Summer: Time to Unplug and Reconnect, by Laura Short McIntire

As parents or caregivers, we all want to enjoy a meaningful connection with our kids. Interestingly, research now provides proof that maintaining and nurturing this bond is one of the most significant protective factors when it comes to our children's long-term social and emotional wellness. According to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, “The single most common factor for children who develop resilience (the ability to overcome serious hardship) is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.” But somedays, as we all know, it feels really hard to cut through the stress, the schedule, the homework, the teen angst…. and be in the moment with our children and teens. During the summer, we finally have the chance to take a deep breath, slow down the pace, and enjoy one another.

Here are some ideas to help you create a home environment that supports communication, togetherness, and connection, as well as suggestions from SBFC parents for family-fun adventures in the South Bay and beyond. Barriers to connection, like excessive smart phone use, can be difficult habits to break, so just take small steps and try to be patient, both with your kids and yourself. Your efforts will pay dividends; as the most important adults in our kids’ lives, we have the power to give them—through our attention, time, and focus— the most valuable gift of all: the ability to cope with adversity in healthy ways, increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes in their lives.

Unplug and embrace the downtime

Of course, technology offers plenty of benefits and opportunities for families, but it can often get in the way of face-to-face time with the ones we love. Unfortunately, establishing and enforcing healthy boundaries around screen time is a common challenge that I hear from many South Bay parents, and have experienced first-hand. For specific tips and tools from local and national experts, please visit the SBFC Technology Page, and keep the following in mind:

  1. Next time your kids says, "I'm bored", don't worry about it.  Turns out that it's a good thing to let your kids be bored. If they aren’t relying on their screens to entertain them 24-7, it’s amazing the things that they can create and the self-discovery they will find.
     
  2. Heads up: you DO NOT need (or want) to over-schedule your kids' summer or feel pressure to constantly orchestrate meaningful moments for them. Down time, family time, and self-directed play time are incredibly important for our kids' social-emotional wellness. For specific tips on how to raise well-balanced kids, check out advice from Dr. Denise Pope and Challenge Success.
     
  3. Looking for some deeper insight and tips to help you authentically connect with your kids and teens? We recommend reading our SBFC blogs, including "The Power of Relationships" by Jennifer Barber, “Embrace the Pause” by Nicole Wesley, and "Glimpse" by Leah Niehaus. 
     
  4. For more tips for parents to help their kids find balance and develop resilience, visit the SBFC Mindful Parenting page for national resources and videos. There are some great mindfulness practices to help parents find balance too. 
     

Give device-free meals a try

Research provides plenty of support for the importance of family dinner for kids: Learning vocabularyfewer behavior problems, less substance abuse, and healthier eating are some of the positive outcomes. Following are some great tips (and support) to help your family embrace device-free dinners. Again, take this one small step at a time, and don't beat yourself up if it doesn't take. (Personal share: it's still a battle at times in our house too.)

  1. Sign-up to receive conversation ideas, weekly tips, and so much more from The Family Dinner Project. For more ideas, visit Common Sense Media and take the #DeviceFreeDinner Challenge. 
     
  2. Cover the family table with butcher paper and put out crayons, pens, and color pencils. Hard to resist, and it keeps device-free hands busy..
     
  3. Create a summer Bucket List. Everyone sits down at the table and adds their thoughts to what they want to do. Big or small, it goes on the list. Here are some ideas to help with the process:
    • Encourage your kids to scan the Beach Reporter or Easy Reader’s events calendars and pick something to do. Try something that's out of your comfort zone. A family zumba class, a butterfly exhibit, spaghetti dinner at the YMCA.
    • Check out  http://www.southbaybyjackie.co... for current and upcoming events happening throughout the South Bay. 
    •  Scroll down this blog to see a list of fun outings to help spark new ideas, and reconnect with old favorites.
  4. Make your summer list an ongoing conversation piece by keeping it posted on a common area where the family can collectively discuss and rate outings (0-5 stars), as well as add new ones.
     
  5. Keep a Book of Questions or talking cards (you can make or buy them)  and take turns asking family members questions during dinner. Here are a couple of examples: "if you could eat dinner with any ancestor of yours, who would it be", or " if you had a million dollars, what charity would you donate it to.”
     
  6. Pick a book—or chapter of a book even, or newspaper or magazine article—that's at a level accessible to the least experienced reader in the family. There are no formal questions to answer, no essay to write; just a conversation, no matter how long or deep it goes. If the idea appeals, family members can take turns choosing subsequent reading selections. These are conversations that will extend beyond the dinner table. 

It’s game/movie night!

  1. Keep a quick and fun game at the dinner table (like Tenzi) and play a couple rounds after dinner.  Winner doesn't have to help with dishes.
     
