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Stretching Independence in the Summer Months

by Lower School Director Rachel Dixon

It’s hard to believe that summer break is just a week away. Soon, you’ll receive recommendations for summer learning to keep your child engaged academically and continue the momentum from the school year. Though reading, writing, and practicing those math skills are undoubtedly important, summer also offers a critical time for play, exploration, and building independence. The slower pace outside the hustle and bustle of the school year allows time for the productive struggle that supports the development of the grit and autonomy that are essential for learning. Below are ten ways to foster self-help and independence in your child over the summer months, whether a preschooler or a pre-teen.

  1. Teach your child to prepare a meal or support meal prep.
    Young children can play a helpful role by table setting, peeling fruit or vegetables, opening packaging, or measuring ingredients. Older children can tackle more advanced meal prep and even simple meals. (They may even be ready to pack their own lunchbox for camp.) Celebrate with a family meal prepared by “kids only.”

  2. Get organized! 
    Find an area in your child’s room or playspace that requires cleaning, decluttering, or organization, and support them in tackling the project. Emphasizing the importance of keeping track of belongings and staying organized at home supports this at school as students look after their desks and lockers.

  3. Build independence with hygiene.
    For younger children, work on independence with toileting and tooth brushing. For older children, promote independence (and self-monitoring) of hair brushing, bathing/showering, and nail trimming. Does your child know how to care for a hangnail or small cut? Show them how to wash and bandage it for themselves. 

  4. Introduce a new chore or household task.
    You’d be surprised what your children can take on! Summer allows for time to practice and master a new chore. Gathering the mail, weeding, watering, sorting and folding laundry, pet care, and even mowing are great summer chores!

  5. Tackle those laces! 
    Haven’t gotten around to shoe tying yet? Summer is the perfect opportunity to practice, so they’re ready for those new back-to-school kicks. Because this skill requires a certain level of dexterity and bilateral coordination, it may be best suited for children six and up.

  6. Practice packing.
    Going on a summer vacation? Ask your child to set aside items they’ll need for the trip. Packing is also a helpful way to boost executive functioning skills, as your child will have to consider different scenarios, such as weather and duration of travel, to plan what items are needed.

  7. Attend a new camp or try on a new activity.
    As children attend camp in new environments or tackle new hobbies, they stretch their self-reliance. Though the familiarity and comfort of Rossman is a beautiful thing, learning to navigate new places and interact with new people is a critical life skill.

  8. Make your child a part of back-to-school shopping.
    When buying clothes, be sure your child can navigate the buttons, snaps, zips, and ties. If they aren’t there yet, take some time to practice. Involving your child in the shopping process also allows them autonomy as they advocate for their preferences.

  9. Take a tech break.
    We need to build independence from technology, too! The ability to entertain oneself is critical. Let your child make their own tech-free fun this summer! For an added challenge, avoid the temptation to “Ask Alexa.” Take a trip to the library to research an area of curiosity.

  10. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, allow time for problem-solving.
    Avoid the temptation to jump in and solve a problem on your child’s behalf. If frustrated with a task, allow your child to take a break and invite them to share how they are feeling. Let them embrace a challenge and encourage them to advocate for themselves if they need support.