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Community wellbeing links | Enjoy a summer of play


Love is the world’s oldest medicine, your ability to give and receive love is your greatest gift and your greatest power. It is what will sustain you on every step of your journey ahead.”  — Dr. Vivek Murthy


This a love letter. Whether you have one child at home, or six, or more! Whether they are wee ones, or teens, or somewhere in between. Yay you! You helped them make it through a really challenging school year. You are awesome, and you have (almost) made it to the summer break! 

If you’re feeling anything at all like the people in my house, you are exhausted, lacking motivation, maybe a little emotional, lonely, and feeling the need to recover. But how?

If you’re feeling like many people around the world, you are worried about “learning loss” and anxious to make sure your kids are ready for school in the fall. But how

An answer to both questions is to play (and for older kids maybe throw in a summer job)! Yes, play (especially outdoor play) is the way to help with learning and social-emotional healing. 

Mental health and wellbeing do not interfere with academic achievement. It is actually quite the opposite. When we prioritize our health, we are in a better place to engage with learning. 

Here is a snippet of data from this Canadian study on student wellbeing that directly points to the relationship between play and school experience:

  • Children/youth with no decrease in play reported higher levels of school engagement, learning and perseverance compared to those with a decrease in play.
  • Children/youth with no decrease in play reported lower declines in skills and competencies such as collaboration and concentration, and lower levels of school stress.

If you need a little more convincing, please trust Dr. Lisa Damour, and read her recent New York Times article, Why Teens Need a Break This Summer, where she points out that “it’s important to remember that building psychological muscle is a lot like building physical muscle. Any kid who has spent time in a gym knows that you gain strength when a period of exertion is followed by an interval of sufficient recovery. For most teenagers, the pandemic has been the psychological workout of their lives. To put that workout to use, they need time for recovery so that they can enjoy increased emotional resilience by fall.” 

If you prefer to listen, here is her June 8 podcast: What Should My Kids Do This Summer? 

Need some ideas? Here is a list of some pretty doable summer activities. Or how about you create a list with your family? The son of a friend and colleague of mine is going to begin his Duke of Edinburgh Award journey this summer. Balanced with sleep, this is a perfect recovery plan. 

Children and teens develop social-emotional intelligence when they engage in unstructured play with peers. They missed so much of the casual peer interaction that happens in the hallways, on the fields at recess, and at the lunch table this year that you may want to discuss who they want to connect with, as well as what they want to do. 

Play is not just for the young ones; adults benefit from the healing power of play too. This article suggests that “through regular play, we learn to trust one another and feel safe.” Play can make us laugh and feel loved. Dr. Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, says “love is the oldest medicine.” Harvard’s 75-year (plus) Grant & Glueck study on what makes a flourishing life — one of the longest longitudinal studies ever — proves the same thing: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

If you’re still not sure about prioritizing a summer of play, you might want to give yourself time to listen to this podcast with Dr. Pippa Grange. While you listen, keep the following questions in mind: How do I define success? What do I attach my self-worth to? What messaging am I giving my kids? 

Still need a nudge towards play? Read the concerning research shared in this article: Teenagers Are Struggling and It Is Not Just Lockdown

If you make it to the end of this article without being convinced, please press play on this song and see if it helps. 

Trust in the fact that school will be there again in September, and that we need to re-connect before we can re-engage. Summer is the perfect time to give our heads, our hearts and our humanity time to recover with an abundance of love and play. 

Be well,

Laurie Fraser
Coordinator, Student Wellbeing Programs