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Summer vacation: The serious business of play

playSummer vacation has begun and the kids are home. Many parents have found difficulty trying to keep everyone busy and engaged for the next three months.

Monarch therapist Ana Cisernos-Howard is also a registered play therapist and knows the importance of allowing children space to play. The therapist also said summer is one of the best times for kids to do just that.

Play is essential to human growth, development, learning, and cultivating relationships, according to the Association for Play Therapy (APT).

The APT also notes “play is our first language. Just as adults use words to communicate, children use play. When playing, we express thoughts and feelings that might otherwise remain hidden.”

Howard explains that we all have an inner child, so doing fun activities and engaging in play are things both kids and adults need to recharge. During the summer, parents have more opportunities to spend quality time with their children.

“Play a board game together, do something interactive like an art project, go out for ice cream, or simply get the coloring books and crayons out and color together, and leave the electronics off more than they are on,” Howard suggested.

She explained that when parents invest the time to talk with their children, it helps them to process what they are experiencing, and models effective ways of conversing, communicating and interacting with the world around them, plus it strengthens the parent-child relationship.

She also emphasized that summer activities don’t have to cost money. They can be as simple as visiting the park, riding a bike, playing catch or going for a hike.

Here are some other tips for a healthy and fun summer vacation:

  • Alone-time is good:  Encourage your kids to spend a portion of their day on their own, whether you have one kid or five!  This is good for them all year long, and a great thing for parents to model, too!
  • Talk it over:  Have a conversation with your kids about limits before problems occur.  Make sure they know what you expect of them individually. 
  • Limit screen time:  Just because it is summertime doesn't mean screen time should be unlimited. Kids need physical and mental stimulation and activity all year long.
  • Bottom line:  Be flexible!  Open up to the possibility that things don’t have to be a certain way, and that maybe your “ideal” situation isn’t everyone else’s—or even realistic

Click here for more information from the Center for Creativity and Healing.

Howard also provided a few more summertime resources for parents here:

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