Summer in the CityIt’s summer – make the most of your time with your kids Summer. A time to loosen up, relax and play. For most people, the pace slows a bit and schedules open up. Without homework and after-school commitments, children are looking for activities to fill the time. The temptation to retreat into separate rooms or plug in to screens may increase with the temperature. Instead, be prepared! Enjoy summer with a list of ideas that strengthen important skills and reflect your values. Have every family member add something to the list and commit to participating in everyone’s activities. Have a picnic.Meals take planning to ensure a variety of foods, a balance of nutrition and the inclusion of something for everyone. Take turns planning the menu so your children can give it a try. Then get out and explore. How many different parks have you tried? Follow up a beautiful picnic on the grounds of the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park with a walk through the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden and beignets at Morning Call. Has your child taken the Canal Street ferry? Grab a po-boy to-go from one of the cafés in Algiers Point and take in the beautiful view of the city from across the Mighty Mississippi. Check out the lakefront or Lafreniere Park. And don’t forget the neighborhood parks, where you’re likely to make new friends and get to know your neighbors. Social competence and positive relationships correlate with school success and happiness, after all! Get active.While you’re looking for ways to get to know the area, go for walks or bike rides. Try out some skates or paddle a boat at City Park. Being active is a great way to connect; it doesn’t always have to be about competition and organized sports. Show your children that exercise is fun and that it will be a regular part of your family life. Trying new activities also teaches the steps to learning a new skill, persistence and – if you’re really lucky – how to deal with frustration. And physical activity promotes better sleep! Be creative.Project-based learning teaches organizational skills and problem solving. It also helps young children build their initiative and develop a sense of industry as they get older. So, brainstorm some ideas and get to work. You could paint the fence or draw a huge mural with chalk. Ready for a bigger mess? Use papier-mâché to build a model of the solar system or recyclables to create musical instruments. Make a photo journal. Pick a theme – bugs, doors, dogs, snoball stands…. Hey, speaking of snoball stands…. Write it down.Try a bunch of snoball stands. Make a list of the best spots, go to the closest one you can find and then the farthest. Interview friends and find out where they go. Pick your favorites and then write a review. No need to focus on spelling and grammar while your child is learning to use expressive language, compare and contrast, and get thoughts on paper – all very important writing skills. Too complicated? Go fly a kite, cook together or do a puzzle. It doesn’t take a lot to have a relationship with your child. Through positive interactions, adults model and teach the values that will shape children as they grow. The slower pace of summer is the perfect time to make sure you and your children stay connected. When fall looms and the school year starts to gear up, make sure you have created some rituals and traditions to keep you going… together, as a family. Jenni Watts Evans is a parent educator and assistant director at the Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital. For more information, call 504.896.9591, visit theparentingcenter.net or email [email protected].