Sing it with me. Go ahead. “School’s out for summer!”
Children across the U.S. (and let’s be honest, the school staff, too) are belting it out, but parents and caregivers may be filled with unease. How will I keep my kids entertained? Better yet, how can I structure the day so they entertain themselves? What are ways to prevent summer learning loss after an already challenging school year? What type of boundaries or structure should exist in their day? Chores? Screentime? Exercise? The list goes on.
Whether your kids are home with you, a relative, a babysitter, daycare, or camp, there are many ways you can help ensure reading and other important activities are a part of everyday life by having some structure.
At our house, we’ll have a quick family meeting each night to discuss our plans for the following day. Having experienced at-home learning during the pandemic, I learned my family feels more comfortable when they know what the schedule is for the next day and expectations are clearly defined.
Using a small dry erase board, we fill in a chart that lists activities we “must do” and “could do” (see example below). We work together to generate the list of must do tasks, giving the kids part ownership over the expectations. Having a back-up idea in the “could do” column comes in very handy when the dreaded “I’m bored” phrase shows up. And we categorize all the ideas into values that are important to our family (helping, moving, creating, and learning), but this will be unique to each family.
Here’s an example of what a typical day might look like for my kids, ages 11 and 13.
|ACTION:||MUST DO:||COULD DO:|
|HELP||strip sheets off the bed, then remake bed when sheets are dry||weeding ($1 for every 5-gallon bucket)|
|MOVE||swim practice, 7:00-8:30||go on a walk/scooter ride|
|CREATE||continue to create Lego stop motion video/make card for upcoming wedding||start new puzzle or make cookies|
|READ/WRITE/LEARN||continue reading Blood for Blood/start Wolf Hollow||help Mom with Raising Real Readers book review|
Completion of MUST DOs = 1.5 hours of screen time the next day.
- Since I’m home with the kids, I will include my own must do and could do activities. Modeling goes a long way in influencing children and helps them to buy into the system.
- If your child won’t be home most of the day, be realistic about what can actually be accomplished during limited evening hours. Or discuss with them ways they could read, exercise, or be creative while away at whatever childcare arrangements your family is using this summer.
- Do you have a fun summertime activity in mind, like a day at the pool or trip to the zoo? Use this to your advantage. If your kids successfully complete a certain number of must do tasks in a row, allow them to earn the activity! This demonstrates that hard work and consistency pays off.
- The power of surprise is real. Perhaps you’ve seen your child display a selfless act or go the extra mile on a task. Allow them to choose one must do to cross off their list for the day!
- Follow through. Consistency is key.
By working together to create some loose structure to the day, you’re helping to ensure that your family’s values get attention, but with a collaborative feel. You’re also helping to nurture your child’s executive functioning, the ability to complete tasks from start to finish.
Do you have a summer schedule? How do you ensure your kids stay active? Share with our readers on social media in order to help us all learn from each other!