A (Kind of) Structured Summer
Avoid wasting away the summer months by implementing a routine
Even in this age of high-tech devices that many children have access to, parents far and wide still commonly hear two words that can spark within them anything from maddening frustration to total indifference: “I’m bored.” Both reactions (“You’re WHAT?!”; and “Good”) are understandable. On the one hand, a child claiming to be bored can be offensive to a parent who works hard at keeping them entertained and engaged, while on the other hand, parents know that boredom can be a positive experience for a child, as it’s said to incite creativity, flexibility and problem-solving skills. And while summertime is revered as the season of freedom and fun, it can often be, well, boring. Despite having the allure of no school, outdoor play, water activities and cool treats, summer, with its sudden expanse of unscheduled time, can create a sense of idleness that some kids– and their parents– simply don’t know what to do with. The solution? Creating structure.
The idea of a structured summer sounds distasteful to many, considering the allure of late starts, lazy days and “no rules.” However, for many children and families, a sense of structure can reduce the anxiety and frustration that often comes along with a blank planner. Kids, after all, generally benefit from having a sense of routine in their lives, as knowing what to expect can help them to feel more grounded and at ease. Left with no blueprint for summer days, kids are often left chomping at the bit, impatient for something but not knowing what. Even extremely busy adults who yearn for more time in their days can experience this when suddenly granted a sliver (or large slice) of unscheduled time: their focus dwindles and they become paralyzed by indecision. A common result for kids and adults alike? Irritability stemming from an underlying sense of anxiety. Before long, many families find themselves annoyed with and avoiding each other before afternoon even sets in, making summer not seem so magical after all.
Create “Soft Structure”
Structure doesn’t always mean iron bars; sometimes it’s more like a spider’s web. Consider building “soft structure” into summer days by leaving some wiggle room within each routine. For example, “Reading Time” doesn’t always have to mean quietly sitting in the house with a carefully curated selection of books. It could mean a visit to an unfamiliar library, a book reading at a local bookstore, a trip to Barnes and Noble to browse or purchase something new, or meeting with friends at the park with a bag of books from home.
Embrace Themed Days
Themed Days on a weekly rotation can help instill creativity and break up the monotony of summer days. When appropriate, get your kids involved in coming up with ideas for themes; it will give them a sense of pride and motivation to see their suggestions come to fruition. Ideas for themes include: Make It Mondays for a craft day; Water Wednesdays for any water-based activities, Fun Fridays for family evening outings, Sandy Saturdays for heading to the beach, etc.
Don’t Obsess Over Academics
Yes, we want our children to always be learning. But we often forget all the forms “learning” can take. If you’re thinking of avoiding activities because they aren’t necessarily considered to be educational, remember not to underestimate motor, sensory or imaginative play, as they provide a foundation for higher cognitive learning.
Be OK With Breaking Rules
Planned on hitting the pool but a friend texted asking if you’d like to meet up for a playdate at the park instead? Go for it! (As long as it will be something you and your family will enjoy, that is). While a schedule can help avoid idle days, writing it in stone may prevent you and your family from enjoying the carefree vibe that summer is all about!