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Cottage kids: Tips for a Successful Summer!

By Linda McFadyen

Swimming, biking, hiking and more! How do we get the kids off the couch and away from the screens this summer? Here are some tips that will give your family vacation a balance of active, calm and routine with a whole lot of fun mixed in!

Vacation time is upon us and keeping kids busy during the summer months can be challenging. As a mom, an elementary school teacher for over 30 years and a cottage owner, I have learned that children require guidance, encouragement and parameters. I have also learned that parents have to be involved, good role models and the one in charge - not the other way around.

Children need to be occupied at the cottage but that doesnít just mean several trips around the lake on a tube where the only person that gets tired is the driver! Planning ahead and making some inexpensive purchases can provide hours of entertainment for kids of all ages.

Creating a craft bucket with paint, paint brushes, paper, paper bags, googly eyes, yarn, scissors etc. was always key on my list. A plastic table cloth and lots of art material could keep my kids and their friends busy for a whole afternoon. A glue gun, fabric, sewing supplies, small hammer and some nails could be available for the older kids. Obtaining a few outdoor games such as water balloons, hula hoops, skipping ropes, frisbees and balls can provide extra entertainment for your gang especially if the adults get involved. Basic baking ingredients on hand complete with icing sugar and decorations can fill a rainy afternoon or cooking up a simple play doh recipe can also offer hours of fun.

You have all your supplies, so what is next? Set out a few ground rules for what you expect during the holidays. If you donít want your kids to watch tv and play video games all day, then parameters need to be set. A teacher who doesnít teach the kids how to clean up their space shouldnít wonder why the classroom is always a mess at the end of the day. The same goes for a parentís expectations. If you want a specific outcome, then demonstrate what that looks like.

Who doesnít like peace and quiet while sipping the first cup of steaming coffee? Establish a morning routine where everyone has time to themselves with a book, ipad or paper and crayons. Quiet time in the morning and again later in the day could be a routine that you launch at the beginning of your vacation. Involve the kids in the conversation and get their input - a good time to negotiate a reasonable amount of screen time per day. Implementing a simple routine should flow smoothly if family members are part of the dialog and agree to the guidelines.

Parents should provide their kids with opportunities, ideas and guidance while at the same time giving them choices. Adults are in charge, however; we want the little people to feel in control between the choices we propose. ìDo you want to go for a hike?î will likely get a ìnoî response by many kids. Offer options where children need to agree to one or the other activity. ìDo you want to do some reading now or after dinner? Do you want to play a board game or some cards with your brother?î They are making the selection yet you are guiding them towards activities that you feel are acceptable. They may even come up with their own idea that is more preferable to them and within your expectations.

Kids have teachers and daycare leaders directing their activities throughout the year. Too much free time in unstructured summer holidays leaves many kids feeling lost. I am sure you have all heard your kids say, ìIím bored! There is nothing to do!î What they are really saying is, ìI need help getting started with my play.î A shelf full of toys is pointless if children do not know what to do with them. Grab the bucket of blocks and help them create a city, pull out the blankets and lawn chairs and pretend you are living in a castle or open up the craft bucket and provide ideas for possible creations. Show them how to fly from the real world into make believe. Once they are up and running, their imaginations can carry them the rest of the way.

Planning ahead, setting limits and giving your kids choices will help make your holiday at the cottage the relaxing time it is meant to be!

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