Diana Boggia: School’s out! Kids are home for the summer ... now what?

Diana Boggia

Summertime brings back fond memories of swimming pools, days at the park, Sundays at the beach, corn on the cob and playing with all of the neighborhood kids until it got dark and the fireflies came out. Three short, warm months can provide a lifetime of fond, family and childhood memories.

However, after just a few short weeks of fun and a lack of structure, parents may start to notice an increase in arguments, as well as an increase in household messes.

Children know what is expected of them during the school year, and they fall easily into a routine. But the lack of structure during the summer months can cause confusion and internal chaos, leading to meltdowns and misbehaviors.

How to handle it?

1. Make a schedule. Determine the best daily schedule for your family, and write each activity, starting with breakfast and brushing teeth. Allow for a general 15- to 45-minute time frame for each activity, and be as specific as a school teacher would be with expectations. Think of yourself as their summer camp counselor. Camps don’t let the kids run wild.

2. Helping hands. Classrooms have “class jobs” to maintain a clean, orderly room, and help each child feel they have an important role to keep things running smoothly. Have your child choose a “Job-A-Day,” such as recycle, take out the trash, feed the dog, fold towels or match socks. Make a “Job Jar” as described on the “Make It Yourself” tab on the website below.

3. Keep it moving! It’s just as important to provide opportunities for physical play, such as running bases, playing tag or just throwing a Frisbee. Keeping your child physically engaged will keep his body fit, help to burn enough energy to be tired at bedtime, as well as burn extra calories.

4. Thinking time. Include drills, games and activities for math, reading and language arts in your daily schedule, using a deck of cards, flash cards, board games, dominoes or using workbooks. Start a chapter book and find time each day to read together. Help your child maintain his academic skill level, rather than fall behind over the summer.

5. Family dynamics. Designate activities for “Together Time” and play a game, introduce a cooking activity or outdoor fun, focusing on sibling relationships, taking turns, identifying emotions, using manners and other social skills.

6. Set it up. Children thrive on structure and routine. They feel comforted knowing what comes next, what is expected of them, and what they can expect. Present your “Daily Camp Schedule” to your child at a backyard picnic with some fun, summertime food, such as watermelon or an ice pop. Have your child help to name your camp. Design your schedule on large poster board, using word prompts with picture clues, which your child can color. Explain the activities and expectations, knowing that some days will be left unscheduled due to vacation or other daily outings.

The small effort you put into providing routine and expectations will benefit you — and your children — more than you can imagine.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find additional parenting resources, along with links to all of her columns, at Diana Boggia’s website, www.yourperfectchild.com.