Before you know it, school will be out for the summer and it’s important to keep some structure for your kids. But before you start crafting your summer rules, think first about what rules you are willing to throw out the window during the summer break. More and more, our kids are tied to electronics and the indoors. Remember those days of playing in the neighborhood with friends until dark? That doesn’t really happen in American society today, at least not as much. And then there is the summer bucket list (which I think is great). But it’s still a list of things to be checked off. Can you see where I’m going here? I’m all for structure and summer rules but I also think it’s the perfect time for me to lay off a little and see where summer takes us.
1. Time for bed
All year long we struggle at bedtime. Get your teeth brushed! Floss your teeth! Get your jammies on! GO TO SLEEP! And it is all in the name of getting your children in bed at a certain hour, sometimes to the minute. If they don’t get enough sleep, they’re going to be cranky. If they don’t fall asleep soon, I’ll go nuts. If I have to get one more thing for them before bed (a snack, a drink, a stuffed animal), I’m going to lose it. Whatever the reason, I take a well-deserved break from the tension-filled bed time routine. I don’t do it every night and I recognize that they still need their sleep but I’m far less tied to a certain time. If we are having fun playing a game, I won’t shut it down all in the name of 8:00 pm. I’m willing to go out somewhere with the kids after dinner and stay out until dark in the quest to enjoy summer. My kids tire out on their own, are able to wind down and are way more reasonable when we offer flexibility. Many times, if we’ve had a really full day out in the sun, they’re ready for bed at a reasonable time anyway. Somehow getting rid of that specific “bedtime”, we all take it a little easier.
2. No treats before dinner
I’m not saying that I completely throw my kids’ nutrition out of the window but I am certainly more willing to allow them to have a treat without worrying that it will ruin a meal. We make frozen treats all summer long. I also stock up on ice cream treats so that when the ice cream truck comes through our neighborhood, they can run to my freezer instead of over-spending on that same treat from the truck. When the kids have been at the pool or have been playing in the sprinklers, it is just a perfect time for a cold treat and if it’s an hour before dinner, I don’t sweat it.
3. Homework packets
My kids get an optional homework packet every summer which we promptly discard. Of course I recognize that the summer brain drain is real but summer is a time for my kids to explore learning and reading on their own terms. We visit the library almost weekly and I encourage them to check out non-fiction books along with what they are currently reading. We will often check out books about arts, crafts or science and try a new project or experiment. There isn’t an end to their learning during the summer, I just try to let the kids direct it themselves.
4. It’s breakfast/lunch/dinner time
We are so scheduled in our meals during the school year. My son hates breakfast. He has an especially hard time because he has to eat it quickly before school. My daughters had lunch last year at school at 10:50 am. That’s not even close to lunch time. Summer affords us flexibility. My son loves to sleep in and it’s not uncommon for him to have his own little brunch in the summer. The un-rule with meals in summer is to eat when you’re hungry, not when you are scheduled to eat a meal.
5. Don’t make a mess
I take a page from my husband and let a mess happen every once in a while with my kids. It seems to make my head explode during the school year to get out the paint or to let them play in the dirt but during the summer, I’m willing to let them get messy, wet, dirty, etc. I keep old towels in my car all summer long just for this reason. When they start wading in the creek, I know that even if I tell them not to get wet, they’re going to end up completely wet and muddy. By preparing ahead of time, I may pretend to put up a little fight but really, I’m just watching them have the time of their lives.
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