Kids Need Summer Break

Expert: It’s a chance for children to step away … learn and practice their soft skills

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

While no school districts in New York schedule school year-round, numerous districts do nationwide. They cite reasons such as decreasing remediation, reducing need for daycare and using school resources throughout the year. 

The districts typically sprinkle their time off throughout the rest of the year, with week-long breaks during each quarter.

While parents of children who have a typical summer break may feel that scheduling academic camps and reading lists will keep them ahead scholastically, enjoying summer as a break from rigorous mental activity offers benefits, too.

“Learning through play is a huge part of life,” said Terrence McElduff, executive director of the Before and After School Program at the Y of Greater Rochester.

McElduff has also worked in other Y youth programming.

“At the Y, we focus on core values,” he added. “Those are all a huge part of life and learning and help us in our education. At our summer camps, that’s what we’re doing: building relationships and creating a better sense of community. Because of these past few years, kids are still coming out of the mode of being stuck inside and summer gives an opportunity to have a release from it all.”

He views summer break as a chance for children to step away from the busy grind of school and learn and practice their soft skills.

The Y provides 27 daily programs, plus six kinds of day camps during the summer. Campers may come for up to 10 weeks with the Y’s rolling enrollment.

Free time for play helps children learn how to entertain themselves. However, they need the right tools for play. Assess their playthings. Are their toys outgrown, broken or missing parts? Provide some age-appropriate outdoor play equipment, such as sporting goods, bikes and skates, sidewalk chalk, water squirting toys and swing set and slide. Plan for rainy days with some new coloring books and markers or crayons; craft supplies and kits; modeling clay; Legos and other building kits; dolls, action figures and puppets; and pleasure reading material.

While summer should represent a time of relaxation, it is important to for parents to not leave summertime as a completely blank slate.

“Though we need to disconnect and have that freedom in the summer, some structure and focusing on those core values like sharing, being honest, team building helps kids learn,” McElduff said. “Giving them new experiences like a STEM project, shooting archery with gear like bow cases, climbing rock walls, hiking, learning to swim: all those things happen at our camps.”

While it is tempting to let all the rules drop during summer, that isn’t a good idea, according to physician Alberto Monegro, with the Pediatric & Adult Sleep Medicine and UBMD Pediatrics & UBMD Internal Medicine. He is an assistant professor in the department of medicine of Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

“For most Americans, we have the idea that when we are on vacation or when summer starts that the most restful thing to do is to stay up late and have inconsistent bedtime schedules, as we try to maximize every hour of our day,” Monegro said.

The “non-schedule” is stressful on the body and especially for children, who crave routine for when they sleep, eat and exercise.

“When that routine is thrown into disarray, their health is affected,” Monegro said. “It’s very difficult for a child with poor sleep habits in the summer to get back into the rhythm of going back to school.”

Summertime sleep is hard enough with the longer daylight hours throwing the body’s circadian rhythm out of whack. Sticking with a consistent bedtime and a cool, dark bedroom can improve children’s rest.