Summertime often evokes images of flip-flops, swimming pools, popsicles, and carefree fun. It is a break from the drone of the school year and a time to play. Every family approaches summer break differently.
For some, summer is a time to travel or a time to dive into recreational sports and camps. For others, it is time to unplug. How busy you make your summer schedule is a matter of personal preference. Even if you don’t plan to be busy, maintaining some semblance of structure through summer break is important for mental health.
If you have multiple children in your care through the summer, the importance of creating a functional schedule is increasingly important. But even for single-child homes, a little forethought into scheduling summer break with fun and productive activities can lead to more happiness.
If you will be signing up for group activities like recreational sports leagues or summer camps, then those activities will naturally provide a framework for your day-to-day schedule. Practices for summer sports or start times for day camps depend on the service provider so you will have to build your schedule around those activities if you want to include them.
If you will be participating in scheduled activities, then you have a place to be. But even for families who take a more casual approach to summer break, establishing a set wake-up time is an important step in structuring the day.
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, including a set waking time is important in keeping circadian rhythms in balance. As sunsets become later and daylight hours longer, your child will experience natural changes to their normal sleep cycles. Help keep them sleeping well throughout the night so they do not become crabby, inattentive, or overeaters. Good rest is the foundation of a healthy life and consistent sleep schedules are the tool that you use to maintain healthy sleep cycles.
One thing that kids love to do during the summer is to eat. It seems like they are bottomless pits plowing through a week's worth of groceries in a single day. All of this snacking and boredom eating is hard on the wallet and their physique.
Overeating often leads to weight gain, but even if it is not noticeable in the short-term, it is also establishing unhealthy food habits that will plague them for life. Establish strict meal and snack times and do not allow children access to food in between meal periods. The fussing will stop within the first week as they become accustomed to the new schedule.
Every minute of every day does not need to be scheduled. In fact, kids need plenty of time to unplug and unwind. Summer break provides plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy some unstructured fun.
The point of a summer schedule is not to take away from the unstructured free time. It is to simply find a balance between productive activities like chores and self-development and leisure activities like playing.
Your kids undeniably have a lot more free time during the summer now that they are not spending 7+ hours per day at school. It is also reasonable to expect them to pick up a few more chores. After all, there will likely be more messes to pick up with them spending more time at home.
Decide upfront how much time your child will be afforded to spend on devices like tablets and videogames. Communicate those limits and any accompanying rules upfront and then enforce them every single day without fail.
Apps like Amazon’s Freetime have parental controls that can help you enforce strict limits on different types of activities.
Kids love themes. One way to take your summer schedule from drab to dab is to create a set of themes for different days. Themes help create routine in a fun way that your kids will look forward to.
Make the big activity for the day a big arts and crafts project. Maybe you will break out the sidewalk chalk and painters tape and create a mural on the driveway. Or, maybe you will fill water balloons with paint and put on white t-shirts and have a paint fight. Choose a really big and really fun project to take up an hour or two of time for arts and crafts day.
Build out the theme by getting creative with meals and snacks. You can add food coloring to a variety of foods to make them more fun. You can serve snacks in a clean, unused paint tray.
Choose one day of the week to get out of the house and go do something. Maybe you take the kids to the zoo or the playground -- no matter how big or small, just get out and do something. We like to pair a trip to the zoo with lunch at The Rainforest Cafe, or take a picnic lunch to the park.
Head over to the library and have each kid pick out a fresh stack of books. Put together some healthy snacks like popcorn, fresh fruit, and pretzels and build a blanket fort in the living room. Each child can spread out with their loot and get to reading.
Don’t forget that summer break can be an invaluable time to connect with your kids and teach them valuable domestic skills that are not usually taught in school. Get them in the kitchen and teach them how to cook (or bake). Pull out a sewing machine and give them a few lessons and an easy starter project. Or bring them out in the yard to help with the flower beds. Whatever your hobby is -- don’t forget to take the time to teach them.
Summertime is a great time for a change of pace from everyday school life. But, it can get away from you easily without a plan and a schedule. Make sure that you are making the most of the time at home by establishing a routine and planning activities.