Kids need some quiet time now and then. Some kids need naps, some need a little rest, and all need to slow down a little each day. Especially in summer, when school-year routines are relaxed, when kids are outdoors often, and when they’re playing at full-tilt.
Naturally, we adults are making sure a good portion of their summer days are spent keeping their brains active – reading for fun, writing creatively, keeping math skills sharp, learning new vocabulary, and honing spelling skills – but they’re also playing up a storm with their friends. Playing takes a lot of energy. Remember?
So, there will come times each day when they get a little tired, a little cranky, a little crabby. Time for a rest.
This is not the same as a “time out,” which some kids can think of as a punishment. Nor is it baby “nap time.” Instead, this is a part of everyone’s routine – routine is important – where we take a few minutes, ten, maybe, or fifteen, to turn off screens and anything else that makes sounds, be alone, and let our brain put its feet up.
Call it Cool Kids Cool-Down.
Kids need to learn that brains need rest, too, just as muscles do.
What to do during Cool Kids Cool-Down? Here are some suggestions I’ve picked up over the years.
- Read. Of course, this is the first one. Have lots of books ready for kids to pick up. Go to the library and let them choose titles that appeal to them. Refresh the stack each week. Have magazines, brochures, heck, even interesting junk mail for them to look at.
- Think. Come up with some ideas they can chew on for a few minutes. What’s going to happen in the next chapter of Harry Potter? Grandma and Grandpa are coming for a visit next week. What can we ask them about their childhood summers? A plot for a creative story about a ghost in our neighborhood.
- Renew. Quiet time lets us renew our minds. Look at clouds, a time-honored cool down activity that relaxes the body and juices up the imagination. Say a prayer for someone less fortunate. Notice the colors in the garden. Reflect on a mystery.
- Write. Writing can be very relaxing. Encourage quiet writing time with a summer journal, post cards to cousins, a silly script for a fun skit to be performed for friends, or even some poetry.
- Play with puzzles. A just-challenging-enough jigsaw puzzle is good for hours of quiet time. Designate a special place for the unfinished puzzle to tempt everyone in the family.
- Do word searches. Word searches can help spelling skills and vocabulary development, especially when they’re focused on a favorite topic. (“How many baseball words can you find?”) There are plenty of age-appropriate word search books to choose from. Better yet, challenge them to create their own and then defy you and others in the family to solve it.
- Do art. Design. Draw. Color. Paint. Paste. Fold. Create. Weave. Photograph. Sew. Knot. Assemble. Build. Make their own masterpieces.
- Work on a quiet hobby. Lots of hobbies allow for rewarding alone-time. Putting together models. Assembling and labeling collections. Mastering a magic trick.
- Plan. Help organize an event, like the kids’ portion of a family get-together. What games should we play? Could we have prizes? What would be fun for the littlest cousins?
- Doze. Sometimes nothing’s better than a little mid-day snooze, especially after lots of activity and when there’s more planned for the evening. For older kids it’s probably best not to suggest it, but don’t be surprised if, after a few minutes, you hear a little snoring coming from the hobby room.
With the right informal approach, a little routine, and just the right timing, kids will come to look forward to enjoying their own company. That’s a gift that will last a lifetime.