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Toddling Through the Silicon Valley

By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Busy Kids

Uploaded: Jun 15, 2016
The first few weeks of summer can be filled with eager anticipation. Kids are excited to spend more time outside, try out new classes or camps, and maybe even go to bed a bit later and sleep-in a bit longer. We are very lucky to live so close to beaches, zoos, museums, aquariums, amusement parks, etc. It's hard to imagine that a kid would ever run out of things to do.

But even with so many opportunities, we will all (hopefully) find ourselves with some downtime this summer. Do we let our kids be or do we also fill this time with pre-planned crafts/activities/games?

As a parent, I love watching our kids spontaneously start playing together during this free time. Maybe one starts running around the living room and the other starts chasing them. Or one starts dumping sand into a big bin of water and the other grabs a shovel to join in.

Of course these spontaneous games do require some effort on my part. To run around and chase each other for a long time, it's best if the floor is clear of obstacles that could easily trip a toddler. In order to dump sand together, my kids need a bin of sand, a bin of water, shovels, and a space that can get very wet and very messy.

I just finished reading The Importance of Being Little. It reminded me that one of the best things I can do for our kids this summer is put them in environments that let them play, allow them to interact with others, and foster meaningful conversations.

Our son is quite talkative, which helps remind me about all the learning that can happen while he is playing. A race around the living room can bring up questions about friction or an experiment about whether it's faster to run in socks, shoes or barefoot. And dumping sand in water can lead to density experiments or conversations about why some things float and some sink.

Our kids are currently curious about bugs/insects, so, following our son's lead, we've spent the last few weeks looking for ants outside, hiking with friends and finding pillbugs, checking out the insect zoo at the San Francisco Zoo, checking out insect books at the library, watching a documentary about insects, etc. I'm excited to see what other topics will grab our kids interest this summer.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Perfectionist, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jun 19, 2016 at 10:20 am

As a stay-at-home mom of three (whose youngest is in middle school) I concluded a long time ago that most camps are not worthwhile or life-changing, but I have really high standards. Unless a parent works, there is no need to book camps for the entire summer, although if they are booked with camps, there is still time to hang out and decompress, as some camps are only 6 hours. We have so many opportunities here, and it's easy to want to sign them up for everything. I've found the best camps to be: Mountain Camp in Lake Tahoe overnight (when they are 5th grade+), the Stanford Camps, Diepenbrock Basketball Camp, Nueva camps, and club sports camps (only if it's a great club team with good coaches). Have not been impressed with the community camps and school summer school classes. Kids should have some time to decompress so they are fresh when school starts (especially secondary schools).

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 19, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Perfectionist - Growing up I enjoyed going to an overnight camp during the summer. It was 4 or 7 weeks long. I also worked at a variety of day camps/classes as a teenager and, I agree, there is definitely a lot of variation in the quality of camps.

Posted by Mother of 4 , a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Jun 20, 2016 at 8:14 am

I like a mix of camps and free time. As a mother of 4 kids it is good to be able to have some one on one time with each child while siblings are at camp. I prefer week camps rather than anything longer but that is my preference, not my kids'. An overnight camping experience is great as they get older, but only if the kids are ready for that - don't force them too early.

Summer can be long and exhausting for a stay at home parent so a week of something structured to give me time to catch up with laundry, etc. is essential for my sanity and time to give me an opportunity for one on one time with each child.

Summer is great but I confess I do celebrate when school restarts!

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 20, 2016 at 9:01 am

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Mother of 4 - Thanks for commenting. I agree. If you find a good fit for your kid, I think camps can be great. Great for both kids and parents. I'm definitely planning to look into ones around here when our kids are older.

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