Monday, June 6, 2016

I'm The Mom, Not Your Entertainment Coordinator

Ahhhh....summer! I remember summer when I was a kid. When I was in 4th grade, we moved to a little town in Northern Indiana. Those years hold the best summer memories for me. We lived across the street from the town park, which held an annual "Summer Fun" program for kids.

Parents could register their kids for free and drop them in the park anytime between 9a-12p, and again from 1p-4p. There was a monthly calendar of events, most of them free or nearly free. There were board games, organized kick ball, art projects like little plaster of paris molds to create and paint the next day. There was a scout cabin in the park, so in extreme heat we'd do activities inside the cabin. And at the end of each day we got a frozen otter pop. The city hired some awesome youth counselors to run this program. Kids had to be school ages - or at least potty trained to be dropped off and the city parks and rec dept took care of the rest. Awesome tax dollars at work.

Next to the park was the public library, so we also had that option and it was like 50 steps from my front door!

During the summer while I was in elementary school, my bedtime was always the same, every night, even in the summer. We had a routine. We still bathed and ate our meals and did our chores according to our "normal" routine. But the thing that made my summers the most fun were these structured daily activities that encouraged good sportsmanship, exercise, creativity, confidence, and the freedom to just be a kid! (Boy, did my mom luck out too!) It wasn't until we became teens that we stayed up too late, binge-ate, and became unproductive slobs, haha.

I've come to learn some kids - in fact MOST kids - thrive when they can operate off of a structured schedule. I've mulled this over and wondered when this shifted in our society. Then I realized it hasn't. My father was born and raised on a farm. While his "play time" wasn't structured, everything else was - when he woke, dressed, ate, chored, -- all of it. Play time was a luxury if you were lucky! I think so many kids today have become so dependent on electronics and constantly being entertained, they don't even really grasp the concept of "playing."

Okay, so where does this long and out-of-hand-supposed-to-be-quick introduction leave us? Well, this is where it leaves me. I have learned that I function better and my kids function better when we have summer schedules. (At least until they become teens with their own social lives and summer jobs.)

I still have one elementary school age kid and for the last 3 summers, I've created daily schedules and planned activities to keep us both sane. We've learned with him that he requires a full 10 hours of sleep. He also takes forever to wind down. So we have get-ready-for-bed time and actual bed time 30 minutes later, knowing he won't be asleep for at least still another 30 minutes. We are giving him a slightly later bedtime this summer, since he's almost 10. We're going to try 9p instead of 8, and 10p on Fridays. I told him we'll see how it affects him the next day and pending his mood we'll either proceed or go back to an hour earlier.

Tips for planning a daily schedule for your child:

1. Figure which tasks you want your child to complete every day regardless of what else goes on. Put those things in the schedule. I want mine to get dressed every day, unless he is sick.

2. Determine what attributes/talent/skill you'd like to encourage your child to develop. Is there a daily habit in which they can engage that will promote this attribute/talent/skill? For us, we want our children to have their own personal relationship with the Lord, so I give them reminders to pray and hold their own private devotional time. Even though school is out, we don't want them to stop reading either, so we have reading time scheduled too. If mine played an instrument, you bet I'd put practice time on the schedule too.

3. Plug in the "constants" - wake up time, meals, bedtime, etc.

4. Are there weekly chores or activities? Scouts, laundry day, piano lessons? etc. Plug those in next.

5. Check your personal calendar. Plug any family events or appointments into your child's schedule.

6. Now - what else can you do for fun??? Check your local community calendars for free movies in the park, new exhibit at the nature center, special discount days for bowling, free library events, local pool or splash pad hours. Is there a chocolate or cheese factory nearby that gives free tours? Join or create a Summer Fun facebook group page for locals. Share some of these events there - coordinate play dates. We do a library day every 2 weeks and on the in between weeks we do a dollar movie, or other fun activity. Plug those in the schedule.

7. Present the schedule in a draft form. Discuss concerns with the child and of course your spouse. Make changes as necessary.

8. Put simple explanations on the schedule for anything out of the ordinary in order to prevent the "WHY? That's not fair?" For example, if I move bedtime early one night, I put a note next to it like You have to get up early tomorrow for camp. 

9.  Only print one week at a time, as things will come up and you want to avoid reprinting if you can.

10. Have a place where both parent and child can review the schedule and check the progress. We use the side of the fridge and a heavy duty magnet clip.

11. It is the child's responsibility to read and check off their schedule each day. If you do an allowance, you could tie their "pay day" into the schedule as well. Let them manage their own schedule, and resist the urge to micromanage. Don't hover! Give them the chance to work their schedule, and just check in with them once or twice a day to see how it's going.

That's it! I will give you a fair warning that you should probably create the schedule when you have nothing else to do that day. Sometimes this process can take several hours. Once you've got the master schedule finished, then tweaking it each Saturday before printing for the following week will be a cinch. I am including a link to week one of my youngest child's summer schedule, just to give you an idea of how we do it. His schedule is pretty intense, but he has ADHD so every scheduled task is worth its weight in gold.

Good luck! Let me know if you give is a try.  {Sample Summer Schedule Week 1 - Printable HERE}


Vicki said...

If I still had kids at home I would love to use your information.

okeydokeyifine said...

nicely put, I hope this helps young families.