Summer is a season that people cherish for its opportunities to have fun and unwind without the pressures of the academic year. Additionally, it is a crucial time for children to engage in social activities. These interactions, from forming new friendships to staying active and involved, are fundamental to a child’s growth. As responsible adults, it is essential to encourage kids to participate in community events, summer camps, and other social activities that promote their development and well-being.
Making new friends and participating in outdoor activities promotes a healthy lifestyle
Summer provides a ripe opportunity for children to learn how to make new friends and engage in novel experiences. Perhaps your child would learn from new friends about geographically distant parts of the country or world while at sleep-away camp? During the summer, children have more time to socialize and build relationships with peers, broadening their horizons and trying new things.
“Studies have found that children who have more social interaction with peers and adults have higher levels of physical activity.”
Staying social over the summer can prevent the “summer slide”
The “summer slide” is an educational term used to describe the loss of academic skills and knowledge that occurs during the summer months. By engaging in organized educational activities with peers, children can maintain their academic skills and even improve them. Many summer camps offer educational activities, such as science experiments, writing workshops, and math games, that can keep children engaged and learning.
“Children who had more social interaction with peers and adults were found to have better cognitive outcomes, including higher academic achievement and problem-solving skills.”
However even without structured activity, social interaction plays an important role in cognitive development in children. Studies have shown that children who had more social interaction with peers and adults were found to have better cognitive outcomes, including higher academic achievement and problem-solving skills.2,3
Socializing during the summer can improve a child’s mental health
With the stresses of school and extracurricular activities behind them, summer can be a time for relaxation and self-discovery. By participating in social activities, children can build confidence, reduce anxiety, and develop a positive self-image. Adolescents who have more social interaction with peers and adults were found to have lower levels of depression and anxiety, and better overall mental health outcomes. Having planned social activities during the summer can also help prevent feelings of loneliness or isolation that some children may experience while classmates and neighborhood friends are traveling or otherwise engaged. Social isolation has been linked to negative outcomes, such as increased anxiety and depression, poor academic performance, and increased risk of chronic diseases. In contrast, children who engage in social activities during the summer months are more likely to have positive mental health outcomes and improved academic performance.
“Children who engage in social activities during the summer months are more likely to have positive mental health outcomes and improved academic performance.”
Social media deserves a mention of course, and while it has become an essential part of daily life for many teenagers, it most certainly cannot replace in-person socialization in the school year and during the summer. In-person interactions provide opportunities for personal connections, emotional support, and the development of social skills that are critical for healthy social and emotional development. Many studies over the years have shown that teens who engage in face-to-face communication with friends reported higher levels of happiness and satisfaction with their social lives than those who primarily communicated online. Adolescents who spend more time on social media have higher rates of depression and anxiety, and decreased self-esteem and increased feelings of social isolation than their peers who spend less time on social media. Teens need to hang out in person – or as they would say, “IRL”!
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for some children to engage in social activities over the past several years. Many children spent a year attending school remotely and had limited opportunities to interact with peers in person. However, with the rollout of vaccines and the easing of restrictions, it has become increasingly safe for children to engage in social activities, and this summer is the perfect time to take advantage and make up for lost time making social connections.
By promoting play and relationships during the summer – whether it’s seeing and making new friends, joining a summer camp or participating in community events – we can help our children build the skills and confidence they need to succeed in life.