  2. If you haven't yet, try these South Bay parent-recommended games: Catan, Snak, Sequence, Blokus, Apples to Apples, Qwirkle, Scattergories, Hedbanz, Monopoly (old-school is a great way to go). 
     
  3. Keep a family puzzle(s) going all summer long in the family room. Take photos of all the puzzles you complete. 
     
  4. Check out Common Sense Media for lists of great family movies to enjoy together. For some added fun, buy or borrow an outdoor projector. 

Have some little adventures at home

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  1. Whether you actually have a backyard or just a few pots on the balcony, let your kids plant a kitchen garden. Let kids pick what they want to grow, plant it and monitor it themselves.
     
  2. Make your own Chopped Jr. Give each kid a station, the same ingredients, and rules. Adjust for age range. Fun activity when friends are over too.
     
  3. Pitch a tent and have a backyard campout complete with a DIY S’mores party.
     
  4. More DIY fun for the kids, check-out  Duff’s cake and cupcake decorating. 


Connect on the drive

  1. Listen to your kids’ music
    • Let your kid play their current play list through your bluetooth instead of their headphones. 
    • Resist the urge to answer incoming calls and check texts at lights. Just listen. You’ll get a great introduction to some new music, and you’ll be surprised by how many of your own favorite oldies are currently resurfacing or being sampled.
    • Get the scoop from your kids about the artists they admire, concerts they hope to go to, why certain songs resonate for them. And if they aren’t in the mood to talk, just listen together. 
  2. Let your kid pick a book on tape and listen to it together in little bursts or during a longer road trip.
     
  3. Many parents have shared that the magic happens en route somewhere -- their kids actually open up. This is more likely to happen if your drive is device-free (as in, don't pick up any calls unless they're an emergency). Hard to believe, but those driving/connecting opportunities will be over before you know it.
     

Go on a few fabulous adventures in the South Bay

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  1. Ride bikes to Redondo Pier Fun Factory and play old school skee ball and air hockey. Check out seafood stalls. Try some fresh sea urchin. 
     
  2. Take the Beach Cities transit bus anywhere — to manhattan beach for lunch, to the hermosa pier, or the Point in El Segundo. Beats parking, is a fun change of transportation, and allows kids to figure out schedules, bus stops, etc. Let them map it out. 
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3.  The South Bay Botanic Gardens the gardens or attend one of their family movie nights or other events. Fun to let them lead the exploration.

4.  Take a ride down to Crafted in San Pedro, an amazing etsy come-to-life warehouse.

5.  Have a bonfire at Dockweiler or Bolsa Chica beach

6.  Paddleboard or kayak in the Redondo marina

7.  Check out our many farmer's markets. You and your kids can try the produce and/or come with a recipe to shop for and make together.

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8.  Spend a day in Long Beach, starting with a trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific, followed by a walk around the harbor. Race up the hill to the light house and then roll down. Be sure to take in the view of the Queen Mary.

9. Head to your local park (click here for a list of the best parks in the South Bay) or beach for a bocce ball family tournament. Stay late, order a pizza. Dinner is served!

10. Visit the El Segundo Art Museum on Main street

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11. Explore the San Pedro Cabrillo Marina Aquarium and Tidepools
 

12.  Go back in time with a visit to Fort McAruther, San Pedro
 

13.  Visit the Korean Bell of Friendship, San Pedro. Interesting history, a beautiful view, and an amazing kite flying spot.
 

14. Of course, the Manhattan Beach Round House! 

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15.  Finding the right hike for your family in Palos Verdes is easy with the hiking guide provided by the PVP Land Conservancy. Pack lunch and enjoy the spectacular views at the picnic tables just north of Terranea Resort. Heads up: Terranea Resort recently opened an all new public restroom facility located along the public coastal trails that wind through the property. The new facility is located at the bluffs near Nelson's restaurant, just off the coastal trail.

 

Check-out one of these ongoing events and activities in the South Bay

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  1. Check out Family Movie Nights at the Redondo Beach Pier every Friday in June at 8 p.m. These events are free and open to the public and take place between 8 and 10 p.m. 
     
  2. The Redondo Pier Association hosts FREE Yoga on the Octagon the second Saturday of each month from 10 to 11 a.m. Everyone is welcome to attend and take part in this all level yoga class . 
     
  3. Manhattan Beach Concerts in the Park at Polliwog Park - Bring your blankets, lawn chairs, and picnics, then sit back and relax to the sounds of summer! Concerts in the Park begins at 3:45 PM to 4:30 PM (Opening Bands) then continues with the main band from 5:00 PM and ends at 7:00 PM. Seating is first come, first served.
     
