – for our family church is a place we SERVE


*Help at a mission or soup kitchen


*Drop off clothes at a sponsored children’s home in your community or help a struggling family out by providing a meal or playing with the kids or cleaning their house


*Adopt a “grandparent” in your neighborhood who could use some help on their yard or just to visit together or play a game with them.

One summer, my third daughter, Abby, and I had probably the greatest mother/daughter summer of all time.  We selected one other mother/daughter pair. The other mom and I took turns planning a "object lesson" date about being God's Girl.   It was an amazing, life changing experience for all four of us!



The first week was a tea adventure (shopping at an antique store to hunt for fancy china tea cups, going to a tea shop to select some boxes of tea to purchase, and then we finished up with a tea party at my mother’s home.  At the tea party we discussed that our daughters’ bodies are treasures like fine china, not styrofoam cups.  We expect them to treasure their bodies and other people to treasure their bodies enough to protect them and honor them in how our daughters dress, what they put into their bodies, and how they reserve their intimate self for marriage).  That was just week one!  Each week was a precious memory that we’ll never forget.




Physical Development


What’s a physical change or improvement that your child needs to work on?  Is it getting more active, changing an eating habit, or developing a skill?  Maybe there’s a sport they’ve always wanted to try and summer would be the perfect time to give it a shot! (okay, yes, pun intended). 


Head over to a used sporting goods store in the Midwest we have Play It Again Sports as our go-to store for finding sports bargains and for reselling last summer’s sporting adventure. 


We have a tennis court and a swimming pool in our subdivision so those are two simple options for us, but you could also invest in disc golf and head to the nearest disc golf park, or our family also really enjoys hiking new areas as well. (By “family” I mean “everyone but me.”  I’m afraid that allergies and a hatred for bugs and snakes gives me an aversion to hiking trails, but I still schedule occasional hikes for the family.  I pack a sack lunch, we head to the new location, and they hike while I read.  It’s a glorious thing.) 


Your child’s summer physical goal might be as basic as “learning to ride a bike” or as exciting as “learning to scuba dive.”


Relationship Development– As I mentioned earlier in this post, people skills are a vital part of a successful life. Knowing how to get along with people, show that you care, express your ideas effectively, present yourself respectably, these are all people skills that will affect every relationship in your child’s present and future.


Brainstorm a list with your child of the relationships in his or her life that need the most improvement. Then get some dates written on your calendar where you could let your child develop some of those relationships, whether it’s with a friend, a sibling, or you! If it’s scheduled, you’re more likely to nail down an activity to do with that person that could provide a growth opportunity.


Then brainstorm about one or two people skills that your child needs to work on – such as not give sarcastic responses to people, or look at the person who’s talking to them, or learning to enunciate their words more clearly so that people can understand what they’re saying.  Get a little system of reward and regret about fixing one of these issues.  For example, let them know you’ll give them this jar of nickels.  Every time they respond sarcastically, they need to take a nickel out of their jar and put it in the “regret” jar.  


That’s their “regret” for responding sarcastically and they lose the nickel.  If they go an entire day with no sarcastic remarks, they get an extra 30 minutes for xbox play tomorrow – that’s their “reward.”  Let them help to come up with this plan, if possible, as it will be more effective if they’ve helped to create the “regrets” and “rewards”


Don't forget about your child's MOST IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP OF ALL! Talk about your child’s relationship with God. Help them find some specific ways to grow closer to God this summer.


This is wonderful kids Bible study series. The text has beautiful pictures and great stories as well as things to discuss together. You can get it as an audio version if you prefer and there’s also a notebooking journal available too.

Maybe you’ll

*go to the Christian bookstore and let them pick out a devotional for their age,

*pull together some craft supplies to make some cute Bible verses that they want to memorize (I’m not talking anything amazing here – colored notecards, some markers and glitter glue can be enough to make it great),

*pick a book of the Bible that you and your child will read separately each day and talk about together a couple times a week,

*look up some some videos that you can watch at lunch each day.  Here’s some we like: