Building sandcastles, learning to swim, and playing outside are more than fun summer pastimes. According to Dr. Susan Bartell, an NYC-area child psychologist, these activities help teach kids life skills like patience, perseverance, focus, and determination, which they'll call on later in life. With your encouragement, your child's summer fun can lead to character development.
I love the summer. No homework, no rushing around, and everyone seems to be in a better mood. For me, the summer is one big, deep, cleansing breath that continues for two months. That being said, I don't think kids quite get the idea that summer should represent a change of pace. They don't bicker less with siblings, they don't nag any less, and they certainly don't give you any more time alone in the bathroom!
However, the relaxed nature of the summer months and the reduced pressure on kids to perform academically and socially makes it the perfect time for you to teach your child the all-important skills of summer: patience and perseverance. In fact, these traits will take your child far in life, and you can use summer activities to begin instilling them in your child, beginning as young as 2 or 3 years old.
Building sandcastles takes a great deal of patience, time, and effort. Encourage your child to work on a castle, fort, or tunnel for more than a few minutes. Show enthusiasm for your child's sand creation and, if necessary, teach him some ways to build that he may not yet know. Sandcastle building may seem trivial to you, but the time and effort required to be successful is no different from the energy you may exert on an important work project. Mastering the patience, focus, and perseverance needed for this activity will benefit your child for years to come.
Learning to Swim
Learning to swim or mastering a swimming technique can be extremely challenging for any child. The fear of drowning is naturally a hurdle for any beginning swimmer, and may also impact a child who needs to master jumping or diving into the pool. For parents, helping a child overcome this fear can seem like a monumental task, especially when a child cries, throws tantrums, or downright refuses to even try. In this situation, it is you who must be patient. Helping your child work through this significant fear is not just about swimming. It will teach her that she has the ability to persevere and achieve success even in those areas of life that may seem insurmountable.
Playing outside is the hallmark of summer as far as parents are concerned. We want our child to appreciate and savor every minute of the beautiful weather. However, perhaps you are one of the many parents met with arguments by a child who would much rather spend the summer watching TV or playing video games on the computer. When the nagging for screen time begins, please, please resist the urge to give in simply because it's the path of least resistance. Encouraging your child to play, without having media as a crutch, will give your him or her the opportunity to temporarily inhabit a calmer, less frenetic world. He will develop the patience to tap into his inner creativity. She will learn how to persevere and become terrific at any number of skills -- bike riding, searching for worms, swinging as high as possible, or packing the perfect picnic lunch. And isn't that what summer is all about?
Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Her latest book is "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask."