Looking for ten easy ways to create an awesome summer routine for your child? Then you have come to the right place!
Summer is here, and with it, a whole set of new challenges. Gone are the long, cold nights of dreadful homework, early bedtimes and rude morning awakenings. The school year can be grueling, for some, but the daily routines involved are necessary for your child’s growth and development. Those routines, and the opportunity to learn from them, can be misplaced during the summer.
How do you find a happy balance between summer fun and structured, organized days? The key is to start by recognizing why routines are so important. It is easier to stick to a routine if you see the long-term benefits of what you are doing. If the night is late, the kids are tired, and you skip brushing teeth yet again, you teach your child that clean teeth and good hygiene are not important. If you keep that part of your bedtime routine, you teach your child to eventually take charge of his own self-care and you are helping him to mentally prepare his body for relaxation and bed.
Why are routines so important to your child? Because routines give them a “sense of security and help them to develop self-discipline” (ahaparenting.com). A child’s world is changing every day. Just the physical changes alone that their little bodies go through on a daily basis is astounding. Nursing, bottles, giving up pacifiers, sitting, crawling, walking, running, climbing, seeing, hearing, and eating whole foods…these things all happen so fast in a child’s life. Emotional and mental changes are just as speedy: babbling, smiling, laughing, talking, crying, tantrums, learning to share, wait your turn, and gain control over your emotions. It is an ever changing world for a child, and it doesn’t end as your child leaves toddler-hood.
During their school years they change classes, change teachers, change friends. They may change schools or move to new houses. They will gain and lose interests. They will try new activities and hold a variety of jobs. They will fall in and out of love. They will try on so many different personalities until they find the one right for them; their own identity.
And through it all, they will have a sense of security and confidence in themselves because you have given them a routine they can fall back on, day in and day out, when things get tough or scary. “We offer children a predictable routine as a foundation in their lives–so they can rise to the occasion to handle big changes when they need to,” states Aha.parenting.com. If kids are secure in their day-to-day, they are secure in who they are. They know what their day is going to look like and what comes next. When big changes happen – your child needs to move to a new school, or you go through a divorce – your child can take comfort in the regular routines of the day-to-day. Just because dad no longer lives at home doesn’t mean that we don’t still have breakfast together at seven, supper at six and snuggle at eight. It is easier to handle big changes in our lives when the little things still remain the same.
Routines also help your child to develop self-discipline. “Kids who come from chaotic homes where belongings aren’t put away never learn that life can run more smoothly if things are organized a little. In homes where there is no set time or space to do homework, kids never learn how to sit themselves down to accomplish an unpleasant task. Kids who don’t develop basic self-care routines, from grooming to food, may find it hard to take care of themselves as young adults. Structure allows us to internalize constructive habits.” (ahaparenting.com) Likewise, kids who don’t complete regular chores or have rules to follow at home never learn responsibility and respect.
So we know routines are important, and we want our children to be the best people they can possibly be. But we also value those “long, lazy days of summer”. How do we find a balance between creating a summer schedule or routine and enjoying our summer playtime? And more importantly, how do we transition in to this new routine?
We can start with these ten easy ways to create an awesome summer routine:
- Start and end your day with some sort of routine.
Keep your mornings and evenings the same each day, as much as possible. A morning routine might include breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, morning cartoons, a couple of chores, reading or music time, etc. The routine you choose for your family will reflect your family values. The key is to perform the same activities, in the same order, at relatively the same time, every morning. The same with the evenings; an evening routine might include dinner, a walk or bike ride, bath, stories, snuggling, a bit of T.V., and etc. Choose the activities that are important to you, and perform them every evening.
2. Leave the middle of your day open for fun and adventure.
This is where our “long, lazy days of summer” comes in. Once you have a semblance of a routine in the morning, the next part of your day can be for free play, free time, organized activities or spontaneous fun. Go with the flow and do whatever strikes your family’s mood. Some good ideas might include: swimming, biking, water fights, going to a park, having a picnic, visiting relatives, heading to the library, or just hanging out in the yard.
3. Keep your routine somewhat similar to your school-year routine.
If your routine is similar to what the school-year routine looked like, then it will be an easier transition for your children. For example, if it was time to start the day at 7:00, during the school year, then you may want to consider keeping the same wake-up time during the summer. If you decide to extend it, you may want to extend it just a little bit, such as a half hour or an hour, so as not to totally throw off your child’s schedule. Likewise, if your child watched a bit of TV before having breakfast, or read a little before hopping on the bus, you may want to continue these activities. To help the transition in to summer move smoothly, look for any little parts of your child’s routine that you can keep, or even enhance.
