Now that school year has ended, I hope all you parents are taking a moment to celebrate and give yourselves a pat on the back for helping your children get through all those virtual classes. For many families, summertime is viewed as reprieve from the early morning wake-ups, endless school zoom calls, helping out with homework assignments, and virtual extracurricular activities. While it might be easy to say “let’s just relax this summer,” it is still important to have some form of routine – even if it’s not as jam packed with activities as the school year. When children aren’t given enough structure during those months off from school, they often encounter summer boredom and dysregulation.
As adults, we take on certain responsibilities and roles, which comes with many expectations. When kids are provided structure in their routine at an early age, they have a better understanding of what is expected of them and they learn to prioritize things that are important. Having consistency in their schedule is also what gives them a sense of comfort and security in their lives.
Every family's summer routine is going to look a little different, but below are some suggestions on how to make a schedule that will keep kids engaged and parents sane.
- Make changes as needed: You can trial a later wake up time or make more time for certain activities in the day. Stick with this schedule for two weeks to get into the flow and make adjustments that make sense for your summer plans.
- Organize the schedule into blocks of time: Rather than planning every activity by the hour, block off a few hours in the morning, afternoon, and evening. This offers general structure for learning, play, and therapy sessions, still with room for flexibility.
- Structured play: This can also be viewed as playing with a purpose and goal. During this time, children work on a specific skill through play activities with a little bit of guidance.
- Create a bored jar: Work with your child to come up with activities that can be placed in a bored jar. These activities can include chores, exercises, games, crafts, or calming strategies. Write the ideas on popsicle sticks or small pieces of paper and place them in a jar. When your child gets bored, refer them to the bored jar.
- Help out with chores: Assign household tasks for your child to do. It can be as simple as watering plants or wiping the table. Not only will this teach them about responsibilities, but it’s also great for calming sensory input especially when they’re engaging in chores that activate their muscles and joints.
- Involve them in the planning process: If your child is old enough, have them pick out some activities. This will help motivate them to complete necessary tasks and it allows them to take ownership of what they chose.
- Make time for the outdoors: Give children the opportunity to exert their extra energy in the backyard or safely at a park.
- Leave room for quiet time: This is a moment in the day for kids to wind down. They could draw, read, build Legos, or do anything activity that brings them a sense of calm.
- Make room for family time: The times you are physically and emotionally present for your child is what they will remember most about their childhood. Plan a family game night or spend a day hiking on a nearby trail. Whatever you choose to do as a family, they will appreciate your love and presence.
- Build a skill and engage in Therapy: With summer upon us, and social distancing still canceling so many child centered activities, this is a great time to engage in individual Occupational Therapy or Speech Therapy sessions. Brush up on skills that may have fallen behind during virtual learning or make progress to be well prepared for the return to school and group activities this fall.