summer holiday fun as family enjoy water slide

Keep your teen keen to learn (and entertained!) this summer

Encourage children to read

School summer holidays in Scotland typically kick off in late June or early July and continue until mid or late August. So they’re coming up sooner than you think, and you could find they last longer than you remembered!

If you’re the parent of a teen, it’s not too early to be thinking about how to keep them occupied for the duration – so that they remain where they should be, at the heart of the family and not surgically attached to their devices 24/7. Who knows, get it right and they could even learn something useful during the long break . . .

We’ve previously written about the ‘summer slide‘ – and how pupils can lose some of what they’ve learned during the previous academic year if they’re not careful. It can, according to some reports, take weeks to recoup this knowledge fully.


Here are some thoughts for planning an enjoyable summer that doesn’t bring education to a grinding halt:

  • Plan ahead – and involve your teen

Pick a moment when you both have time and energy and feel calm and comfortable to talk about the holidays. Involve your teenager in the research and in the discussion of potentially sensitive issues such as bedtimes (if you’re still imposing them) and curfews for when they’re out with their friends (ditto). Clearly, teenagers don’t need or want to be treated as they were when they were much younger, but they still need boundaries.

If you have a budget, be clear on this and ask your child to stick to it. But if they suggest a reasonable idea, go with it. Bargain, and prepare to compromise on things you may not be quite so keen on yourself, while standing firm on things you deem to be non-negotiable.

Is there a cause about which your young person feels passionately? Discuss how they could spend time with a relevant organisation learning more about it, on work experience or as a volunteer. For example, could they find a placement at a conservation charity, hospital or wildlife park?

  • Creating your holiday routine

You’re likely to have a different regime during the summer holiday, but aim to retain some structure. While many teenagers can become more nocturnal during the long break, try not to let that become extreme. Agree a daily routine, including the time you expect them to be up, dressed and ready each day. (That shouldn’t mean sticking rigidly to a set-in-stone regime; build in flexibility and free time.)

  • Let’s talk about screen time

Incorporate some screen-free time. One tactic could be to allow screens once basic tasks have been completed for the day. But don’t be afraid to let your teen(s) use the internet to interact with the wider world. Could they make a vlog or write a blog about their experiences or interests, for example?

Equally, a summer journal or diary could be a great idea, teaching your teenager about learning to articulate their feelings, develop thought processes and build their vocabulary. You can watch our video about journalling on The Learning Cauldron’s YouTube channel here.

  • Learn some life skills

The summer vacation could be an ideal time to learn a few life skills which are not always taught comprehensively (if indeed at all) in school. That could be anything from cooking and budgeting to making a journey somewhere by public transport themselves for the first time. This could also be a good point to chat about politics, local and national, and to explain, say, what a local council does.

Equally, if there’s an activity that you like doing together, whether that’s cycling, swimming, fishing, crafting, playing music or anything else, use the summer weeks to enjoy it to the full.

  • Keep reading

Try to get your child to think of reading as something that can be enjoyable and relaxing, rather than just another chore. Encourage reading outside in a garden or park and consider setting some reading goals for the summer.

If you feel that your teen’s choice of reading material is not ‘suitably academic’, try to encourage them to alternate between books that they probably ‘should’ read and those that actually interest them.

If you’re going to see a film that’s an adaptation of a novel, or watch it on TV, try and get your child to read the book before discussing with them how the story has been interpreted on the screen.

  • Educational days out

Your local council’s or library’s website may well have information about low-cost, enjoyable ways of keeping learning this summer. Museums, zoos and nature walks are all affordable ways of doing this.

Set tasks for while you are there, and encourage kids to ask questions, either of you or the staff. One idea could be to visit a historic house or other site and write a diary from the perspective of someone who lived there, either as a lord of the manor, housemaid or anything else that stokes the imagination. This is great practice for the creative writing (dramatic monologue) element of Nat 5 and Higher English coursework (folio).

Summer activities don’t have to break the bank. Make the most of any clubs or activities your community is laying on for free, as well as no-charge days out. Remember that the great outdoors (e.g. a local park) and the great indoors of local libraries won’t cost you a penny.

If you’re near Edinburgh, the Royal Botanic Garden, Scottish National Gallery, St Giles’ Cathedral, National Museum of Scotland and Museum of Childhood don’t charge a bean. Meanwhile, Glasgow has the Gallery of Modern Art, Police Museum, People’s Palace and Winter Gardens – just some of the city’s free-to-enter attractions which combine fun with learning.

Keep the cost of days out down by taking your own food and drink and using family travel passes or young person’s discounts on trains and buses wherever possible.

And finally …

Remember, too, that staying at home and simply pottering around for a day or three is also an important part of the summer break.  You can’t expect to be ‘doing’ all the time; sometimes it should be sufficient just to ‘be’. Indeed when Karen and her peers were growing up back in the dark ages of the 1970s, rather than have some form of ‘entertainment’ laid on by their parents every single day of the summer hols, youngsters mostly had to create their own fun – and that was no bad thing.

As you’ll see from the above, the summer holidays don’t have to be fraught, or a budget-busting headache. Nor is it a time when learning has to stop completely. With planning, these long weeks out of school can be enjoyable for all concerned – not to mention being a valuable opportunity to create treasured memories of special family time.

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