4. Have set meal times and set snack times.
It is important to have set meal times and set snack times for three reasons. First, your child is already used to eating at set times during the day. The closer you can stay to these times, the easier the transition for your child. Also, his body is programmed to be hungry at set times during the day, so if you don’t keep your meals close to what he is used to, he will come looking for something to munch on. The second reason set meal and snack times are so important is simply because it keeps the “grazing” behavior to a minimum. If you have a set time to eat, your child will learn to eat at that time, and wait until that time, especially if you enforce the rules consistently. If not, your child will be snacking all day; when he’s hungry, when he’s bored, when he’s angry, etc. It is hard on the pocketbook, it is hard on the food supply, and it is going to ruin your child’s lunch or supper. The third reason set meal times are important is because they make scheduling and keeping a routine so much easier. If lunch is always at 11:00, then it is easier to set up a morning routine before lunch and an afternoon routine after lunch. If you know you are done eating around 12:30, and you know you have to start making supper at five, then you know how long you have for summer fun in between. Everything runs smoothly with set meal times.
5. Create “rituals” for certain parts of the day.
Rituals are cute or goofy little things you do every day, at certain times of the day. You may have a morning ritual; a wake-up song, snuggling on the couch together, kisses and hugs, or anything similar, that you perform every morning when your child gets up. Ours goes like this: kisses and hugs, then to the kitchen for a cup of juice, then off to go potty. After that, we snuggle on the rocking chair for a bit. One weekend, my husband tried to throw off the ritual by snuggling in bed instead of the rocking chair, and my toddler would not have it. Rituals become part of your routine. They provide a sense of intimacy and security. They are also good ways to transition within your routine. Our ritual transitions us from waking up to play-time, because as the twins slowly wake up, they hop off of my lap to go play. We also have bed-time rituals: after stories, we put our lullaby CD on and I hug and sway to the music with each child. We have a rhyme and goofy little actions we do. I then “eat them up” and demand kisses and hugs. If the twins don’t give me my kisses and hugs, I “eat them up” until they do. Then it’s into bed they go, where I cover them up and give them a quick little back rub. This signals the end of fun time and tells them it is time to settle down and relax. The key to remember: Rituals grow and change as your child grows and changes.
6. Incorporate chores in to your routine.
Kids need chores. Chores teach responsibility and hard work. During the school year, homework was one “chore” your child had to complete. Your child had to sit down every day, either after school, after supper, or in the morning, to complete homework. She may have had other chores as well; dishes, take out the trash, feed the dog. Your child also needs chores during the summer. In fact, the summertime is a good time to introduce your child to new chores. To make the transition smooth, keep the same chores your child has always had, but inform your child that now that she has more free time on her hands, she can help out the family more by taking on further responsibilities. Just be sure you are giving her age appropriate chores that can be done in a reasonable amount of time. After her chores are done, the day is free for her to do what she likes.
7. Have set times for computer, T.V., video games and etc.
If you have teenagers or preteens, they could easily spend their whole day in front of a screen. Set limits on their “screen time”. There are a couple of ways to do this: You can give them chores, and not allow them to play until their chores are done. Or, you could give them certain times during the day when they are allowed to play, and when those set times have come and gone, they are done for the day. For example, you may allow your child to play video games from three to four in the afternoon, or from six to seven in the morning. This time might be a part of your daily routine. Or, you could give him a set amount of time he can play during the day, such as, say, 60 minutes, and when those minutes are up, he is done. That time might fall somewhere in to the afternoon, where you have more flexibility and less of a routine. Either way, it is important to set some sort of routine, rules and regulations around screen time.
8. Build in a regular time for hygiene – showers, brushing teeth, etc.
This might seem self-explanatory, but as a mother of an 11-year-old boy, trust me. It is not. You might think your son or daughter is taking care of this business, but that might not be the case. If you have teenagers or preteens, be sure to follow up with them from time to time, to make sure they are fitting proper self-care in their schedule. If you have younger kids, it is your job to make sure this is a part of their daily routine. Baths, brushing teeth and combing hair are great opportunities to start some daily rituals. Maybe you read to your child while she bathes, or play some soft music and light a candle. Maybe teeth-brushing time is a good time for daily silly faces in the mirror. Be creative!
9. Have set times for favorite activities.
Every child, every person, has their own interests and hobbies. If you already know what your child likes to do, make sure you squeeze that in to the schedule as much as possible. If it’s a quiet activity, like reading, writing, arts, crafts or music, find a way to make such an activity a part of your daily routine. If your child is extremely physical and needs to burn off a lot of energy, be sure playing outside is a part of your daily routine. If your child loves to be social, and thrives on new adventures, be sure to get out of the house regularly for swimming, museums, visiting the zoo, or taking various classes. If you have a teenager who loves tinkering out in the garage or shopping, be sure to find time for that as well. We all thrive when we can feed our passions. We are happier, healthier and easier to live with.
10. Schedule play time with your children.
This one is near and dear to my heart. I believe the best thing you can give your child is your time. I also believe that families who play together stay together. There is nothing that screams LOVE more than spending time together. Be sure to schedule it in to your routine daily. This time can be used for doing something your child loves, something you love, or exploring new activities together. If you have wee little ones, get on the floor and play with them. Let your child lead the activity. Even if they bounce from cars to dolls to playing in the kitchen and then back to cars again, let them lead. Play how they want to play. It will leave them feeling loved, valued and secure.
That’s it! My ten easy ways to create an awesome summer routine. Have some of your own? Let us know in the comment section!