It’s what they’ve been waiting for all year.

Jersey kids are beginning their summer break. But how do parents make sure they’ll be using all of that free time productively?

According to Dr. Steven Tobias, a Morristown child psychologist, structure is important but “kids need free time, they need down time, they need opportunities for unstructured free play.”

He said summer is the perfect time for them to try different activities.

“One of the problems of kids nowadays is that they don’t really have hobbies and interests, so I think summer really gives kids an opportunity to explore new things,” he said.

“Maybe they want to develop another hobby, maybe they want to collect things, maybe they want to get involved with and explore nature, or perhaps they want to develop new friendships with other kids.”

Tobias stressed the one thing it’s really important for parents to do is make sure their kids avoid technology.

“When kids are bored, they have nothing to do, they tend to default to screens, and really the best thing I could say about screens is they’re a waste of time,” said Tobias.

“You don’t want your child wasting the summer away in front of a screen. Even if they claim they’re playing with friends doing video games, those aren’t real relationships, they’re not benefitting from the one on one or even group exposure that they have in face-to-face interactions.”

He said if your child isn’t happy with this kind of an approach, mom and dad shouldn’t be surprised or upset.

“Kids actually don’t know what’s good for them. That’s why they have parents," he says. “Having a discussion is a positive way to approach this, but ultimately the parent has got to decide what they think is best for the child.”

He stressed it’s important to make sure your child doesn’t forget everything they’ve learned during the school year, but “summer is a time for fun and I think if parents can find a way to make learning fun.”

He said this may take a bit of creativity, and it may also mean parents will need to become participants.

“Maybe even do it as a family. Some families spend some time reading together, so that really makes it a positive experience for the whole family.”

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