As seems to be a theme in many of my posts, I want to pass along the importance of play. I don’t mean video games (absolutely the opposite). I mean creative, unstructured, social (or individual) play time. We all need it, adults too, but young people are especially impacted by play time. Unfortunately, my experiences as a teacher at my school often reveal information about the lack of play time in the lives of my seventh and eighth graders. Even on the last day of school, I said something like, “I hope you’re not all scheduled for a bunch of academic stuff this summer,” and there was a groan around the room as they explained how they didn’t have any choice and how many of them have packed “academic” schedules, even in the summer.
Please take my advice. My most successful, happiest, and hardest working students are the students with more choice, more executive functioning skills, more independence, and more flexibility thinking skills. These skills are greatly strengthened by play time, and they are weakened by boring classes, monotonous lessons, isolation with devices or video games or laptops, and parents make all the choices and do all the chores.
An article about free play: The Atlantic: Why Free Play Is the Best Summer School
I can understand that some students might be struggling in a particular academic subject. In that case, I could see taking a two-week course that boosts those skills, as long as that class is no longer than four hours a day. Beyond that, the summer for teens should be full of personal growth. These may not all be “play” ideas, but consider some of these summer checklist items for seventh/eighth/ninth graders:
1. Go somewhere, outside, every day.
2. Make a new friend in your neighborhood.
3. Visit the beach at least three times and have fun down on the sand.
4. Read three books.
5. Do all of your own laundry.
6. Have friends over and make up a cooking competition.
7. Complete a puzzle bigger than 500 pieces.
8. Play frisbee golf at the park.
9. Ride your bike or skateboard at least three times a week.
10. Learn to sew on a button.
11. Have a long talk with an elder in your family. Learn his/her story and share it with someone else.
12. Watch the sunrise.
13. Watch the sunset, often.
14. Go camping (talk your family into it!) Mt. Madonna is an easy place to visit for one-night camping.
15. Plant some new plants in your yard and care for them so you can see them grow.
16. Write a short story or a song.
17. Make a short film with lots of creativity using your friends as actors. Edit it and put it to music and then share it with your family.
18. Plan out a road-trip and convince your family to try it one weekend.
19. Play board games with your family or friends (classics like Life or Monopoly).
20. Redecorate your bedroom (new pictures and posters).
21. Make homemade popsicles.
22. Binge watch your favorite television show.
23. Earn some money doing chores or walking the neighbor’s dog.
24. Take some artistic photos and put them into a slideshow.
25. Go to a drive-in movie.
26. Ride your bike somewhere to meet up with friends for ice-cream.
27. By the end of the summer, be able to whistle, snap, and flip a coin with a thumb flick.
28. Volunteer somewhere for at least one day (like a library or senior center).
29. Make dinner for the whole family.
30. Spend the day at a waterpark with your friends.
I could keep writing ideas, but you can search for yourself. Hopefully you can stay off Instagram, avoid doing the same things you always do, stop hiding alone in your room all the time, and stop eating fast food. There’s so much to learn and so many things to do. Never say, “I’m bored” ever again. Carpe diem.