By Dr. Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and author.
The summer holidays are a great time to kick back, relax and let the fun flow. Choosing the right toys – to cover rainy days, maximise outdoor playtime and create memories, whilst keeping those brains working to avoid the summer slump in learning – can help everyone get the most out of their summers, including the parents! Giving children a balanced play diet over the summer will prevent boredom, reduce sibling arguments and help ensure children continue to develop important skills during a summer of fun.
As adults our childhood memories of summer holidays often involve playing outside with friends. Today, increased digital play, combined with more traffic and concerns about safety, means that children are spending less time playing outside. Toys that encourage children to put the screens down and give children reasons to get outside and play with friends, exploring their environment and staying active will help children get rid of their excess energy which will mean they eat better and sleep better and are able to do it all again the next day.
There are times over the summer when children may feel bored – maybe parents are working, maybe their friends are busy, and they need fun things to do on their own. Activities that can be started and left and returned to over a few days/weeks are great for filling that downtime. Toys such as model building kits, jigsaw puzzles and small world playsets can provide hours of entertainment and give children a sense of satisfaction when they complete the project, developing their concentration and perseverance in the process.
On the Go
There may be long journeys during the summer – going on holiday or day trips and visiting relatives, journeys can be stressful but not if the kids are kept entertained en-route. It’s also good to take things for them to do when they arrive.
Toys for travel need to be portable and easily packed away, as well as being able to be played in cramped spaces. Card games are great travel options, and there are lots of different types of card games available so you can find something from almost any age. Children’s cameras and scrapbook kits can help keep children entertained whilst learning about the places they visit and creating a permanent record of their summer.
Use it, don’t lose it
Keeping up with the core school-based skills is important for the return to school in September, but learning through play is key. As well as regular reading (try a summer family book club), choose toys that can help children stimulate their grey matter and have fun whilst they’re learning. The market for educational toys and games has rocketed during the pandemic and there are lots of great toys and games to choose from, but don’t push the learning – children learn a lot of really important social skills from simply playing with others.
The summer is a great time for families to create memories and spend time playing together. Family board games are a fun way to unwind and create memories together. Family favourites can last generations and become traditions that promote attachment and a sense of belonging. Whilst very young children need shorter, simple games, as children grow up they enjoy being part of teams and games that have junior versions can help the whole family enjoy playing together and give everyone that summer fun feeling.
About the expert
Dr. Amanda Gummer has a PhD in neuropsychology, and over 20 years’ experience working with children and families. Widely considered as the UK’s go to expert on play, toys and child development, she combines her theoretical knowledge with a refreshingly pragmatic approach to family life, that resonates both with parents and professionals. Her book ‘Play’ was published in May 2015 and has been translated into two different languages with extracts being published in the USA’s Toy Industry Association’s Genius of Play initiative, for which she is an ‘expert ambassador’.
Amanda is regularly in the media, continues to take an active role in research and is committed to make the world more playful. She is founder of The Good Play Guide offering Expert, Independent Advice and Reviews on a wide range children’s products, toys and apps to encourage a healthy, balanced play diet.