Structure for Children in Summer
Summer – it is a time when children jump for joy, no longer having to sit in a classroom. For almost three long months, they choose what they would like to do. While the first three days may be relaxing, the time after is anything but. The lack of structure may start to bore children, causing behavioral problems at home. Providing structure is the key to preventing and curing these summertime blues.
Summer Camps and Daycare Programs. While summer camps and daycares mimic school to provide structure to your child, they still harness a strong “fun summertime” feel to prevent your child from becoming overwhelmed or burnt out. Summer camps and daycares that offer activities your child is naturally interested in, such as art, sports, or science, will make structure in the summertime a rewarding experience.
Regular Wake Up, Meal, and Bedtimes. If it is difficult to keep your child on a heavily planned schedule, start off with keeping it simple. Establishing regular wake up, meal, and bedtimes provides structure in a way that feels natural to your child. This routine will prepare your child for returning back to school in the fall and will ensure that your child is acquiring a healthy amount of sleep and proper nutrition. Since this regularity breaks the day into smaller chunks, increased scheduling and structure in the future will become easier.
Collaboratively Scheduling. Working with your child to create a schedule that works for them will motivate them to follow it. Ask your child which activities they would prefer to do in different categories: artistic, educational, and physical activities. By having at least one activity in each category, your child will be less likely to be bored from a monotonous schedule. Writing the schedule on paper and allowing your child to decorate it will give your child a sense of ownership over the schedule, again making them more likely to follow it. Lastly, placing the schedule in a location where it is clearly visible will remind your child of what they are supposed to be doing and what is on the horizon.
Goal of the Day. Alongside your child, devise a “Goal of the Day.” This goal should have multiple parts that will take the child the entire day to complete. Some examples include painting a portrait or completing household chores. Having a goal gives your child a project that they can work to accomplish throughout the day, similar to a school assignment. Rewarding them at the end of the day will motivate them to continue to work toward future “Goals of the Day.”
Playdates. Hosting playdates with other parents and their children will resemble recess and other school activities, providing structure without seeming strained. Varying the location of the playdates, such as taking the children to a park, lake, or museum, will better maintain the child’s interest. Initiating activities during the playdate, like painting or swimming, will prevent your child from staring at the TV with their friends all day.
Kids, In Summary. A lack of structure in the summertime may encourage your child to develop unhealthy habits. They may spend more time on the couch playing video games than outside doing physical activities. Perhaps their boredom will drive them to throw temper tantrums. Structure can assist children in channeling their energy into activities that are not only engaging,
but also healthy for their ongoing development, academically, physically, socially, and emotionally.
Structure for Adults in the Summer
Summertime used to mean freedom from school and schedules and the ability to hang out with friends in unstructured ways. We looked forward to adventures and outdoor time with less expectations. However, time passed, we grew up and now we are adults and most of our responsibilities continue year-round without an extended break for the summer. How can we use the season to recharge and refresh our thoughts, our bodies, and our friendships?
Play. Designate 15-30 minutes of “play time” before or after work. Drink your coffee outside and listen to the birds or windchimes. Come home and go for a walk with a pet or family member or friend. Find a swing to enjoy and just experience the season. Eat an ice cream cone before it melts. Go to a comedy show and laugh. Design a new driveway with sidewalk chalk and see who joins you in the art process. Play tag with silly string and try to keep a straight face. Small intervals of time can still renew our energy and make us smile while we are cooking dinner, doing laundry, or cutting the grass.
Point of View. Change your view. Take a local day trip and let someone else plan it for you. If you have children, let them select the location and schedule. Then you plan one for them- explore a new state park or museum or a local restaurant. Get out of your routine for a change of pace and to see what else is around you. A break in your routine can unleash creativity you forgot you had and this broadens our sense of what is possible in the world and improves problem solving.
Take a Technology Break. Focus on interactive learning and communication, take a class, gather a group of people and play board games, have a potluck around a fire pit and be present in that shared experience. Volunteer at something you are curious about for a couple of hours and take advantage of the extended daylight. Use this time to try out a new hobby.
Move. Being active makes us feel better – enjoy the endorphin rush. Go for a walk, play your favorite game from childhood and teach it to your family. Push yourself to try something you have not tried in the past- kayaking, climbing, fencing. Be inspired by what you can explore. Trying something new exposes us to new people and new ways of thinking and that renews us and broadens our perspective.
Adults, In Summary. As adults our work schedule continues and so do household responsibilities, yet these small changes can enrich our summertime and remind us to think outside the box. Children do better with some structure continuing throughout the summer, and as adults we can benefit from a bit of flexibility in our schedule to experience some summertime renewal.