How much freedom should children have during the summer?

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are here, but children and parents may have different ideas on how to spend summer vacation.

Parenting expert Barbara Coloroso offers advice on how to spend summers with kids

Spending time outside and away from computer screens is key for kids in the summer, says parenting expert Barbara Coloroso. (Shutterstock)

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are here, but children and parents may have different ideas on how to spend their summer vacation.

Kids may want to sleep in, stay up late and spend time doing all the fun things that school interferes with, but parents may have other plans.

Even when rules and regulations are in place, grandparents can sometimes make their own regime.

To help you get through summer with your kids, parenting expert Barbara Coloroso shared her tips and techniques on CBC Radio's Blue Sky.

1. Let grandparents know the rules

Many children spend their summers with their grandparents but that doesn't mean they don't have to follow the rules set by their parents.

Coloroso says that before she looks after her grandchildren, she asks her children if there is anything they wish she didn't do as their mother.

"I think this is an important question grandparents can ask: Is there a way of parenting that works for your child that we may not have done? Or is there something we've done?"

It takes a lot more on our part during the summer but it makes a lot of good memories.- parenting expert Barbara Coloroso

Parents should lay out what works for their kids and what doesn't. She says the same advice applies to all caregivers, like babysitters and other family members.

"If grandma or grandpa are taking care of a child at length, keep it as much as we can similar to mom and dad," said Coloroso.

It also allows grandparents to know if their grandchildren are telling the truth when they say, 'but mom let's me do this.'

2. Get the kids outside

"Summer needs to be a break," said Coloroso.

She says that kids need to get outside, spend time with their friends and avoid spending too much time in front of a computer screen. 

Limiting time on a screen needs to be up to the parents.

"We have to realize we are the adult here and there has to be limits and boundaries," said Coloroso.

"We know too much screen time can have a crabby kid or make a kid a little more defiant."

She says you can set up timers on tablets or phones and let children decide if they want to spend their allotted time in small chunks each day, or all in one.

"Let them make some decisions but the parameters are yours to keep," said Coloroso.

She says if they go over that time limit, ask for the device back and if they refuse, do not let them see the device for a while.

"It's saying it, meaning it and following through on it," said Coloroso.

3. Relax

Coloroso says that not every moment of the summer needs to be planned or organized by an adult.

It's great for kids to explore nature on their own or make up games with their peers.

She says some structure is good but kids need to be able to have choice.

She suggests letting kids plan a menu and help their parents shop for ingredients, then help to cook the meal.

"It takes a lot more on our part during the summer but it makes a lot of good memories," said Coloroso.

She says a parent can choose the vacation destination, but children should be given the freedom to choose which activities they'd like to do.

4. No Boredom

According to Coloroso, there is no reason a child should ever be bored.

She tells her kids and grandchildren, "If you're bored, it's your problem, nobody else's. What are you going to do to fix it?"

She says children need to take the time to learn how to be quiet and still, but at the same time find things they enjoy and that make them laugh.

In the end, Coloroso says parenting is all about increasing responsibilities and decision making, and decreasing limits and boundaries over the course of a childhood.

"So when they leave home, they are responsible for their own decisions and responsible for all of their own behaviour," said Coloroso.

She says it might start with small decisions, like deciding what pyjamas to wear and moving up from there. 

The goal is to allow kids to have some control in their own lives so they can problem-solve and make decisions as young adults.

with files from CBC Radio's Blue Sky