It’s safe to say that most parents have a love/hate relationship with summer vacation. Before it comes, parents have conversations within themselves about how ready they are for their kids to finish the school year. Teachers pack as much as they can into May, filling it with end-term testing, standardized testing, projects, dances, graduations, etc. Sports are wrapping up and everyone needs a break. Fast forward to the end of July, beginning of August, and parents are thinking about how they’re going to survive one more week with their kids at home. How is it possible to make the most of summer vacation and keep one’s sanity, while keeping a structured schedule of healthy eating, as well as filling the days with activities that will keep them learning?
The key is committing. Once you decide that you’re going to keep up with healthy habits over the summer break, the planning becomes easier, because your activities and plans now have a foundation. However, this is not a one-man-band process. In order to have a successful summer, you must get everyone on board. Have a family meeting and let everyone know that they’ll be getting up at a decent hour each day, followed by a schedule of chores, learning, and activities.
Not everyone will think that your epiphany of proactive parenting is wonderful. Consider that as you plan. Consider the ages of your children and their interests. Try to plan activities and learning that is focused on engaging topics. Maybe ask your children what kinds of things they would like to learn about or adventures they would like to go on.
Example Daily Calendar
Keep a daily calendar or chart where everyone can see it. Have an example of a daily structure.
7:30 a.m. Wake Up Routine (Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Brush Teeth)
8:30 a.m. Exercise or Go to the Park
10 a.m. Shower/Get Ready for the Day
10:45 a.m. Reading
11: 15 a.m. Music
12 p.m. Lunch
12:30 p.m. Study
1:30 p.m. Chores
2:30 p.m. Afternoon Activity
4:30 p.m. Free Time/Play Outside
6 p.m. Dinner
9 p.m. Bedtime Routine (Brush Teeth, Wash Face, PJs, Family Reading, Family Prayer)
This will help everyone to see what’s expected, but also give them something to count on every day. Children are often more stable when they know the daily routine and something is constant in their lives. After you’ve established the routine, it’s easier to fill in the blanks. You can decide which activities to put on the calendar. Maybe one day a week the activity is an international day and that day you play a game from a different country, as well as eat ethnic food and learn about the people of that culture. Perhaps, one day is spent at the library, another day is the zoo and another day at the pool. Depending on what your children enjoy, you can create a routine of activities within your routine. Maybe you let each child plan the activity for his specified day. The great thing about this routine is that it may mitigate some of the arguments and fighting that often occur when kids are out of school. They’ll be too busy to argue.
You can also have multiple charts. A chore chart keeps you organized with who is in charge of cleaning the bathroom versus the dishes in the kitchen versus mowing the lawn. Again, there are no surprises, because everyone knows what his assignment is.
Yet another chart is the menu. Keeping a monthly menu can help people feel excited about what they’re eating, as well as keep everyone on target for eating nutritious meals that are budget-friendly. Healthy eating keeps learning brains firing on all cylinders, promotes healthy growth and general health overall, as well as restful sleep and mood stability. While your kids may complain and fight you a bit on all of these organized processes, their bodies are subconsciously thanking you. Furthermore, this can be a great teaching tool. Your children can learn to cook and you can make some great memories while doing so.
The other piece of all of this is that your kids will be ready to go back to full-time school in the fall. They won’t have to catch up or re-learn some of the things from the previous school year, because they’ve kept their brains active through the summer.
Reward everyone for hitting milestones. Maybe for consistent behavior and patterns, the kids get to choose something from a prize box on Fridays or they get a special sticker on their chart. After “x” amount of stickers, they get to turn them in for a free-day from studying from a workbook or they get to choose an extra activity that week. The rewards can be simple but motivating.
It’s a lot of work to get the summer vacation time organized; however, if you plan ahead and act proactively, it can be done. Look online for ideas from other moms, check out local museums and venues, and find the summer deals. Keep your children involved in the planning. Commit, plan, create a calendar and build a reward system. Fill their brains and bellies with goodness. The benefits of keeping a structured schedule far outweigh the work of organizing one. Here’s to a great summer vacation.