Three Research-Backed Ways to Help Your Child Flourish This Summer
Research suggests that helping your child to flourish this summer may not be as complicated (or as expensive) as you think!
Welcome to the Parenting Translator newsletter! I plan to use this newsletter to give you THREE RESEARCH-BACKED TIPS every week that will hopefully help you in your day-to-day life as a parent.
I will also be providing an audio version of this newsletter (click the orange arrow below to listen) in case you would prefer to listen to it while carpooling your kids around or folding laundry (since I know as a busy parent myself that it is sometimes hard to find the time to read newsletters like this)!
As a quick introduction (or re-introduction), I am Dr. Cara Goodwin, a licensed psychologist with a PhD in child psychology and mother to three children (currently an almost-2-year-old, 4-year-old, and 6-year-old). I specialize in taking all of the research that is out there related to parenting and child development and turning it into information that is accurate, relevant, and useful for parents! I recently turned these efforts into a non-profit organization since I believe that all parents deserve access to unbiased and free information. This means that I am only here to help YOU as a parent so please send along any feedback, topic suggestions, or questions that you have! You can also find me on Instagram @parentingtranslator, on TikTok @parentingtranslator, and my website (www.parentingtranslator.com).
Today’s newsletter will focus on three parenting practices you may want to consider as we enter the summer season. In the summer, many of us parents feel intense peer pressure from other parents who have their children signed up for every enriching camp or have planned multiple educational and mind-expanding vacations. However, when you start to feel the panic about not having planned “enough” for your child, you can rest assured that research finds no evidence that expensive camps or vacations will give your child a leg up. However, research does find evidence that the following three parenting practices may make a difference for your child this summer:
1) Read, read, and read some more
The positive impact of reading with your children cannot be overestimated. In fact, research suggests that regular reading may be just as effective as summer school in preventing summer learning loss.
This summer, try to find a time every day where you are reading to your child or they are reading to you. Remember that it doesn’t have to be right before bed if that time doesn’t work for your child or your family.
Make sure to allow your child choice over which books they read during the summer, as research suggests that having choice may motivate children to read in the summer.
While reading with your child, ask them to make predictions about the story and ask them questions about the story to check for comprehension. For older children, ask them to describe the character, setting, problem, plot, resolution, and theme. Research finds that this approach may improve reading comprehension over the summer.
2) Don’t overschedule children and allow a LOT of time for free play
Research finds that unstructured free play is associated with better quality parent-child interactions, play skills, and language. Research also shows that the amount of time a child spends in unstructured free play is associated with improved self-regulation later in life. Free play is essential in helping children to learn and practice new skills, particularly social and emotional skills.
Filling a child’s summer with camps, swim team, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities not only disrupts opportunities for free play but may also interfere with quality family time and increase achievement pressure, which leads to anxiety and stress. Research suggests that this may be particularly true for preschool-aged children.
3) Set up some summer routines
Routines are commonly used during the school year to get children ready for school and in bed on time. In the summer, it feels nice to relax some of our typical routines and allow ourselves the freedom to stay at the pool late or eat popsicles at 10am. However, try to keep some routines in place this summer since family routines are associated with increased resilience and self-regulation abilities, more advanced social-emotional development, fewer behavioral problems and improved school readiness and academic performance, and enhanced cognitive abilities (IQ)
For example, even if bedtime is a little later, try to maintain a simple bedtime routine in the summer (that is, a predictable set of activities before going to bed). A bedtime routine is associated with many positive sleep benefits, including an earlier bedtime, increased sleep time, less night awakenings, improved mood, enhanced self-regulation, and fewer behavioral problems in children. It is also linked with improved sleep and reduced stress in parents.
Remember that family routines are simply any activity that you engage in with some regularity. Additional examples of routines can include having a family meal at least several times per week, having one-on-one “special time” with a parent once per week, having one day per week that all family members help with chores, feeding the pets together every morning and evening, having quiet time or nap time, or even brushing your teeth before leaving the house. Even the most simple routines are comforting for both children and parents. Routines help children to feel safe and secure and prevent them from worrying about what will come next, which frees up their minds to learn about the world around them and enjoy their summer!
Wondering how you can support Parenting Translator’s mission and/or express your gratitude for this service? It’s easy! All you have to do is share my newsletter with your friends and/or on your social media!
Thanks for reading the Parenting Translator newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive future newsletters and support my work.
Also please let me know any feedback you have or ideas for future newsletters!