June 7, 2018

Navigating the Summer for Children Needing Structure


Summer is a time of freedom, relaxation, and rejuvenation. For some of our children, the shift from a well-structured school day to the unstructured nature of a relaxed lazy summer day at home can bring on anxiety and stress. As you prepare for summer, here are some tips and ideas to add some structure to your long relaxing days.


Create A Family Calendar

Creating a family calendar will not only keep you organized, but will allow your family to know what to expect each day. Think of first adding in the daily monotonous tasks like chores and naps, and then add the fun activities. Display the calendar in a place where everyone can see it. Giving your child the freedom to choose activities in their week will allow them to feel as though they have some control over the days to come. This will help to lessen their anxiety and give them a sense of understanding what the expectations of the day are. Having a family calendar with input from everyone will also allow you to minimize the battles you may face when it comes to choosing an activity.


Taking the calendar idea a little further, you can create a chart for daily tasks that you would like your child to complete. For instance, use pictures of items to signify each task that the child usually completes. Use a picture of a toothbrush to symbolize brushing their teeth, a shirt to symbolize getting dressed, and a bed to symbolize making their bed. Even if the child typically completes these tasks each day during the school year, they may benefit from having a visual of structured activities when they first wake up in the morning and what they are expected to accomplish.



Create A Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan will allow your child to visualize what they will be eating for their meals each day. Get the children involved! Let your child help you look through cookbooks, make a shopping list, and help you prepare the meals. If this seems overwhelming to give your child that much freedom, you can come up with a pre-made meal plan and allow your child to choose the days for each meal. You can post the meal plan in the kitchen where it will be easily seen by all members of the family. We all know that when there is a less structured environment, meal schedules and healthy eating are the first things to go. Having a structured meal plan with snack options listed will give your child options of pre-approved snacks. This way you are not having to spend so much time in the kitchen trying to come up with quick snacks to feed a disregulated child.



Join a Summer Camp

If you do not have the opportunity to stay home with your children during the summer, joining a summer camp is a great way to add structure to your child’s summer schedule. Most summer camps offer a relatively routine and structured schedule. There are loads of community opportunities and church activities that offer low cost summer camps. Joining a summer camp will allow your child to have some structure to their day without the pressure of receiving a grade. Most camps are based on completing a special project or playing games and are not based on merit or grades.  Keep an eye out for next week’s blog that will describe summer camp ideas in more detail!


Create An Activity Jar

Not a fan of the calendar idea and desire a little less structure? Create an activity jar for whenever your child may tell you that they are bored or if they begin to act out from a lack of routine or structure. In an age where it is so easy to hand a screen to your child in that moment, it is important to create opportunities for a child to build their own structure in play. To make an activity jar, take an empty jar and fill it with slips of paper with approved activities on each slip. For example, you can mix easy chores, short exercises, or fun activities on each slip of paper. Make sure you have all the items needed to complete each task. Allow your child to choose a few slips of paper and pick their favorite one. This will allow space for your children to learn to express creativity, problem solve, and use their imaginations to complete the tasks.

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