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Summertime has started! It is that time of the year when parents, especially mothers endure the anxiety and the stress that hit them at the realization that school is about to end; or that it has actually ended. Here comes the worry about scheduling free time and free play during the summer break, and the fear that the boredom starts crippling. Mothers know what I am talking about; it is that time of the year when worrying dominates, about filling kids long summer days with beneficial activities.

Positive Side: What I like about the Summer and Day Camps

Finding a good summer camp in a near location is sometimes not an accessible option for all parents. I found out however that is much more helpful when looking for options to not focus on finding the good program,  but rather to focus on finding the program with a team that is able to give children the best experience possible. This is also applicable to kids with special needs; what matters is finding opportunities where they get to experience life with less challenged kids and socialize with them.

One major issue could arise when it comes to summer camps regarding children with special needs. I am referring here to the issue of finding a shadow teacher or a close monitor. While this could a be very stressful task to the parents for school, it could be a little less hard of a job during summer to find one in summer camps. Many youths and teenagers could be looking for opportunities to serve their community, volunteer or even find a job would be more than happy to ride on that experience.

In addition, during summer, there are many sensory activities no matter where you go or what you do.  I will share in this article a list of activities that I was blessed to try and experience with my kids, and that can help or inspire many parents who are struggling to find ways to fill their kids schedule with fun activities.

Ideas from My Family Summer Vacations

My kid with special needs has always been fascinated with wheels and pulling things so we invested a lot in making him ride a bicycle by exposing him to people exercising and doing outdoor activities like cycling, roller skating, running, playing ball …. And since we have many corniches along the beaches in our country, we took him a lot there. At first, he kept on observing, after many encouragements he started trying until he succeeded and now he is an amazing cycler. It was a therapy for him for learning balance and bilateral coordination. Just few weeks ago we moved to riding without the stabilizer.

Another outdoor idea that enables children to get plenty of vitamin D and where they get to receive a lot of sensory input is the beach. A sandy or rocky beach full of pebbles is a great way for the child to spend the day without feeling bored and enjoying their magnificent world of imagination. Making sand castles or just digging holes, collecting pebbles and seashells or just playing with is enough for them to sooth all their tenses. You can still use this time to remind them of school subjects by counting or adding the number of pebbles collected; or just tracing letters and words in sand; or doing some scientific experiences outdoor.

Our country is also full of lovely villages, it is just our city lifestyle that makes us forget how to make the best use of it. Among the activities in our village is collecting any kind of dead or fallen leaves or flower and doing some craft with them. We used to draw and paint on pebbles. We also used to go hiking and discover insects and animals and explain about them. We also make a bonfire using dried sticks and wood. In the village, we do anything that revives our imagination.

One of the refreshing activities that kids like doing during summer is water play. My kids like to use sponges, water, and soap; so I try when I can, to spare for them safe tools for them. Sometimes, I also ask them to  clean windows or glass doors or balcony rails while I do something else. And even when I mop the floor, I try sometimes to add extra soap & water for them to belly slide on it and it’s a very engaging and fun activity that kids like.

In the kitchen I try to involve them by making them bake their own cake with my guidance. Or I get to involve them in preparing food; for example, I would ask them to wash vegetables or peeling potatoes or carrots, or even cutting vegetables to make the stew or soups. Actually, I found out that if you are struggling to make a kid taste a certain kind of food let him or her prepare lunch; he’s going to be more likely to taste it when he works with it. Try putting different kind of vegetables & greens in front of your kids (including ones they really like) and let them cut them make their own salad and juicing their own lemon, you will be surprised. I got my kid to eat bell pepper by making his own salad and adding his favorite ingredient a spoonful of Lebanese thyme mix. Stuffing zucchini or making pastry are also great ways to engage those little hands and installing the sense of belonging and responsibility in kids; and they are a great way to learn about their contribution in family and society. They are the practical form of playdough if I might say.

I also realized how effective it is, to make available surfaces for children to draw and scribble. I have small wall leading to the bedroom that I left for my children to draw whatever they like on it. When it was full we decided a couple of weeks ago that it could be a nice idea if we make our kids paint it so they can use it again; and indeed, it was a very good idea.

children love parents’ engagement with them … it gives kids a great sense of love and belonging

In a nutshell …

In summer everything can be used to be fun, engaging and for building their self-esteem and their body strength. In the kitchen: Cutting fruits, inserting them in skewers, making artistic sandwiches or plates, making their own juices … In the house chores: helping with cleaning furniture from dust, even cleaning carpets or winter blankets by pressing them under their feet in water and soap, sweeping floor. We can also make our own maracas using cups, beans, rice or even pebbles. Or find any safe home items to make percussion or we can invest in some musical instruments to play with at home. Painting, coloring, drawing even if on glass doors or windows and cleaning after ourselves…. All of these activities are fun and beneficial and healthy activities to keep kids away from screens.

Keep in mind that whatever we do, children love parents’ engagement with them. They love to be the ones giving the instructions sometime specially during play and it’s very important for us to follow theirs this will reduce the power struggle and make them follow our rules more easily at home when they gain this sense of control during play.  Kids love pillow fight, hide and seek, rope skipping, throwing/catching balls, flee and catch, playing cards, dancing … All this primitive play like brain gym clapping and so on, are so engaging and fulfilling for the kids and take minimum effort to make and prepare at home but give the kids a great sense of love and belonging and growth in his family; and they will be ready for a great come back for a tough hard work for the coming year.

Pascale Yammine

A calm woman, but wild at heart, Pascale Haddad Yammine is passionate about arts and sciences, especially human sciences like biology and psychology. In her free time, she loves activities and hiking. Pascale is a graduate of the Lebanese University and completed her studies in engineering. Following her graduation, she worked for a few years before becoming the mother of two wonderful children, and since 2017, she has been a stay-at-home mother. Pascale considers herself lucky because she was able to learn about her son’s autism early in his life, before he started school. She says, “After noticing a lot of delays and atypical behavior in my eldest son, I, being a research freak, started investigating until I found out that he has autistic traits. I was so blessed to discover that at an early age, even he went to school, so we could start the early intervention and give him all the help he needed to improve.” She also adds that since the confirmation that her son was on the autism spectrum, her life has been filled with challenges. Yet through the grace of God, the family has had all the help they need from other family members, from friends, and from people in the community. Pascale also underscores that her calm character and inquisitiveness played a key role in her ability to support her son, to help him at home, and later on, to find the professional help he needs. She concludes her account by saying, “My son definitely changed the course of my life, but I bet it's for good. I can already see the growth I've been blessed with.”

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