The Summer Shift

Hello Summer!
We’ve been waiting for you! After an unseasonably cold Spring, your warmth is a welcomed gift. The end of another school year allows us to take a deep breath, kick back, and enjoy some downtime from the hustle and bustle that school days can bring.

As I sat down to write this blog, I began to reminisce about some of my favorite summertime childhood memories. The smell of honeysuckle, picking wild blackberries on the side of the dirt road near my childhood home, and catching fireflies are just a few of those memories that come rushing back to me. I can still remember the exhilaration I felt the first time I jumped off the high dive at our community pool. The combination of being thrilled and terrified all mixed into one incredible childhood memory! Summer vacations took my family on adventures to new places, as well as familiar destinations to visit family and friends. My little trip down memory lane reminded me that having a few strategies to ease the transition from school to summertime can help kids create fun, safe, and lasting memories whether they are enjoying simple pleasures or exciting adventures.

Schools Out For Summer!

I think about the last day of school before summer break, my mind automatically starts to sing the famous Alice Cooper song ‘Schools…Out…For…Summer’. In my house, everyone knows it’s the last day of school because my husband blasts this song throughout our home which is usually met with lots of teenager eye rolling. The end of a school year is often thought of as the beginning of Summer. One door closes and another door opens. Change can be a good thing! For many families, summertime is an opportunity to plan activities and trips to learn, explore, and create memories that last a lifetime. For others, summer lends itself to taking advantage of living in southern Delaware and all the wonderful activities our coastal towns have to offer.

The Transitions Can be Bumpy!

The transition from school to summer break can bring an abrupt change in daily routines. As parents and caregivers, we know children (and adults) function better when they have a structured routine. We’ve all had those days when we feel super lazy, sleep in late, stay in our pajama’s all day, and eat junk food. One day like this can be a welcomed down day, however several days like this can lead us straight into a funk. The transition from a structured school day to carefree summer days can be difficult for children. During this time of year parents and caregivers might start to see kids develop challenging behaviors due to lack of structure. One way to avoid this is to plan ahead and establish new daily routines.

We know the importance of summer routines, but creating and following them can be a bit challenging. We start out with the best of intentions and then suddenly we find ourselves completely off course. I find this happens to my family particularly when we’ve been away on a vacation or my kids participate in a summer camp. These activities can be tons of fun but the inconsistencies that come with being away from home can be a real struggle upon returning. Kiddos that have a daily routine mapped out will likely find it easier to return from fun adventures like vacation or summer camp. Consider these tips when setting up summer routines for your family:

Sleep Routines

Try to keep bedtime and wake up times consistent even if these timeframes are different than during the school year. Avoid letting your child stay up too late at night or sleep too late into the morning! Children still require the same amount of sleep each night to rest their bodies despite the longer hours of daylight… and often even need extra rest when they have been physically active in the sun, heat and water.

Daily Dose of Fun

Schedule a fun activity every day to get your family out of the house. Check out local programs for children in your community. The library, museums, parks, and community centers like the YMCA often provide children’s programming during the summer months. Stock up on sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and water toys! Arrange a play date with friends at the pool or beach! Take a walk or ride a bike early in the day or prior to dusk when the temperatures are a bit cooler.

Visual Schedules

Create a daily schedule with pictures or words depending on your child’s age or reading ability, to help your child understand the flow of the day and transitions between daily activities. A visual schedule can help children complete daily tasks and chores with fewer verbal prompts from adults.

Reading Should Be Fun!

Incorporate reading time to the daily schedule. Your child’s teacher will thank you! Make this time of the day fun by reading in a tent or outside on a swing. For early readers, read together to support them if they get stuck on a word. If your child is a bit older and a struggling reader, take turns reading paragraphs or pages in a book. Children like to be read to at any age and having a little help with some of the reading will lessen frustrations and promote a positive interaction.

Structure Around Meals

Include mealtimes and snacks on your families daily schedule. When kids are home during the day they are tempted to eat more than usual. Scheduling meals and snacks reduces overeating. It also helps families with meal planning and promotes a conscious effort to make healthy food choices. Encourage your kids to sit at a family table technology-free, and interact with playful conversation. Invest in a great kids joke book or conversation starters to help promote laughter and dialogue.

Buckets of Fun

Create a bucket list of summer activities. Sit down with your family and ask each person to list a few activities that are high on their wish list for the summer. The activities don’t need to be lavish vacations or anything extraordinary. The items can be as simple as watching an outdoor movie, playing mini golf, or inviting friends over for water balloon games. When creating your summer calendar, be sure to plan and spread out these activities throughout the summer months.

Vacation Considerations

Whether planned for months or more spontaneous in nature, an amazing family vacation requires some advanced planning. If traveling with a child with special needs, consider the new experiences they might be encountering and what items might be helpful to have readily available. If traveling with tots or young children, don’t underestimate the power of a stroller to navigate new places and spaces (even when you think they might prefer to walk). Wristband identifiers can be an important safety precaution for young children, as well as older non-verbal kids. These wristbands can include information such as parent contact information, medical info, and allergies. Many amusement parks and other attractions offer accessibility guides that include information for individuals with physical limitations or sensory sensitivities.
And don’t forget to collect a few fun items (ie, seashells, stickers, etc) during your vacation! Create something special with them upon your return home. Journal, capture photos, and caption them together to create a memory book that they can treasure for years to come.

Thank you for joining me on my trip down memory lane. I hope you’ve gained a few tips and tools to help your family have a Positive Shift from School to Summer. It won’t be long before we start to feel the crisp, cool air of Fall, so take time to ‘Pause’ and enjoy adventures with family and friends.

Authored by Mandy Ciabattoni, Family Educator and Co-Owner of Child Inspired.

Child Inspired is an emerging family-centered, pediatric wellness practice in Southern Delaware . We are so proud of the inspiring group of pediatric therapists and educators that are working collaboratively to bring help and healing to children and families with in-home, outpatient therapy services and community outreach initiatives. The Child Inspired team takes their work very seriously, but does make sure to sprinkle in moments of silliness and laughter, as we all need strategies to cope with the various challenges we must navigate.

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