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Activities for Kids During Summer Vacation: How Much is Too Much?

In order to keep her kids from summertime boredom, this mother made sure to schedule plenty to keep them busy—but is it too much?

Activities for Kids During Summer Vacation: How Much is Too Much?

“Can I have a friend over today?” C asks, as I pack the swim bag with towels and sunscreen.

“Sorry, kiddo,” I say. “We’ve got too much going on this week. Maybe next week.”

I pause and think, or maybe the week after that.

The fact is, in my effort to assure the boys would be kept busy this summer, I may have overscheduled them just a smidge. There hasn’t been much time for play dates or just simply chilling at the house—but in my defense, I have yet to hear the utterance of two of the whiniest words in kid-dom, “I’m bored!”

When I was in elementary school, I waited on the edge of my seat for the final school bell to ring to signal the beginning of summer vacation. The excitement in the classroom was palpable and I’m sure the teacher was as excited as we were to release us to our parents for three whole months.

That’s right, back in my day summer break lasted all summer long. My kids are lucky to have eight weeks.

I spent the summers running through the neighborhood in a (slightly) more civilized suburban version of The Lord of the Flies. A pack of sun-kissed, barefoot kids appeared in the morning and only showed up during the day at home for meals. Lightning bugs signaled it was time to come in for the night, that is if you didn’t hear your Mom or Dad calling you first. We rode bikes, played in creeks and sprayed each other with water hoses if we couldn’t persuade our parents to take us to the city pool.

There were no summer camps, summer schools or summer schedules of any kind. The most instruction I ever got from my parents was when I went inside and, like so many kids before me, cried, “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!”

My mother would hand me a popsicle and say, “Go outside and play.”

Within five minutes my boredom was entirely forgotten and my bare feet were running me down the street to see what kind of adventure I could find next.

I look at my calendar for the months of June, July and August. I have to keep a written record of what we have planned—we have so much, it would be impossible to remember. To be fair, some are planned appointments and doctor’s visits, a trip to the dentist sometime in July.

The rest is all my fault.

In my quest to keep summer from turning my sons in to Xbox playing couch potatoes, I signed them up for a swim team. I had no idea the amount of commitment it would be. Practices are every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., with meets on Monday evenings (and they usually run about four hours.) So much for sleeping in while school is out. Of course this is not including the clinics on Tuesdays or the practice on Thursday nights which we have been, so far, unable to attend. Thursdays the guys are taking cooking classes at the Renaud Spirit Center. And then there’s vacation bible school, our family vacation, our annual summer trip to West Virginia and the fact that I am supposed to be doing worksheets with the boys on a semi-regular basis.

There is a method to my madness. My oldest was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD, and I was advised to try the swim program. I’ve seen both of the boys blossom. Their self-confidence is growing by leaps and bounds and I’ve never been prouder. I watched C dive for the first time and E attempt every stroke. Thanks to the cooking classes, the guys are looking forward to cooking pigs in the blanket for us very soon.

But how much is too much? When the kids begin to whine because they just want to be at home for awhile, it’s time to re-evaluate the game plan. Being flexible and allowing them to sit out a practice here and there isn’t an unreasonable request. There has not been a weekday evening open yet to hang out in the backyard and catch fireflies.

During the summer, there should always be time for fireflies.

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