So, how’s your summer going?

Hello, dear Parenthackers! I'm back from my Internet vacation, some of which was spent on an adventure in Alaska (a place everyone should try to visit), but most of which was spent turning my full attention to family life.

Summer's now in full swing, with swim lessons, bike riding, and dinner on the front lawn. It's such a relief to leave the school year behind. The more relaxed pace of summer suits me better than the structure of the school year. We still have a definite routine here, but it's nice to have the flexibility of an open schedule.

I've been reading a bit on the blogs about how people structure their summers, and I'm struck by the contrast between our generation (no camps, expected to entertain ourselves, loved the freedom) and our kids' (lots of camps and activities, worries about screen time, etc.). I suspect that the difference is less stark than it appears in print, but I often wonder as parents when and why we became responsible for our children's entertainment. I'm not talking about the fun family activities we do together — I'm talking about the fear of day-to-day, unscheduled, "wasted" time. I spent time reading, riding my bike, and playing with friends, but I ALSO watched a fair amount of TV. It wasn't a problem.

I would never advocate for unlimited TV or screen time — my feeling is that kids need to be active, and too much time in front of a screen is simply too much time sitting still. I just wonder sometimes if we're all making too big a deal out of all this stuff.

I'm glad to be back — it was lovely to read all of your comments. And you? How's your summer?


  1. hedra says

    Sounds like you’ve been having fun! Our summer has been pretty good so far. Both parents working, so my mom has the kids all summer (all SIX – my brother’s kids, too!). So far, she’s surviving, and only needs a double-scotch to close the day about once a week, LOL!

    Unscheduled time is the core of our life, really – they don’t get to run off and explore the mountains the way I did as a kid (by myself, at seven years old, ACK!), but they do race around the yard, watch bugs, identify birds, build and rig pirate ships from sticks, cardboard boxes, string, and duct tape, play adventure games in my mom’s yard and house, etc. They know how to entertain themselves, and so far, I haven’t heard any choruses of boredom. Not that they won’t watch movies all day if we say it is okay – but that’s a rarity, and usually means the heat index is over 100 degrees.

    We do have some ‘activities’ built in – family reunion (Williamsburg, VA), with learning about the Jamestown Settlement leading up to that. A week of camp for the oldest. And this week, my mom has a massage therapist coming in every day for an hour, teaching anatomy and massage and relaxation. Upcoming is Egyptology, and the oldest has asked me to teach him how to whittle (I used to be a half-decent wood carver, though it has been a while). That seems like plenty to me!

    Anyway, that’s our summer. Busy, but not overly scheduled. I like that. And the kids seem to like it, too.

  2. teri says

    we have never filled the summer w/ camps and activities. a little boredom brings out the creativity in the child. my children have always known i am not responsible for their entertainment. i will drive them places, but not every time they ask. sometimes i busy or just don’t feel like it. time to find a plan B for entertainment. over breakfast, we might brainstorm ideas of things to do.

    recently, we noticed screen time was dominating the day. so we made a bet with the boys….could they go 24 hrs w/out screen time? yes, money was involved, but not much. the other side note was “no whining.” they made it thru the day and collected their cash. more importantly, they rediscovered many fun activities that don’t involve a screen. it was a little wake up call for them.

  3. Mommy Poppins says

    We’re pretty typical New Yorkers: we usually do lots of camp and activities. But this summer we are taking a special, long vacation, which is breaking up our summer, so we decided to do no camp. So far, my kids have been going to the playground, doing playdates, and going in the kiddie pool on our roof and I’ve been surprised how happy they are and how much fun they are having.

    Actually yesterday I send them uptown to do an “activity” and it was the only day I’ve heard complaints—which is ironic since I write a site of activities for kids in NYC!

    Of course we’re only a couple weeks into the summer. They may be singing another toon is we had been doing nothing for 6 weeks now.

  4. JT says

    This is my first summer with kids where I haven’t been working massive amounts of overtime, and it’s a blast. I couldn’t agree more that kids do get totally overscheduled — it was a real shock to me when I moved to the ‘burbs and discovered that four-year-old kids had activities lined up for every afternoon of the week! Ack!

    While my kids aren’t as free as I was as a kid (I still don’t let them outside without an adult, since we live in an apartment and don’t have a yard), I have very little scheduled. My eldest (7) is in baseball camp from 9-3 two weeks out of each month, and my middle has occupational therapy for three hours a week, but the rest of the time is spent going from one playground to another, taking walks, going to the park district pool/water playground, and investigating various places for cool treats.

