Parents need to do homework for summer
Although to some, “We have neither summer nor winter, neither autumn nor spring …”, to quote the poet H.D. Carberry, ask any child what is their favourite time of the year. Guaranteed, most will answer that it is summer time! The two months of freedom from school, teachers and homework. A lot of adults may even envy children who get two months off from school, but for adults who are caregivers of children, there is the worry of how to keep children occupied and meaningfully engaged for those two months. As paediatricians, we have an interest in children living a healthy, active, and balanced lifestyle, and for many of our children, especially those who have just finished major exams such as PEP, CSEC, CAPE, etc., the summer break is well deserved. The task for adults is to find activities for children that are fun, safe, and interesting.
A lot of time we scratch our heads as we just don’t know where to turn. There are, however, a number of options that are available for children while they are out of school. What is chosen is determined by varying factors, including (for most, cost as oftentimes summer activities are more expensive than attending regular school). To help with the selection process, start by choosing an objective for the summer. It could be as simple as finding something that is free, learning a new skill such as swimming, an activity that is close to home or one than can help in improving confidence. Once the objective is understood, ask around and check different sources to determine if there are programmes that fit.
The items below are not endorsement of any of the activities, but are meant as suggestions that could satisfy an objective for the summer months:
n Very often, churches have a week-long Vacation Bible School or summer camp. If this fits an objective, then that is one of the eight weeks covered for the summer. Typically, these are free or of minimal cost.
n Check the newspaper ads or social media postings as there are many activities being advertised. These can be gender-based day camps (boys only or girls only), camps for sports, cooking, music, writing, dance, art, robotics, leadership, jewellery making, archaeology, marine exploration, rocket science, photography and horseback riding, all here in Jamaica. There are also overnight camps available lasting from days to weeks. Sacrificing to afford even just one week of exposure can open the door to a lifetime of possibilities for your child.
n Many organisations and companies facilitate camps in communities or for their workers. For example, The Paediatric Association of Jamaica has facilitated a two-week summer programme at the Waterhouse Community Centre. This year will make the third year for this activity and it is usually well organised with the community members, fun, and well attended. Look at the notice board at other community centres to see if there are any activities organised. Where there are none, parents can get together and organise day care and projects for each other’s children. This will not only be cost-effective but will also improve community spirit and camaraderie.
n Common staples for some people during the summer are organisations such as the YMCA. This is a way to interact with other children, and many children learn to swim and play other sports during summer activities at the ‘Y’.
n Extended family can also be a great help for parents. Children can be sent to spend some of the summer months with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Relatives that allow children to experience ‘city life’ or ‘country life’ and the time away from parents can help a child with becoming independent.
n An additional alternative available to caregivers is to plan their own activities for their children. This could be done alone, or with other parents. A day trip to Castleton Gardens, a visit to the Jamaica National Gallery, or your very own theme-based activity.
n And if your teenage child is so inclined, and if it is possible, a summer job is helpful to get an introduction to the working world and the responsibilities that come with having a job and a budget. The extra money can also come in handy.
Summer activities can definitely benefit a child’s development and it takes them away from the television and computer screens. They also promote interaction with others, in an environment that doesn’t appear as rigid as a classroom, foster friendships and can help with the development of creative skills.Think fun for child and affordability for parent. There are still a few weeks left to do your homework for the summer holidays and to get it right!
Dr Tamra Tomlinson Morris is a consultant paediatrician and cardiologist at The Paediatric Place.