When summer comes around, it’s time for sun, fun and tons of memories to be shared back at school where bragging rights are up for grabs. Some families will court the world and spend time in places others will only dream about. Others will trip tik it across the country and have a number of stories to tell. Then there are all the others. There are countless families who will spend summer at home in communities without the things that make summer so much fun.
The statistics are a witness. Kids without enriching opportunities during the summer are a weight on educational systems after summer. Many are three months behind when they return to school. It is in everyone’s best interest to try and engage kids and their families as much as possible.
Some local businesses face an up and down economic forecast during summer months, in particular, if they are not a destination hot spot. It is a time of transition- kids head home for the summer, if in college, or families are on vacation and or if families have to spend more on sitting fees for their kids not to mention food, utilities and other things when kids are at home all day. In other words, there is far less discretionary income than the little had before summer.
This, however, does not alleviate the fact that families want to have an enjoyable summer. Local businesses can make this possible. They can attract both families and income they may not have planned for. Offering local package deals for families during the summer is a good idea. Restaurants could host family days and with it, highlight key assets they may take for granted, such as play areas for kids, or picnic areas for the entire family. Other stores can make their products like picnic chairs, towels, and picnic baskets with eating utensils, napkins and other things, more affordable to families. Anchor stores with large parking lots could have a carnival like day where local vendors set up food and have picnic tables for use as well as churches sponsoring games and things.
The need for local kids to have activities weekly is crucial. Once during a summer is simply not enough. Rates of public disorder by teens during the summer are high. Many of them are without work, money and anything to do that’s constructive. Designing summer activities as frequently as possible, allows them an opportunity to be in fellowship with peers and the community and perhaps, take the edge off of their curiosity for mischief; a desire to be counterproductive in communities already fraught with a number of problems.
In addition, recognizing the power of information, even for the poor, is a powerful key. Many families lack access to information about fun things right at their fingertips. Communities willing to do the work can provide families with a list of affordable local places, or places within a day’s drive that can add fun to their summer. Free or near free is an OK thing for families to enjoy during the summer, even if they are on subsidies. Encouraging them to take advantage of what’s around them will make the difference between a summer of dread and a summer where the familiarity unlocks opportunities never dreamed of.
Let’s not forget the power of institutions in communities. Ag Extension Agencies can provide a wealth of knowledge to families with their endless list of ideas. Everyday rituals can be made more fun. A family meal can turn into a picnic in the yard, instead of in the house. Oftentimes than not, a change in the venue can change the perspective of most things.
Without a doubt, kids and summer are akin. Both have high expectations. If your business, church or organization is located in a community where there are needs, consider teaming up with all kinds of businesses, churches and other organizations and together offer summer specials of products and services to help heighten a fun-filled summer for kids who will vacation in community this summer. Let’s show kids we care as much as we say we do.