For many school-age kids, the idea of a summer schedule means lazy days without obligations, sleeping in until 10am and pizza for breakfast. But, to many parents, the fun of summer comes with grumpy kids, wacky eating patterns and unscheduled, unstructured time resulting in the repetitive mantra “I’m bored…” from the mouths of babes. For some, the unstructured summer schedule results in kids acting out. Children do not realize, but the lack of routine sends them a tad …haywire, to say the least.
Children need structure. Heck, adults need structure too. It is what works to save our sanity. From our morning rituals getting ready to weekly chores, it is what propels the ebb and flow of our lives.
From the time they were babies, we learned rule #1 of parenting was to get baby into a routine, a predictable pattern of eating and napping; ensuring days and nights were in sync and that as they became older little ones, they learned “breakfast time” “TV time” “outside time” and so on. Even a child in a daycare facility is in an allocated time routine: circle time, snack time, nap time, outdoor time, and quiet time.
Then came summer. Somewhere along the way, the drudgery of school days, alarm clocks and the bedtime schedule was tossed aside and relieve was felt because we were now on the summer schedule. However, it is important to have a fair amount of balance between free time and routine, even when employing a summer schedule. What can you do to create a balance between fun and obligations during the summer? Here are three tried and true steps that will help you to manage the rest of the summer:
- First, list the must-do activities for each week, such as lesson, leagues, practices, camps or trips.
- Then, create a list of activities you can do throughout the summer for fun that take a few hours or a half day, such as a trip to a zoo, a day at the beach, a library program, a community event or a matinee.
- Finally, list the household chores that the child is responsible to do each day or a specific day of the week. Will they have to unload the dishwasher? Clean the cat box or make their beds? Do they help with folding towels, dusting or lawn care?
Now, using a month-at-a-glance calendar, back fill the days beginning with the must-do columns on their respective days, followed by the activities, plotting one or two per week, and finally, carve out chores and responsibilities. Then, create a one sheet of what a day would look like. Kids need to see and hear while implementing actions.
Creating a schedule similar to their school schedule is helpful; designating time throughout the day showing what is going on gives kids a roadmap and –structure, with built-in free time each day as well. This also helps teach kids to manage their time and understand that while there’s a lot of fun and free time, there as still responsibilities in life.
A suggested summer day for elementary age kids would be something like this:
7:30am- Wake up, dress, breakfast, a iittle bit of TV time
9:00am- Chore time
10:00am- Summer program, half day trip, event
1:00pm- Outdoor play, playground
4:00pm- Free time at home
6:30pm- Family time, quiet time
8:30pm- Bath and bedtime routine
This is a general idea; when kids are over-scheduled with activities, they tend to have kid-level anxiety from being on the go too much. Do not underestimate the power of ‘home time’ and quiet activities such as reading, board games or puzzles. Limit device time. It will give you and your child peace of mind while allowing him to become engaged in activities and responsibilities.
Do you have a summer schedule idea that works for your family, or a story, hint or tip you’d like to share? Drop us a line; we’d like to hear from you and possibly, feature your story in an upcoming blog.
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