    On really hot days, we fill up a tub of water balloons and let the kids blast each other on the sidewalk… with the caveat that they have to pick up all the balloon pieces and throw them away.

    After a spring where four days a week were spent at various baseball practices and games, this laid-back time is a big relief. So far we’ve managed to avoid any major bug bites, sunburns, and (pooh pooh) accidents, and I’ve heard no “I’m bored” whines, either.

    Of course, I think I’m more tired than when I worked 55 hours a week outside the home, but my kids and I are all a little better for having some goofy fun for the summer. I’m hoping next year we’ll be in a house, and can spend the summer playing in the yard with a sprinkler, wading pool, and light gardening.

  5. Jill in Atlanta says

    We’re fortunate to live across the street (literally) from a public pool. We swim there every afternoon that it doesn’t rain (and in Georgia this year, there hasn’t been much rain!)

    We did one week of Culture Camp at our UU church at the beginning of the summer, and then we traveled to see lots of family. Now in the mornings, my boys (3 & 6) are begging me to do “Camp Mom”, which I implemented to keep them busy. We’re alternating between self-initiated activities (Lego, art, toys) and mom-led activities (school summer worksheets, science projects, and “Gym”- where they do my physical therapy activities with me on exercise/playground balls). We’ve had some real field trips and some errand running. We have read aloud time (they EACH have books to read to me and they earn pennies by doing it) and silent reading (Mom gets to relax, alone). School starts here August 13… in only one more month. I may need to hire a babysitter so I can get a morning to myself soon, but so far we’re doing pretty well.

  6. John says

    Our summers a pretty unstructured. Our neighborhood is pretty rural so we make a lot of our own fun or visit with friends. Big changes for this summer is that we got our first swimming pool. I’ve also done 2 projects to create more play areas for the kids in the backyard. We got some free tractor tires which I half buried to give the kids another climbing area (good soccer goals too) and I added a tower addition to their fort with a climbing wall.
    Our only structured activity is soccer on Saturday mornings. Otherwise we play it by ear. Rotating the toys is a must so there is always something fun and seemingly new for them to do.

  7. LisaS says

    I’m a pretty typical working mom who has to find things for the Little Darlings (now school-aged) to do so I can work …. so we have the great google calendar schedule of who is at which camp which week and carpool arrangements and coordinating with our business meetings, appointments, and travel. Violin and swimming lessons are on hiatus, however. And we try to get accross the street to the park frequently, but bedtimes are always an issue since we have to get up the next day.

    Lately I’ve been feeling guilty that my kids don’t know those lazy days of playing and reading and watching TV until you’re so sick of it all that you’re ready for school to start again already ….

  8. Mrs. Davis says

    Yay for Alaska!! I was in Anchorage (on business!) in 1998 or 1999 and loved it.

    I think you’re right that the difference in generations is not as stark as it appears in print, but you raise such an interesting question — when did we become responsible for our children’s entertainment? I think, primarily, it was when parents no longer felt safe sending kids out to play all through the neighborhood. Many other factors, though….

    Welcome back!

  9. Jenn in Central NJ says

    I refuse to be responsible for my kids’ entertainment, lolol. I will play with him, do things with him and take him places, but I am not entertaining him 24/7. I don’t know when THAT came into vouge…??!?!

    Our 5 yo has always had “entertain yourself” summers. We go places, do vacations and day trips, but other than that, he is on his own, just like his father and I were as kids.

    He takes the typical one class/once a week in the summer, just like I did, and that ends his structured time. The rest is spent playing, alone or with a friend, bike riding, reading books, playing with his dog or his baby brother and THAT’S IT.

    I feel that it is so important for them to have the unstructured time because sometimes, when they don’t, children don’t know how to be imaginative or playful unless someone is telling them how to be, in my opinion.

  10. kittenpie says

    I’m with you. Now in my house, we didn’t have TV as a kid, but my mom would every once in a while pry me from my books and throw me outside to waste time in the fresh air, instead. But otherwise, I was expected to pretty much do my thing. When I was younger, though, I went to some day camps because my parents both worked and they needed somebody to look after me since they couldn’t take the whole summer off. Now that Misterpie is a teacher, I imagine that eventually Pumpkinpie will get to a point where she’s not in daycare anymore (they do lots of cool stuff in summer, so I like to send her anyhow!) and she mgiht do a couple weeks of camp for a treat, but mostly be around with him.