How to make the most of summer

May 22 2019

How to make the most of summer

“Vacation, all I ever wanted,
Vacation, had to get away.”
–The Go Go’s

By the time you read this final blog of the 2018-19 year, school will be over and students will have scattered to start their summer breaks. I want to wish you and your family a summer of enjoyable activities, and time to relax and reenergize. Whether you are staying in town or traveling, I hope you have a wonderful summer holiday, and I look forward to seeing you in August when school recommences. Thank you for a great year of learning and growing!

Perhaps from the perspective of students, summer is finally here. The year that began months ago during those hazy, hot, and humid days of August has concluded;  for children, there is now time to relax, sleep in, escape homework, read books that you choose rather than those that are assigned, and follow a different schedule than the routine of a school day. The possibility of a slower pace that has seemed out of reach for so long has arrived, and it stretches in front of us for what can seem like infinity. However, as we know, these days will fly by, and before one can blink, we will be preparing for another school year.

So, how do parents and children maximize this precious time? A blog post in “The Conversation” called “Five ways kids can benefit from being outside this summer break” by Shelly Gull Laird and Laura McFarland contains wise advice. According to this piece and to nobody’s surprise, children spend much more time indoors (and much of that time online) than previous generations. As a result, youngsters are less connected to nature than their predecessors, and in some ways less healthy. Laird and McFarland provide a few reasons to go outdoors during summer.

When children play outside, they are more active and as one might expect, less susceptible to childhood obesity. Also, if boys and girls toil in the garden, they are more prone to make healthy eating choices. In some cases, more time outside may even translate into decreased risks of being short-sighted.

In addition, a greater amount of sunlight leads to more Vitamin D3 which can help with muscle and bone development. Obviously, children should use sunscreen, since too much of a good thing can be injurious. Even a rainy day, though, may contain health benefits that cannot be realized by staying inside all day.

If for no other reason, please spend some time with your children outside so they can improve their cognitive abilities.  Research has shown that being in the great outdoors can lead to better memory, improved concentration, and more effective reasoning ability. Fresh air and sunlight can aid brain development in a variety of ways, including risk taking, creativity, and engendering a sense of wonder.  Years before Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring,” she encouraged parents to cultivate a sense of wonder in children by allowing them to explore the land and the sea. As a result, boys and girls become more curious, more exploratory, and more in love with the wild.

In terms of the affective realm, some psychological studies hypothesize that being outdoors can help reduce anger, increase self respect, decrease the chances of problem behavior and some symptoms of depression. Some studies have also shown that spending time outside can also lessen stress.

So, what does all of this mean? I know, I know – it’s hot here in South Texas. Moving to San Antonio last summer allowed me to become reacquainted with the heat and humidity I remembered growing up in the Ohio River Valley. I recall that we began sweating as soon as we left the house in the mornings, and working construction meant starting early and trying to end before it became unbearable. Perhaps, if it’s possible, we should plan on taking children outside in the morning when the sun has either not yet reached its peak or in the evenings when the sun is setting. Either way, we should try to get our children outside regularly so they can develop as well-rounded people familiar with the outdoors and all the benefits that being in nature brings.

Have an amazing summer, and I hope to see you around town. Thank you again for all you’ve done to make this year so special.

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