A summer slump with the kids at home? Try a schedule

Are you tired of hearing, “I am bored, there’s nothing to do?” Are you getting frustrated that your kids are sleeping in late, watching TV, playing video games, or on the computer all day? Does your child look and act like they have no energy?

Are you worried your child is going to gain weight this summer, from all the extra snacking and screen time (TV, computer, video games, and cell phones), or your child is going to forget a good part of the lessons they learned last school year?

When children are in school, they follow a schedule: wake up at the same time every day, go to school, have class, eat lunch, and then have classes in the afternoon. They have a schedule after school they follow as well: after school activities, homework, dinner, and bedtime. Now that your child has gone from a schedule to what may seem like endless free time, it is no surprise that they are bored or spending their days reclining on the couch.

During the summer, school lessons can be forgotten and the next school year may start with a two or three month lag in mental sharpness.  Weight gain can also occur during the summer. A study of 5,380 U.S. children in kindergarten and first grade, led by Paul von Hippel, compared weight gain during time spent in kindergarten, summer, and the first grade using the child’s BMI (ratio of height and weight). He found that weight gain was twice as fast during the summer months than during kindergarten or the first grade school year, with overweight children gaining even more weight over the summer. It is believed that this weight gain is a result of not having a structured or scheduled school day.

A daily schedule will help your child remains mentally sharp, does not gain weight, stays healthy, and has an overall more productive summer. Below are some tips on how to do this.

  1. If possible, sign your child up for summer camp! This is probably the easiest way to create a schedule that is close to the school day. It has the advantage of being fun and many camps include an education component along with physical activity.
  2. If your child is not going to attend camp:
    1. Set a consistent  wake up time each day
    2. Plan meal times and encourage your child not to eat between meals and to stay busy
    3. Plan some time for your child to do fun reading, writing, and math projects
    4. Plan physical activities for the morning and afternoon (As simple as playing in the yard, bike rides, chores, crafts, sports, pools, etc.)
    5. If your child is old enough, then encourage finding a summer job or volunteer opportunities
    6. Plan day or half day trips throughout the summer (Beach, pool, museum, aquarium, zoo, park, bowling, miniature golf, etc.)

A Sample Summer Schedule:

  • Wake up time: 9 a.m. or earlier
  • Get dressed/ready and eat breakfast by 10 a.m.
  • Then 20-60 minutes of chores
  • Outside play: 1.5 hrs: playing in the backyard
  • Lunch 12:30
  • Summer school work/projects: 1-2 hours
  • Outside activity: 2 hours: going to the community pool, or family bike ride
  • Free time: 1 hour: this time could be screen time
  • Dinner: 6pm
  • Family activity: walk outside, playing a sport or game outside, board game
  • Free time: 1 hour: this could be screen time
  • Bed: 8-10 p.m., depending on age of child

Having a summer schedule may be hard at first and not appreciated, but it is important. You do not want your children to forget what they have learned at school or to gain weight. After the schedule is in practice, they will begin to like it because it will soon be more fun than excessive screen time, and eating regular meals will be more enjoyable than snacking or picking. When your kids look back at their summer, they will have fond memories, have a sense of accomplishment, and be ready for another school year!

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