Soaring Into Summer

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It seems like just yesterday I was preparing for the beginning of the new school year.  It was a new experience for me…my only child was entering kindergarten.  She was way more emotionally prepared for it than I was.  Now it is May and we are thinking about summer vacation.  Where did the time go??

End of the year can be an equally exciting and scary thing for many of the kids I work with.  They have become accustomed to their routines, seeing their friends and having a place to go to every day. It can also be a challenge for parents and caregivers who have to figure out how to keep their children entertained for the entire summer.   I find that the end of the year can also cause parents to panic about their children regressing and losing some of the skills that they worked so hard to gain over the year.  

Here are a few ideas I share with parents to help them prepare for the end of the school year and to get them through the long summer months.  Hopefully some of these will help you and your little ones ease into the summer.  

1.  Countdown Calendar-with the end of the year comes a lot of activities out of the routine for kids.  this can be fun, but also overwhelming.  One way to help kids plan for the end of the school year is by putting up a calendar for the May and June that they can see each day (I suggest a dry erase one or a blank one that you can fill in).  Be sure to include any special events like field trips, end of year parties, concerts, etc.. In addition to putting the dates on the calendar, you can also include how many days of school are left in each box. This visual reminder may ease some of the stress and anxiety a child might experience towards the end of the year.

2.  End of the Year Gifts-for some children, saying goodbye to teachers and therapists can be really hard.  They have come to depend on seeing these people every week day and formed some meaningful relationships with them.  The idea of having to say goodbye can be hard and cause some children to get really anxious.  Having your child be part of the gift process could help ease some of that anxiety.  One of the things I am doing with my daughter is having her reflect on her school year and think about her favorite memory with both of her teachers.  Since she essentially learned how to read using the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems, so we have purchased his last book in the series called The Thank You Book and she will write a message to her teachers inside.  
In addition to that, we will be making a homemade gift for them.  If you haven’t heard of Project Kid, I recommend you take a look at it.  Tons of great craft ideas that your child can make and give to his/her teacher at the end of the year.
I really like this Clay Ring Dish using Fimo or Sculptey clay.  Each block of clay (which comes in a ton of fabulous colors) makes 4 bowls
-a block of clay
-gold leafe paint pen
-small oven-safe bowls
-rolling pin
1.  Roll clay to about 1/4″ thick.  Trace around a small bowl or shape it freehand into a circle
2.  Lightly press circular disk of clay into the small bowl (make sure it’s oven safe) and bake in an oven at 275 degrees for 15 minutes
3.  Have your children decorate the bowls (maybe personalizing for each of their teachers) with the gold leaf pen

3.  Summer Journal Activity-some people ask me what they can do to keep up with writing and such during the summer months when they won’t be coming to therapy quite as much.  Many of my kids are in camp for long hours or traveling for much of the summer.  Instead of having kids come to therapy exhausted after a long day of camp, I give parents activities that they can do at night or on the weekends.  Keeping a summer journal is a fun way for kids to work on handwriting.  There are a lot of different ways to keep journals.  One idea is to use a polaroid camera and have your child take a few pictures each week.  They can glue the picture in a book and then write about it.  For younger children who aren’t really writing yet, you can have them tell you a story about the picture and you can write out what they want.  This is a great thing for kids to bring with them back to school to talk about what they did all summer.  

4.  Pen Pals-the end of the school year often means that friends part ways for several months which can be hard for some kids.  Letter writing seems to be a dying art but something that can be a fun and motivating way to work on handwriting.  My daughter loves nothing more than when she receives an actual letter or postcard in the mail.  This year, I am going to have her begin to write letters to people.  She has a lot of older kids in her life who go to camp and I am going to have her write to them while they are away.  This is also one of my suggestions I give to parents during the summer.  Even if you aren’t really going anywhere, you can pick up fun postcards from day trips and send those out.  It would be particularly helpful to find friends or family members who will write back to your child in order to keep them motivated to spend time writing during their summer vacation. To get them really excited, you can have them design their own stationary to write on.  Maintaining friendships over the summer months can be hard as kids spread apart, but writing letters is a great way to keep them connected.  

5. Summer Bucket List-not everyone goes to camp or away for the summer.  Some families I know use the summer to do lots of fun family activities and don’t want to be stuck to a daily routine and schedule after the school year.  A good friend of mine, and a former NYS public school teacher, has two sons that she must keep busy during the summer.  To quote her “Boredom only goes so far. And frankly we need a schedule to keep us going!”  She has done different things each summer to organize their activities trying to balance fun with work/educational based activities.  One year she took a bunch of popsicle sticks and wrote all the summer learning activities on one set and the screen time choices on other sticks.  
With my daughter entering first grade in September and the academic expectations increasing, I feel like we need to spend time this summer keeping up on her reading, writing and math.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to sit down and start brainstorming about things she wants to do this summer. Living in New York City, there are a lot of fun adventures we can go on that we will include on her list.  Additionally, she loves to bake and craft so we will look for new recipes and crafts to try over the summer.  Mixed in with all the fun and adventure, will be built in time to work in all the learning things!

So here are just a few ideas for making the end of the school year as smooth as can be for you and your kids.  Do you have any great ideas, activities or anything that you do with your children or that you suggest to the families you work with?  I would love to hear some of the other great things people do and I am sure my readers would love to as well.  I am only a click away and love hearing from you all.

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