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What to Do with Your Kids this Summer? Here are Some Tips on How to Put Structure into Their Schedules.
By Nina Malanay
Summer is the time when kids take a break from a busy school year of waking up early, doing homework and studying for tests. It is the time when kids (and moms!) get to sleep in a little longer, for playing all day and laid-back days doing “nothing”.
But while the downtime and carefree vibe that summer brings seem enticing, it may not be the best idea for kids.
Summer Learning Loss
In a study conducted by Dr. Harris Cooper, he established that children experience a loss of academic skills and knowledge during summer. Without the constant practice of the skills and the deliberate effort to keep the kids engaged in learning, children may lose or forget up to three months’ worth of learning over the summer. In the study, Dr. Cooper found that summer programs and activities that integrate literacy skills into the enriching activities can prevent summer learning loss and even improve academic performance among children. By encouraging and providing opportunities for mental stimulation throughout the summer, parents can help children preserve their math, reading and spelling skills. Thus, it is important to have some form of routine and structure during the summer days to accommodate the children’s need for such enrichment activities and stimulation.
Other benefits of structures and routines
The idea of having a set schedule during the summer may seem boring and maybe even downright oppressive to some. But structure is critical to a child’s growth and development and has so many benefits for children of any age.
1. Structures and routines create a sense of security and stability among children. When routines are in place, children feel emotionally secure and are better able to navigate through life without the need for constant parental hovering and redirection.
2. Having a set routine minimizes power struggles because the children know what to expect. Children are more cooperative because they are aware of what will happen, and what is expected of them.
3. Routines help teach independence and responsibility. Knowing the schedule for the day will give opportunities for the child to take the initiative and perform the tasks expected of him.
4. Schedules and routines help children understand that conditions have to be met first before they can do what they want. When children know that something is expected of them before they get to do what they want, they become motivated to do their part. They also learn the value of fairness and accountability.
5. Having a schedule gives parents purposeful opportunities to connect with their child. Parents can set definite chunks of time for meaningful bonding activities with their child.
Fun and Laid-back Summer Schedule
Summer routines need not be rigid and overwhelming. After all, part of the allure of summer is the unhurried pace and the fun atmosphere. Simple things such as having regular wake-up times can help provide some structure during the carefree summer days. Here are some ideas for keeping to a summer routine that allows for plenty of fun.
1. Regular daily routine
Have a set daily routine with regular wake-up, eating, self-care and bed times. Set a regular wake-up time that is one or two hours later than your child’s regular wake-up time during the
2. Learning time
Set a time for learning. Workbooks or worksheets can help students practice the academic skills they learned during the school year and help prepare them for the next grade level. Summer enrichment activities, whether academic or interest-based, help regulate the child’s summer schedule while providing mental stimulation.
3. Reading Time
Aside from the regular bedtime story, have a separate time for reading each day. Expose your child to new books. Visit the local library or have a book swap with friends to keep reading selections interesting to your child. Encourage older children to read to their younger siblings and model the importance of reading by picking a book to read yourself.
Identify age-appropriate chores that your child can do each day during the summer. Combine daily chores such as making beds and doing the dishes with larger projects such as cleaning out their toy cabinet. Doing chores not only develops large motor skills, it also teaches a sense of responsibility and the value of helping and contributing to a group.
5. Limit screen time
It is ideal to limit gadget use and TV time to less than two hours a day. Set realistic boundaries and specific guidelines and make sure to communicate this to your child. Provide alternative activities to using gadgets and watching TV. Avoid using screen time as a reward or incentive.
6. Outdoor fun
Summer is the best time to laugh, play and enjoy the outdoors. Allot time for physical activity and messy play in your summer routine for outdoor play. Whether it’s a quick trip to the nearby playground or just riding the bike in your yard, outdoor activities provide an outlet for their boundless energy. Participating in outdoor activities is a good way to help keep the kids healthy and fit, and contributes to their overall well-being.
7. Summer Bucket List
Enjoy the summer and spend time as a family. Family time can do wonderful things to a child’s development, both physically and mentally, not to mention the beautiful memories you get to create together. Sit down as a family and make a list of all the places you would like to visit and things you would like to do together. From going to the beach, to stargazing in your own backyard, or visiting the zoo or water park, the list of fun things to do together is endless.
Having some form of structure and routine during the summer days will not only help kids transition smoothly into the new school year, but also make the long summer days more manageable and less stressful for both kids and parents. The key is in finding the balance between having fun and maintaining a routine.
So go ahead. Bask in the sun. Laugh. Play. And make beautiful summer memories to treasure.