Now that the kids have had a few weeks to relax and enjoy “doing nothing,” parents might be feeling like it is time to be proactive about finding ways for kids to see their friends over the summer break.
There are a variety of reasons to work on this goal:
- A desire for our kids to maintain relationships that started in school but have not continued into the summer due to schedule conflicts or geographical challenges.
- A desire for our kids to make NEW friends in addition to the kids they were with every day at school.
- A desire to keep our kids from getting swallowed up in screens for several hours a day.
On that last point, most kids will vigorously make the case that spending time with friends is NOT mutually exclusive with looking at screens. This is true: there is video chatting, texting, online hangouts, and of course, getting together and playing video games. We may not be able to convince kids that there is more to life than facing a screen, so we will have to help them discover it themselves! As adults, we know that some of the most valuable times with friends are face to face, and that when we go through a little bit of “boredom,” we can end up being very creative and having a lot of fun!.
The first step is reaching out. Social media is helpful for getting in touch with people. If you can’t find them online, call a mutual friend to make the connection. Most parents would be happy to receive an invitation for their child to come and hang out for the day. It can take a few tries to make contact, and a few tries to find a time that works for everyone, but press on! If you have never met the parents before, you might want to invite the whole family to meet your family at a local ice cream or snowball stand, so you can all be more comfortable getting in touch (and swapping kids) in the future.
Some ideas for ways that kids can spend time with their friends:
Host a party. Let your kids plan it! It doesn’t have to be a special occasion, or an expensive event. Rather than do a lot of cooking, you can host a potluck meal, or an ice cream social, or have an evening party with a bonfire (and s’mores, of course) or glow sticks and popsicles. For older kids, there are “murder mystery” party kits, and you can also find online a kit for hosting your own “escape room” party.
Lawn games. Water balloons, corn hole, badminton, and croquet are all fairly easy to obtain. Most of them can be played with just two people who would otherwise be hanging around bored. Don’t forget Nerf gun battles!
Board games. There is an abundance of (sneakily educational) board games available. If you don’t have any, chances are your kids’ friends will! If you want to buy some but don’t know where to start, check out some mom bloggers’ reviews of board games. Homeschooling blogs may also have some good suggestions. These personal reviews are often helpful because as you read the reviews, you will get a feel for whether it’s your kid’s style of game or not. If you don’t have board games on hand, get creative: pull out a jigsaw puzzle, or take three easy ones and mix them together to provide a challenge.
Dance party. Get a few tweens together -- especially girls -- and play some of their favorite songs from your favorite music streaming service, and it will soon turn into a singalong. Add a twist by playing “freeze dance”-- everyone dances while the music plays, but freezes when the music stops (at random intervals). Depending on the group, they may soon be playing one song over and over so they can choreograph their own moves to it.
Share a good deal. Check Groupon, LivingSocial, Certifikid and similar sites for great deals on camps, trampoline parks, plays, or local fairs. Invite a friend to join your child on one of these. Vacation Bible school or other church-sponsored camps are another great opportunity to invite friends to join your child in some fun.
Make a video. Rather than simply consuming media, let your kids experience the work and play that goes into creating it! If your kid and his or her friends are so inclined, give them a camera and let them make videos, just for fun. From stop-motion videos to tutorials, almost any interest could become inspiration for a video. If you have software and the kids have the interest, the video could even get edited and shared (with your approval, of course).
Don’t let the summer slide by. Make a phone call or two today, and get some “play dates” on the calendar!