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Keep Calm & Summer On

Once again June is here! I have so many memories as a child of the long awaited month of June. With June came the end of the school year and the summer holiday. The ability to sleep in, wander, see lots of movies in the theater, go to the beach, daydream, see friends, ride my bike around the block for hours into the warm summer evenings, maybe even watch too much television like it was Saturday morning… Oh the horror!

Experiencing 9-10 months of school can bring exhaustion for many kids. I remember feeling tired of the same Monday through Friday routine. Honestly, my mind did not want to learn any more math, spelling, or grammar. A break from routine can feel refreshing.

Too much of a break can also be a problem. By the time July 4th was over, I remember being bored out of my mind. I would often search for something to do and at some midpoint of my summer break I was actually looking forward to the start of school in September.

I do have a strong memory of being about the age of 12/13 and on one warm day during the summer, I made the decision to go into the garage and scrounge for something to create. In fact, I have the art I made that day and it’s currently hanging in my hallway. It is made out of a Slinky. I can still remember the Slinky song from the tv commercial.

“What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs and makes a slinkity sound? It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, It’s fun, it’s a wonderful toy. It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, it’s fun, It’s a wonderful toy. It’s fun for a girl or a boy.”

I hand painted a Slinky, and stretched and contorted it, used colored plastic stretchy bracelets (so 80’s), small metal coil wire stretched and plastic black beads on a string. All these were entwined together in a chaotic fashion and attached to a square chrome cooling rack that became a hanging sculpture.
I guess I’m still impressed and proud of this sculpture that my inner creativity brought into being at the mere age of 12/13. There was no internet, iPhones, Instagram… not even cable TV to fill my days. As I look back, I see the benefits that feeling bored provided me. I needed this boredom to push me into being creative and I did something different that summer day because of it.

There are so many scientific studies that have been published on the benefits of downtime on the human brain, for both children and adults. I’ve read many and I am always trying to find ways to increase my own downtime, in the hopes of experiencing greater creativity.

As a parent of two kids, one a teen and the other preteen, I see the summer break as an important need and also a challenge, too. My kids have so much to keep them busy, keep them “plugged in”. Because of this, I choose to find activities and camps for them to get moments throughout summer break to be creative and express themselves in ways that provide creativity along with learning.

The historian Ken Gold, in his book “School’s In: The History of Summer Education in American Public Schools”, debunks the idea that we got summers off only to placate big industry or agriculture.

The real reason so many districts, rural and urban alike, created the summer break in the 19th century was a belief that “too much schooling impaired a child’s and a teacher’s health”.

Let’s be real here, few children get to experience the kind of summers that are often idealized in movies! Urban life does not always allow for hours of game playing and riding bikes through the neighborhood. More often then not, long summers can bring lowered academic skills and inactivity for some kids.

Finding a happy medium is essential for the many weeks of summer break that children have. I’d love to say I can hop on an airplane with my kids and spend the summer traveling through Europe. After all they are now old enough to heft their own suitcases and get lost in a book or inflight movies on the 15 hour flight.

Oh, the art museums, castles, cafes and outdoor markets we could visit! The reality of life is that I work and so does my husband. Our life is here in San Francisco with our two dogs and cat. Three months in Europe would be difficult to pull off in the best situation. In lieu of that, I want my kids to experience a summer of being bored, allowing their minds to wonder and maybe creativity and inspiration can happen.

Looking for solutions during the summer holidays that include downtime, physical activity, mastering new skills and also being creative is often a parent’s goal. How to not over schedule the summer holiday and allow for the positive benefits of “boredom” to happen combined with structure, allowing their minds to wonder and maybe creativity and inspiration can happen and hopefully some mandatory electronic free time can be a bit more difficult.

~ Summer
Dragonfly Designs Studio Manager

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Stacee Gillelen

Mother of four, artist, and founder of Dragonfly Designs. After my second daughter was born, I left my career in banking and fell in love with the art of jewelry making, and found that I just couldn’t stop spreading the joy of it to others.

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