Summer is officially here, which means so is the summer schedule. (Cue the yay.) Something about the warmer months tends to inspire us all to mix things up (read: ditch the afternoon nap a little more often) and relax the daily grind (like bidding farewell to that toddler gym class for the next 3 months). At the same time, babies and toddlers do thrive on structure and predictability. And we say that with some strategy and planning, you can have that carefree summer you've been dreaming about ... while keeping everyone's sanity intact. Vinay Saranga, M.D., is a child psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry.
Dr. Saranga offers this advice:
1. Create a summer schedule
You don’t have to schedule something for every second of the day. The idea is to develop a predictable, but flexible, daily schedule that can help children thrive. Remember, sometimes boredom can be a trigger for bad behavior. The idea is to still have a routine and agenda, but know that it’s okay to be a little laid back when it comes to sticking to it.
2. Keep a calendar
Make it visible to your entire family. Write down daily activities and include a chore/activity chart. This helps children understand what’s expected of them. It also helps enrich their sense of responsibility and integrity, all while building their confidence.
3. Don’t skip reading
Reading should be part of their everyday routine this summer. Whether in the morning or before bed (or both), make it a priority to read with your kids. Of course, the goal of reading is to make it enjoyable. Get your child involved by going to a local library for their weekly story time.
4. Sleep is still essential
Sleep, especially at a young age, is essential for healthy growth and brain development. We all benefit from a good night’s rest! Even if you extend bedtime during the summer, make sure your child is getting the recommended amount of sleep each night. Try not to get too far off of their school routine because it will be back in session before you know it!
5. Cut back on screen time
Sometimes it’s too easy just to turn on the TV. When they’re not swimming or riding bikes, find something productive for them to do. Stock up on fun and educational activities that will help your kids continue to grow and learn over the summer break. Coloring books, crosswords, puzzles, and board games are all great ideas.
6. Some downtime is good
Remember that long days at the pool/beach can cause exhaustion, which leads to frustrated and overwhelmed kids. Figure out what the right amount of activity is to stimulate your child and incorporate enjoyable activities into their summer routine.
7. Keep them social
Summer camps, group play, and trips to the local playground are all ways to entertain children without screen time. Social settings often encourage imaginary play and creativity all while developing social skills that are essential for a child’s development.
8. Incorporate nature
Let nature be your inspiration this summer! Get your children outdoors for some fresh air. Plan a game of hide-and-seek or set up a nature scavenger hunt that will keep them entertained in a healthy way.
9. Make time for family
Our kids grow up so quickly, so make time to enjoy the summer as a family, no matter how old your kids are. Whether planning a vacation out of state or simply a day trip to the beach, the best activities are enjoyed together.
This article originally appeared in StrollerTraffic, a newsletter dedicated to trends, tips, and expert advice for city moms with kids under 3. Delivered straight to your inbox on the second Friday of each month. Sign up for free now!