  4. Family-friendly yoga classes are offered by Beach Cities Health District..
     
  5. Back to Basics offers a FREE Vinyasa Yoga Class every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Plaza El Segundo. This complimentary one hour Vinyasa class is suitable for all levels. Wear weather appropriate clothing, bring a mat, bring a friend! 
     
  6. Del Amo Fashion Center presents the first of the new Summer Music Series on Saturday, June 9. The Summer Music Series showcases the new Village Park lawn area, just outside the AMC Theaters, with a variety of musical genres on the second Saturday of the month in June, July, August and September from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 
     
  7. The Torrance Beach Drum Circle meets right below the Torrance Beach parking lot. All ages and musical abilities are welcome to this FREE, family friendly event, which takes place every second Sunday. Drums and percussion instruments will be provided for everyone. It's a classic South Bay scene where everyone enjoys co-creating spontaneous music together! 
     

Go on a day trip -- check out life beyond the South Bay

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  1. Huntington Gardens in Pasadena is just an amazing experience for you and your whole family. For younger families, take full advantage of their kids garden -- it's fully enclosed and fun.
     
  2. Descanso Gardens is a great option too, and they have a pretty amazing summer concert series line-up.
     
  3. Symphonies for Youth at the Disney Concert Hall.
     
  4. Visit the Natural History Museum (the P-22 exhibit is small, but awesome) and spend time in the huge rose gardens. 
     
  5. Walk through Olvera Street and wander through Union Station across the street.
     
  6. Eat at Grand Central Market downtown and then walk a few blocks to the Los Angeles Central Library.  There are always free  exhibits and the space is gorgeous.  The children's department is beautiful and fun to explore.
     
  7. Spend a day at the California Science Center – entrance is free, but some exhibits like King Tut and Endeavor space shuttle have a cost (worth it!)
     
  8. Visit the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. Exhibit is free and parking is only a dollar or two on the weekend.  (Fun to visit Eataly in Century City mall afterward and buy ingredients to make an Italian dinner)
     
  9. Visit the Griffith Park Observatory and check out the many hiking trails in Griffith Park
     
  10. Hike Point Dume in Malibu.  Afterward, get gelato at the Malibu Country Mart where nearby young kids can play at the small playground and older kids can play ping pong outside the James Perse store.
     
  11. Visit the Ronald Regan Library. Nearby are U-pick berry farms!
     
  12. Take the train to San Juan Capistrano. Walk around the town, have lunch, see the mission. With younger kids, walk down to Zoomars to hang out with guinea pigs. 
     
  13. Visit Smorgasburg, a vibrant weekly Sunday market in downtown LA. Go early to avoid crowds and lines.
     
  14. Take a Downtown LA Walking Tour (click here for top ten Trip Advisor suggestions). The Los Angeles Conservancy offers a self-guided tours and special events. So many iconic places to see! 
     
  15. For something really cool, embark on the Downtown LA Graffiti and Mural tour – LA Art Tours
     
  16. Afterward your tours, have dinner at one of the restaurants highlighted on the tour and then to the Standard Hotel Bar to play ping pong. You can bring kids to the bar to play ping pong, as long as it is not a weekend night.
     
  17. The Malibu Wine Hike is great fun and you get to take pictures with Stanley the giraffe and other fun exotic animals - the wine part will have to be skipped with the under 21's but it is at the end and easy to skip - the hike itself is easy (more of a walk) and beautiful and the animals are really fun to feed. 
     
  18. Go to the Santa Anita Racetrack. There's a playground and picnic area in the middle.  Kids can pick horses to root for or bet on for a dollar or two.
     
  19. So many museums to choose from! Everyone loves watching Metropolis at LACMA. Little kids love Noah's Ark at the Skirball (check out their outdoor family movie series), and sometimes there are free concerts at The Getty
     
  20. Have a fun family day at The Santa Monica Pier, including their free historical walking tour, and the Santa Monica Aquarium, and follow it up with a stroll and dinner along the Third Street Promenade
     
  21. For a very different and cool experience at the beach, visit the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica
     
  22. Hike the Hollywood sign or Getty Park.
     
  23. Check out the Will Rogers State Park and Polo Fields free weekends. And go on a hike!

Do you have any additional ideas to add to the list? Please comment on the blog with your suggestions.

Wishing you all a fun and relaxing Families Connected summer!

By, Laura Short McIntire, SBFC Creative Director and Curator

Thank you to all of the following who contributed activity ideas for this blog: Nicole Wesley. Linda Rosen, Leah Niehaus, Helen Codron, Monica Lucenti, Helen Vellen, Carrie Gonzalez,  Autumn Stephens, Kelly Hendrickson, Liz Glozman, and Sandi Gleason