Planning For a Worry-Free Summer
Summer is here and that means no more stress, right? Maybe not. The new season can bring new artivities – and a need for a new schedule!
If you haven't already, create a plan specifically for summer. First, get out your calendar and pencil in summer camps, family vacations, special day trips, swimming lessons and other scheduled activities. Second, design a summer routine for you and your children. Staying up late and sleeping in every morning, followed by days of unscheduled freedom (read: boredom) will make for a long summer. Third, organize your home for the inevitable sand, wet suits and summer crafts that will soon be in abundance.
After you have added summer events to your calendar, focus on the remaining days. Every day need not be filled with a scheduled activity, because free and creative play helps a child learn to entertain himself and encourages imagination.
Check the local newspaper and public library for upcoming events. Include your children in the planning and ask what kinds of activities they would like to participate in this summer. By including children, the new summer routine won't seem like a chore, and by mapping out the activities on a master calendar, you'll find room for each child's preferred activities.
When a special activity – like a children's art fair or trip to the zoo – isn't taking calendar space, then stick to a weekly routine. For instance, every Monday could be library day. Tuesdays could be reserved for the public pool or beach. Wednesdays could be free play. On Thursdays, the craft box could be opened to create finger paintings, clay figures, lunch bag puppets and the like. Friday could mean playing board games or working in a garden designated especially for the kids.
Creating Your Summer Routine
So, how do you go from the structure of preschool days to summer? Use the first two weeks to match your new summer routine to the natural ebb and flow of your children's energy levels. Watch how your children play. Become familiar with the times of day they are typically hungry or cranky or need rest time. Soon, you will realize what type of schedule your children will respond to when incorporating a new summer routine.
"When you see the adjustment period through the first few weeks and notice the natural cycle of the day, you'll cherish the time you have ahead," says Molly Gold, creator of Go Mom, a daily planner for moms. "By meeting your children's physical needs for rest, nutrition and exercise, they will be more cooperative and well-behaved partners."
Don't forget regular bedtimes and meal times when thinking about summer. Laura Brian, a mom of three from Benzonia, Mich., adheres to a summer bedtime for her children as much as possible. "We have found that lack of sleep during the summertime can make for hard mornings and long days," Brian says. "We try to have early dinners so that we can take advantage of the daylight and play as a family or go for a bike ride. By taking advantage of the daylight, our children can get some one-on-one time with their dad or some great family fun time before they have to go to bed."
What about mommy time? Just as you would schedule an activity for your children, you should plan quiet time for yourself daily. The easiest time for this is usually when the children are napping. Hint: For fewer protests at naptime, schedule activities outside the house, like a trip to the beach or playground during mid-morning. After lunch, when their bellies are full, rest time may actually be welcome.
If your child has outgrown his naptime, mandate a 30- or 45-minute quiet time to be spent in his bedroom. Children can explore picture books or play quietly with their toys while having quiet time. They may even surprise you and fall asleep anyway. Remember, this is your appointed time to relax and recharge. Household chores can be done earlier in the morning or after your quiet time.
Where's the Sunscreen?
Do you spend more time finding lost swimsuits and sunscreen before you go to the beach than actually swimming at the beach? If the answer is yes, Sunny Schlenger, author of How to be Organized in Spite of Yourself (Signet, 1999), has a suggestion. "Let the children pick out their own bags. Color-coding is helpful, if you can manage it, so young children know that their bag, towels and pails are red, blue or whatever," says Schlenger.
Once the bag is packed, even a young child can learn, for example, that the bag of blue accessories is hers. This will be fun and promote ownership of personal items. Remember to keep potentially hazardous items such as bug repellent and sunscreen out of very young children's bags.
Peg Cochran, a mother of two living in Grand Rapids, Mich., stays organized by putting the entire family's beach accessories in one bag. "We keep a beach bag ready to go on trips to the pool," Cochran says. "The sunscreen, sun hats, pool toys, a magazine or two for Mom and change for the snack bar stay inside the bag from one trip to the next, and the pool badges are pinned to the handle."
You may consider investing in more than one swimsuit for the season as well. "I used to have three suits for each child: two for using at the swimming pool or at home and one that went to the beach," says Heather O'Neil, a mother living in Chesterville, Ontario. When the suits are wet from the sprinklers or the beach, hang them up immediately and when they are dry, pack them back into the bag to be ready for the next trip.
Schlenger adds that a routine for "getting ready" and "packing up" is essential to teach at an early age. "If you as a parent always do everything, you will be stuck with that role for the duration," says Schlenger. "It's much harder to teach older kids to take responsibility for their own stuff if you keep doing it."
Turtles, Seashells and Sand
Isn't it amazing what your child sees as wonderfully delightful and exciting? A simple seashell becomes a valued treasure, and tiny frogs and turtles instantly become new friends to your children. Fireflies lighting up the backyard are magical.
With so many treasures and so few treasure chests in which to store them, what's a mom to do? Sunny Schlenger, author of How to be Organized in Spite of Yourself (Signet, 1999), reminds us that it isn't having a neat and tidy house that is the goal, but rather having systems in place that make life easier to negotiate. To make more room for summer treasures, consider storing off-season clothing and toys in a basement, garage or attic. Include the children in the process of summer organization.
"Some kids like to have everything be as visible as possible," Schlenger says. "Clear containers, corner hammocks and lots of shelving are good choices for them. For those who like cleared surfaces and open space, well-designed closet or drawer systems are ideal."