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Avoid the summertime blues

Every year I receive news release from Sylvan Learning Centres with some ideas for summer activities for children

Dr. Rick Bavaria, their senior vice-president of education outreach, sent some suggestions for ways to inspire some memorable fun. Interestingly, I could remember getting involved in similar activities when I was young.

What I like best about these ideas is that they promote activities for groups of kids. When your kids are whining that they are bored, get them together with other kids. Contact your neighbours and arrange to have the kids get together. In many cases simply sending them all to the local park or having them meet in your backyard will lead to fun and frolic. All you need to do is provide regular food and drink breaks.

Creative and outgoing kids can put together a play or a concert for family and friends. Your role is to handle the logistics of helping them figure out how to stage the event and then let them go for it. One year my friends and I decided to put on Aladdin and His Magic Lamp. Writing, rehearsing and planning took weeks.

On the big day, my Dad was busy welcoming all the adults in the neighbourhood into our home where we would be performing, and my Mom was fashioning turbans from towels for the actors. The show was a great success.

Kids who love to read will enjoy it more if they read together and discuss the books. Imagine a small group of kids sitting under a tree, each reading a book (which may be on their summer reading list from school).

Once they get restless they stop for pizza and conversation and then head off to the local swimming hole, whether that be the beach or community pool.

In addition to the books they may be expected to read over the summer, let them choose what interests them.

Regular trips to the library will be part of this activity.

Gardening is a great summer activity. Even very young kids can participate in planting, weeding and watering the plants. If you plant vegetables the kids will also happily eat the results.

After all, they grew them.

Summer is also a great time to dig out the old board games. Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble or Clue are great fun. If you have a mix of ages, handicap the rules, so younger kids get extra turns or more money so that the game evens out. There are also a number of cooperative games available for children. Whatever you choose to play, the beauty of summer is that the game can carry on for much longer than the time you can allot during the school year.

Other activities can also carry on over days. The kids may get involved in building a town in the back yard using blankets, picnic tables and chairs. They may even decide to sleep in their new town.

The trick is to simply provide opportunities and let the kids determine what they want to do.

What about keeping kids' brains active and having them learning during the summer? Well, bottom line, if they are engaged and active then they are learning.

Children are always learning. Whether it's a toddler playing with blocks and figuring out how to pile them up so they don't tumble, a preschooler kicking a ball around the yard, a school-age child watching his garden grow or a teenager reading and discussing books he loves, they are all learning.

Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker, broadcaster, columnist and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. For information or to book Kathy for a speaking engagement, go to her website at