This giveaway is no longer accepting entries. Congratulations to our winnerÂ Emily!
Summer is coming, and for some kids that means lazy days doing nothing but lounging around by a pool with no plans at all…or it means schedules crazier than the school year with summer school classes, swimming lessons, summer jobs, theater camps, band camp, newspaper camp, karate tournaments, tennis matches, and trying to make it to the neighborsâ€™ barbecue without getting lost in the chaos.
More likely, summer means a combination of idle times and chaos. In any event, it can be hard to help kids maintain a routine during the summer days. While some deviation from the rigorous schedule of the school year can be a healthy break, kids do benefit from some routine. So while trying to juggle the multiple directions everyone in the family is going, itâ€™s worthwhile to maintain some routines that kids can look forward to throughout the day.
It can be especially challenging when everyone in the family is going different directions. The good news is that there are many ways to maintain a healthy sense of structure in kidsâ€™ lives, even in the less-structured days of summer.
Set meal times and 2-3 snacks per day. Multiple studies have shown that children, especially already overweight children, tend to gain more weight during the summer. It is unclear whether this weight gain is due to less structured meal times, more grazing, eating out of boredom, more treats available in the summer, or a combination of all these factors, but continuing the routine of meals and not allowing grazing in between meal or snack times can help decrease unhealthy weight gain.
Since kids often have more free time on their hands to make meals or snacks themselves, summer is a good time to teach them how to prepare healthy, fun meals. The magazine Chop Chop is available at most UW pediatriciansâ€™ offices and has seasonal healthy recipes that are designed to be fun and able to be prepared by kids (some with adult help). Each recipe notes whether adult supervision is needed. Recipes from recent issues are also available at chopchopmag.org. If things go really well, youâ€™ll have some more chefs on your hands!
While the school year provides gym classes, during the summer many kids donâ€™t have an outlet for physical activity and may be put off by the intense heat of Midwest midsummer days. The good news is that the longer days of summer mean more time for morning or evening physical activities outside. Early summer evening hours can be the perfect time for getting everyone in the family to regularly take a bike, a walk, or kick around a soccer ball to get moving before dinner.
Keep family members connected. Families often know the basics of what goes on at school, but in the summer families may be less in touch with what other family members are up to during the day. Talking about â€śHighs and Lowsâ€ť or the best and worst part of everyoneâ€™s day at dinner or bedtime can provide a comforting routine for kids as well as a way for family members to learn about what others are up to.
Sleep and Wake Time
It can be difficult to convince kids to go to bed at a regular time when thereâ€™s no school to wake up for in the morning. However, regular waking and sleeping times are very helpful in promoting good sleep. Having a regular calming bedtime activity can help signal to kids that itâ€™s time for bed.
Bathtime and singing songs can help younger kids relax and feel ready for bed. Reading a book together as a family is a good way to help everyone, from 0 to 116 years old (currently the age of the oldest person in the world), wind down and nurture the love of reading. It also makes reading an enjoyable activity, not just one that is required and only takes place during a rigorous school schedule.
The National Sleep Foundation has many good tips about ways to encourage children of different ages to sleep as well as information about the sleep needs of different children.
Changing it up Time
Of course, the beauty of summer is that it often allows for some occasional deviations from routine. 4th of July is a good excuse to stay up past bedtime, the Madison Parks Moonlight movie series can be another way for families to be entertained together, and sometimes you just canâ€™t say no to Babcockâ€™s ice cream.
Leave a comment on this post telling us your “highs and lows” from this week.
Prize: 1 $10 TargetÂ gift card
Rules: Giveaway closes on Sunday, June 8, 2014 at 11pm CST. Open to Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois residents only. One entry per email address is permitted. The winner will be selected using random.org and announced on the following Monday as an update to this post. Winner will be notified via email and asked to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within 7 days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected. Subscribe to the blog and youâ€™ll get new posts delivered to your inbox as soon as theyâ€™re posted.