Summer To-Do List: Enjoy the Value of Taking a Break

Summer BREAK got it’s name for a reason—research shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity—and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion. Did you know that Archimedes, who was given the task of measuring the volume of an oddly shaped crown, had his “a-ha moment” when stepping into a bath? Or that Kekule was said to have thought of the structure of benzene while riding on a bus? 

Know the Value of a Summer Break

Our memories influence our thinking, and when we take a break, we give our memory a chance to reset so the ideas that we focused on recede and others become more accessible. For instance, when we think about ice cream, our memory is filled with situations in which we had ice cream. If you are trying to make a better ice cream recipe, you’ll compare the types of ice cream you have had. When you take a break, some of those details fade away, and you are able to think in different ways. You may start thinking about other foods you enjoy and toppings you could add. As those details change, the memories you pull up change as well, and lead to new insights.

Breaks also offer a time for opportunistic planning, in which we are able to notice things in our environment that will help us solve a problem when we have a specific goal to satisfy.  Archimedes had likely stepped into a bath hundreds of times, but only when he was trying to solve a volume problem did the rise in water level capture his attention.

So, how do kids prepare for a new grade of knowledge? They take a summer break.

Make a Summer To-Do List

Remember that summer break does not imply that we should do absolutely nothing. By making memories, we are able to have more insight for future tasks. And although you may not need inspiration for summer fun, you may need reminders.

Print out this summer to-do list, and make sure you and your kids savor your summer. We’ve even left two blank so you can add a few of your own summer bucket list items. Or you can make your own list with these great ideas.

1. Take a break

Watch a movie you’ve been meaning to see, or check out a TV show on Netflix. Whatever helps you relax your mind, make time to take time!

2. Plan a picnic with friends

There’s no need to log attendance or do homework, so spend some valuable time with the people you don’t get to see very much during the school year. Plan a picnic where each person brings an item, and enjoy the sunshine.

Volunteer to clean up your neighborhood: Fun is encouraged during the summertime, but it’s nice to know you’ve done something productive with your free time too. If your neighborhood is in good shape, find other ways to help. Your neighbors may need you to walk their dogs,  tutor a friend who’s in summer school, or volunteer at a local animal shelter. The possibilities are endless when it comes to helping others, and it will most definitely be worth it.

Plant something: Whether it’s an herb, a vegetable, or a flower, there’s no harm in giving back to the earth that we use regularly. If you don’t have an area in your yard, you can use pots.

3. Get active

The benefits of physical activity are endless. Not only does exercise increase energy levels and increase serotonin in the brain, which can lead to improved mental clarity, it also helps relieve stress.

Cook something seasonal: Make ice cream or popsicles, or try a salad with fruit!

4. Read outside with a tasty beverage

There’s no doubt that reading a good book can take you all over the world, but it can also prevent summer learning loss. Whether it’s a cold glass of iced tea, or lemonade from your neighbor’s stand, make sure you stay hydrated this summer and prevent additional loss of memory, attention, and concentration.

5. Add some color to your life

Enjoying the colors of the season is a great way to brighten up your summer break. Paint a picture of a sunset or wear something yellow!

6. Donate old clothes or toys

A cluttered space means a cluttered mind, so do yourself a favor and get rid of what you’re not using/wearing. Having a hard time? Put the hangers in backward on the rod, and hang it correctly once you wear it. At the end of the summer, you’ll know what you didn’t wear. Do the same with toys in a basket, and whatever doesn’t leave the basket, leaves your room!

7. Go on a spontaneous adventure

Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to take a trip to the beach or go to an amusement park, but there are plenty of places close to home that can offer just as much fun. Check out museums, parks, lakes, etc.

Here’s a cool printable checklist (just right click on the image and print) for the entire family to use and to which you can add your own items:


Editor’s Note: this post originally published on June 2, 2014, and it has been revised with this updated and edited version.

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