With most South Jersey schools officially on break, one local Activities Coordinator offers creative solutions for parents scrambling to occupy little ones during the extra-long days ahead
Contributor: Jami M. Smith, MHA, MT-BC, Activities Coordinator with Bancroft’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Center of Excellence
Families eagerly anticipate summer’s arrival all school year – and considering our area’s chillier-than-average spring, children across our region are undoubtedly more ready than ever to enjoy the season. But even those parents who jam-pack the kids’ summer schedules with camp, shore trips and overnights with friends aren’t immune to the inevitable “We’re bored!”
As an Activities Coordinator with one of our region’s leading providers of services for children and adults with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, I know how important it is to keep kids engaged throughout the summer – and really, throughout any school break. In fact, right now, Bancroft staff is preparing to celebrate the summer season with residents in more than 200 group homes and supported apartments!
I’ve seen firsthand how meaningful play not only helps kids learn when school isn’t in session, but also how social interaction with peers keeps them developmentally on track, too. Fortunately, these affordable, creative ideas are always a hit when the weather’s warm. Keep a few in mind throughout the long, hot days ahead:
- DIY Sprinkler: This fun activity requires nothing more than a pool noodle (about one dollar) and outdoor hose. Carefully poke several varying holes along the pool noodle. Use waterproof tape to cover one end and secure the hose inside the other end. Turn on the water and watch the kids splash through their homemade summer sprinkler!
- Water Table: Grab some old plastic tubs from the attic or garage and fill them with water outdoors. Throw in a variety of water toys (refillable squirt bottles, plastic cups and blocks are perfect and most families keep them on hand) and encourage the kids to use their imaginations to build waterfalls.
- Water Balloons: Just because school’s out doesn’t mean families can’t recreate field day at home. On a hot day, fill several colorful water balloons and help the kids and their friends form teams. They will build social and critical thinking skills keeping score as they toss the balloons, participate in wet relay races, water balloon tennis and even batting practice!
- DIY Ice Cream or Popsicles: For a cool snack that won’t break the bank for a crowd, check out online recipes for homemade fresh ice cream. The process takes only minutes – great for those of us who need instant gratification! Fill popsicle molds with fresh fruit, juices and yogurt for a healthier version, too. Have the kids select their own flavors and toppings and watch as they strengthen their skills in the kitchen.
- Taste-safe Sand Table: Create a sensory-friendly and therapeutic experience, without the road trip to the beach. Use homemade kinetic sand (experiment with whole wheat flour and olive oil until the consistency becomes similar to wet beach sand) or simply use brown sugar! The littlest kids in your clan will build fine motor skills and parents and caregivers needn’t worry when a fistful of “sand” eventually makes its way into little mouths.
Keeping kids (and adults!) learning and engaged throughout the summer shouldn’t become a source of stress for parents and caregivers. In fact, armed with a few great ideas and a bit of creative thinking, families can make this summer the best one yet – on a budget.
Grab your kids, their friends and an outdoor hose, and get outside to enjoy the season!
Children and adults enrolled in Bancroft’s robust suite of programs and services for individuals with autism, developmental and intellectual disabilities have access to an interdisciplinary team of care providers, including nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists and therapeutic activity specialists such as activity coordinators and health and wellness specialists.