School’s Out! Now that Summer Break has officially begun (at least for most of us) it’s time for a more relaxed daily routine and some days at the park or pool with friends. Personally, I welcome the change in schedule, it means less early mornings, no more homework, and more time with the kiddos.  It’s an exciting yet daunting time of year because if your house is anything like mine, the bliss of summer vacation lasts about a week (maybe two!) before the novelty wears off. Then, the first  “I’m bored!” comes. When trying to alleviate the boredom, my house seems to have a never ending trail of toys, wet swimsuits, and sand filled shoes or on the flip side they gravitate toward the virtual world. Though some days it’s tempting to say “oh well” and let them have more screen time, because it reduces the amount of bickering and chaos in the home, research shows that the amount of time spent in front of the screen can have significant negative impacts. Here are some ways to start the summer off right, set expectations, and help keep your home filled with laughter and fun!

CELEBRATE:

A celebration of school being out is always a fun way to end the year and kick off summer. Whether you want to celebrate big or small, it doesn’t really matter! What’s important is that you do something fun to commemorate their success of completing another year of school. It can be as big as a party in the backyard, with water balloons, squirt guns, and popsicles, taking them out to get ice cream, or even just holding a celebratory dance party with their favorite tunes playing loud. But don’t forget, you parents deserve a piece of the celebration pie too!!! You’ve been the ones who have been there through it all with them, the morning routines, transportation to and from school, homework in the evenings, plus any extracurricular activities your kids attend. Not to mention all the school projects… so many projects. You did it, so go ahead, celebrate!

ROUTINE

While not having a routine may sound amazing, having a daily or weekly routine is vital, as kids and adults thrive on routine. Researchers have found links between family routines and children’s social skills and academic success. According to Dan Brennan, MD routine will help keep stress levels low, you will sleep better and you will have better emotional and physical health. He also states that,  “Family routines can reduce the chances of a child showing symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and other behavior disorders.” Setting routines will help your child be more successful later in life because they have already established good habits from the time they were young.

Start the summer off with informing the kids of your expectations. Let them know that for the first few days everyone will just be relaxing. Sleep in, wear your pajamas all day, the biggest lazy days ever! They are likely to be more excited about this than anything else you will do all summer. Explain that after your Lazy Days, there will be some expectations for how the rest of the summer is going to go. Some things to consider adding to your child’s routine might be:

  • Age appropriate chores (blog for some chore suggestions here
    • This helps you keep things organized and teaches responsibility.
  • Daily reading 
    • This can become extra exciting by incorporating regular trips to the library. 
  • Exercise, whether it be family walks, kicking a ball back and forth, or morning stretches
    • Some kids tend to be more naturally active, while others struggle and are more drawn to electronics so some regular exercise can be a good addition to the routine. 
  • Limits on screen time
    • By letting them know how much time they get in advance, you reduce the chances of tantrums or frustration later.
  • Time for learning
    • For this you can get a work book or there are many great printable worksheets for free online, just something that will help keep your kids’ brains stimulated. Great resource here!
  • Creative playtime
    • Building blocks, play dough, drawing/coloring, painting, or playing dress up are all great creative outlets.
  • Bedtime Routine
    • Getting to bed on time during summer can be difficult so find things that help your child calm down. One great way is to bathe them and get all cozy in your pjs and settle in for story time. Not only does this help little ones settle down for sleep, but after a bath they’ll be ready for cuddles, which is a great way to destress and end the day!

The ideas above are a few things that have worked for others, but it’s important to remember that you and your kids have unique needs, so do what is best for both you and your child. What really matters is creating a plan. You can utilize a chore chart (download one here!) or our summer schedule planner (download here!). Chore charts can be great incentives, especially with stickers, you would not believe the number of times stickers have helped me out! These tools are great ways to keep it simple for you, easy for kids to understand and not overwhelm anyone in the process. Remember, while routines are helpful, there still needs to be time for plenty of fun!

ACTIVITIES:

Everyone loves to have something fun to look forward to and studies have shown that having exciting things to look forward to can help reduce stress and boost your mood! So take some time to sit down and help your kids create a bucket list of things they would love to do this summer and put a few activities on the calendar to look forward to. Having activities scheduled out can be great motivators. For example, if you were planning a trip to the splash pad, you could say “we need to get our chores done this week so we can go to the splash pad on Friday.” Or if there is a really BIG thing that everyone wants to do, you can start a point system and have them earn the exciting activity. Not only does this build excitement but it will benefit you as well. Don’t underestimate the power of sticker charts! 

Remember, you don’t need to schedule out every day of the summer, life happens and plans are constantly evolving so keep it simple. Wake up, do your routines and then see where the day takes you. If the kids are happy entertaining themselves, let it be. If they are bored and looking for a little something extra, reference the bucket list you made together! Not sure what activities would be good? Here are some suggestions:

  • Water balloon fight
  • Color a cardboard box into a Princess Castle
  • Teddy bear tea party
  • Have a spa day
  • Make a fort
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Collect rocks & paint them
  • Paper airplane races
  • Play dress up
  • Homemade playdough
  • Scavenger hunt

YOU TIME:

During the summer, days are always longer, it can leave you feeling a little burnt out and like you’ve been racing all day. Being a parent is hard work, so make sure to take time for yourself! Take a little time to unwind, relax and spend time doing something YOU love. Watch a show, work on a craft, do some scrapbooking, read a book, spend time with your spouse or go out for ice cream with some friends. Whatever you do, make sure you fill your cup daily and don’t forget you need your sleep. It’s important to take care of you because it’s hard to take care of those who need you if you aren’t feeling 100%,  and besides, if you don’t take care of you, then who will?  So get some R&R this next week, get a routine in place, make a summer fun list going, take a few extra minutes to cuddle those kiddos and you’ll be ready to jump right into summer break!