Summer Schedules = Summer Fun

I’m sure that most parents look forward to summertime - warm weather, fun outdoor activities, and a generally less rigid schedule with children.  I remember my feelings as a young mother approaching the summer break.  While excited for the opportunities for fun and relaxation that are not possible during the school year, I also felt a bit of trepidation as I anticipated long days trying to occupy my three curious and active children.  The freedom from school schedules meant large chunks of unscheduled time.  What I quickly found was that when children are not busy and active, they become bored and irritable.  Parents certainly do not need a rigid schedule of activities that is common in the late afternoons and weekends during the school year.  Summer should be more relaxing for everyone.  But starting the summer with a comfortable routine will help parents and children enjoy these few months away from school all the more.

Over the years, I found some ways to help summers run smoothly for us all.  I was generally able to avoid nagging (“I asked you to turn off that TV”), boredom, and general irritability through the hot summer days by introducing a routine into our days.

Create an appropriate schedule

Children function best when they have a routine and know what is expected of them.  This routine will save you the hassle of constantly directing your children, which in turn often eliminates “conversations” (or better put - arguments!) about certain chores or activities.

Use big blocks of time to make the schedule concrete, but not rigid.  Here is a sample schedule to illustrate this point:

7:30 - 8:30 - Getting up:  This allows children to move at their own pace while accomplishing the tasks of waking, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, getting dressed and making beds.
8:30 - 10:00 - School review:  Children are freshest in the morning, so this time of day is a good opportunity to practice school skills.  Children can read, do some writing, or work with with a parent on math and other skills.  Teachers usually let parents know what children should be working on during the summer to keep their skills sharp.
10:00 - 11:30 - Outdoor play:  Neighborhood friends will likely be available to play at this time.  Or perhaps your child enjoys some outdoor activities such as bike riding, roller skating or playing in the yard or sandbox.  This may also be a good time to arrange a playdate for your child.
11:30 - 12:00 Lunch
12:00 - 1:00 Rest
1:00 - 4:00 Pool or organized activity / snack
4:00 - 5:00 Clean up; relax
5:00 - 5:30 Dinner

Having a schedule helps you make plans for the day and gives children a framework for organizing their day, as well.

Get your child’s input when creating the schedule.  Children often comply more easily when they feel part of the decision-making process.  Also, their ideas will help you know what will actually work best for them or what is important to them. 

Try to alternate high-energy activities with low-energy activities.  Giving children a chance to “revive” after a busy or strenuous activity may help avoid irritability.  I often see cranky, whiny children being dragged to the car after too much fun, and that can’t be enjoyable for the parents or their children.

Write down the schedule and display it in your home.  Perhaps you can create a poster that hangs in your child’s bedroom or maybe a simple piece of paper taped to your refrigerator will do the trick.  Printing and displaying the schedule will help you and your children follow it and will send the message that this is important.

Keep bedtimes consistent.  It’s very easy to forget about bedtime routines during those long, sunlit summer days.  And while you can’t make your child sleep longer in the morning when he senses daylight and is ready to get up, you can take charge of when he goes to sleep.  Overshooting a reasonable bedtime often creates a problem because children get overtired or overstimulated.  Falling asleep becomes more difficult and then even more sleep is lost.  So while it is tempting to spontaneously “put the kids in the car for a run to the ice cream store,” keep your eye on the clock and respect your child’s need for sleep.

Enjoy the summer with your children!  The fall will be here before we know it!

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