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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Keeping a Summer Schedule

Today is Babywise Friendly Blog Network Pinterest Day! We are all talking about back to school so be sure to check out the other bloggers for some great back to school tips and tricks!

Back to school time is here! It's always a time of adjustment and transitions for all families. Whether you have a preschooler or a high schooler, the back to school time is always a tad crazy for us all!

I read a lot on Facebook about parents stressing over getting their kids prepared for the first day of school. They realize, a few days prior to school starting, that they've been staying up late or sleeping in late over the summer and that school starting means they will have to get up early each morning!

This year was my first year of having a kindergartener. My son started kindergarten and my daughter started three mornings a week preschool. I also gave birth to a new baby one week prior to the first day of school.

Yes, having a newborn around the first day of school was pretty stressful. Thankfully I had bought all the back-to-school items (clothes, supplies, etc) while still pregnant. And I kept my kids on a schedule all summer so the transition to school routine was a BREEZE.

Whhhhat?!?! Kids on schedule during the summer?!?! Yes! While we had a more relaxed schedule, we did still have one in place and I truly believe it made the transition for both my children and my husband and I easier when school started back.
Here are some ways I kept structure in our lives over the summer and how it benefitted the back to school routine:

1. Keep Naps: Naps are essential in order to keep our home running happily. Grouchy kids = grouchy mama (especially when 9 months pregnant in the heat of summer!). I was more flexible with naps on occasion during the summer. Our nap time is 1 PM but I didn't stress if the kids weren't in the bed until 1:30 or even 2:00 on a few occasions. I wanted summer to be fun but also wanted to keep their routine. If they did go down later for nap, I made sure to not have plans in the afternoon to allow them to sleep later. By keeping naps in place I allowed my children to have their rest and be at their best at all times. It helped prepare them for school because they weren't trying to "catch up on sleep" in the days prior to school starting. By staying with their regular routine they never hesitated going down for naps when the new baby arrived or when school started back up.

2. Stay Home: It's EASY to go-go-go all summer. You want to have fun! Make memories! Who wants to stay at home?!?! I made sure when planning my week with the kids that I didn't over schedule activities. We stayed home at least 2-3 days each week. This allowed for us to have independent playtime, learning time, and just relaxing time at home without being completely overstimulated all the time. It also allowed me to spread out the fun summer things I had planned which always gave us something to look forward to and helped the dreaded "I'm bored" phrase from never happening! By staying home I was able to keep their routine consistent and that prepares them for the daily routine of school. 

3. Bed Times Consistent: Another tough thing to stick to in summer time is a consistent bed time. Why is sleep less important in the summer months?!?! It's not! Sleep for us all (but especially our growing babies!) is important during all times of the year. Yes, it's lighter outside longer and that makes it tempting to stay up later. We have black out curtains in our children's rooms and I've never once heard a complaint about them going to bed while it's still light outside. Of course there were many times during the summer where the kids did stay up later than normal...but it was the exception to the rule for sure. Just like with naps...well rested children make for happier children which makes for a more fun summer for us all. Since they would have to have a consistent bedtime when school started I wanted to make sure to keep their bedtime consistent during the summer as well. 

4. Learning Time: My five year old would sit and color all day long with no problems, but with my two year old starting school this year I knew I needed to set aside time each week to help her learn to sit still, follow directions, and stay on task. On the mornings that we stayed home I had 30-45 min of craft time with the kids. They painted, colored, did sticker projects, played play dough, etc. It helped prepare them for the days of school and helped foster a love of art! I knew my older child would love it, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much my 2 year old enjoyed it too! My older child doesn't nap as long as the younger one in the afternoons so I also started having him do projects in his room when he woke from nap. This would be a great time for him to do his homework once school started and I liked the idea of going ahead and getting him into that routine before it became a mandatory thing. We also started letting him stay up 15 min later (bedtime of 8 rather than 7:45) so we could have reading time together. He would read a book to me and then I'd read some of a chapter book to him. This not only gave us quality time together but helped him practice his reading skills to stay prepared for school.

5. Independent Playtime: Along with learning time I also made sure my children had independent playtime each morning that we were home. We would typically do the learning time activities around 9 am and then they would go to play in our playroom together (so it was more of a sibling time rather than a true independent playtime) around 10 am for about 45 min or more. After that we'd do movie time, then lunch, and then usually we'd have some time to play outside before naps. I liked having the kids go together to the independent playtime. In school they would need to be able to play nicely with others and it was great practice to have them play together. They did wonderful with it and would often ask to stay playing longer! When my older child would get up from his nap I would have him do some learning activity in his room and then he'd have about 30 min or so before his sister woke up to be able to play independently. I am a big believer in the benefits of independent play and I enjoyed listening to him over the monitor and hearing the creative games he came up with on his own!

By keeping these five things in place over the summer my children were very prepared when school started. They both transitioned into the new routines very smoothly. We've had NO issues with them being overly tired, we haven't had any reports home of any issues with behavior, and they have truly enjoyed school!

How do you keep your kids "school ready" during the summer???

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