Summer is here, and with it comes the end of the school year. For children, this means no more early mornings, no more homework, and a lot more free time.
However, transitioning from the school routine to a summer schedule can be tough for some kids. Late nights and lazy mornings often lead to cranky and irritable kids during the day.
As a parent, you want your child to enjoy the summer break while also staying well-rested and happy. And if you’re an educator, no doubt you want to find some ways to make sure your students come back to school in the fall feeling energized and ready to learn – not burnt out.
Here are ten tips that can help your child transition to a summer schedule with ease.
It’s that time of year again, when the school bells stop ringing and the sun is shining just a little bit brighter. Summer is upon us, and while it can be a time of great fun and relaxation for children, it can also be a time of stress and confusion, particularly for those with unique learning needs.
One of the biggest challenges is transitioning into a summer schedule, which can involve changes in routine, sleep patterns, and social interactions. As a parent or teacher of a child with unique learning needs, you want to ensure their transition is as smooth as possible.
Here are some tips.
The first step in helping your child transition to a summer schedule is to have open conversations about what the summer will look like.
Depending on your child’s age and unique needs, these conversations can be either quite brief or much more detailed. Keep things positive and fun, while also making sure your child knows what to expect.
Discuss things like vacation plans, summer camp, sports teams, and any other events that may impact their schedule.
When we give children a sense of predictability and control, it can go a long way in easing their anxiety.
You may want to consider using social stories for this. If you’re not familiar, social stories are narratives that help children understand a particular concept or situation. When it comes to transitioning to a summer schedule, a social story can be a great tool in helping your child understand what is happening and why it’s happening.
Social stories can be written or drawn and should be tailored to your child’s unique needs. Make it fun and engaging, and try to highlight the positives of the summer schedule. For example, “In the summertime, we get to sleep in a little later and have more time to play and explore!
Finally, give your child helpful examples of what their new routine will look like. Depending on their age and needs, this might include a visual chart that outlines the day’s activities, or simply a verbal explanation of what each day will consist of.
For example, “On Monday, you’ll wake up at 9am, eat breakfast, and then we’ll go to the park. After that, we’ll have lunch and then do some reading together.” Again, the idea is to give your child a sense of predictability and control, so they know what to expect each day.
As tempting as it may be to let them stay up late and sleep in the next day, it’s not always the best idea.
Instead, try to make small changes to their sleeping patterns every few days. For example, if your child typically goes to bed at 8 pm and wakes up at 6 am, you can start by pushing their bedtime 15-30 minutes later each night and waking them up 15-30 minutes later each morning. This way, their bodies will gradually adjust to the new schedule, and they won’t be thrown off balance.
It’s important to remember that every child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. Some children may be able to handle more significant changes to their sleeping patterns, while others may need extra time to adjust. If your child is sensitive to changes, don’t be afraid to make even smaller adjustments or to take things even more slowly.
What’s more important than the timing is to make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Research shows that children between the ages of 6 and 12 need 9-12 hours of sleep each night.
Teenagers need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night. So, no matter what their summer schedule looks like, make sure they’re getting enough rest. Also, keep in mind that naps can be beneficial for younger children who need extra sleep during the day.
It’s worth noting that some children may not need an adjustment to their sleeping schedule during the summer. If your child is used to staying up late and sleeping in during weekends and holidays, they may not need any changes.
The same rule applies if your child will still be sticking to some sort of routine that mimics the schedule they had during school hours, like if they’re going to be leaving for a summer camp early in the morning.
We thrive on consistency and structure. Having a routine can help reduce anxiety and stress, which is especially important when transitioning to a new schedule.
When setting up a new routine, consider posting it visually using a whiteboard, schedule board, or Google calendar. A visual routine helps children with unique learning needs see exactly what happens throughout the day, so they know what to expect, which can make them feel more comfortable and relaxed.
Routine creates a sense of normalcy and helps children learn to manage change effectively.
When you change a child’s environment, it can create a great deal of stress and anxiety. School-aged children are used to the structured routine of the school day, so it becomes even more important that they maintain some sense of normalcy when transitioning into summer.
Make sure you include routines, such as brushing teeth, eating breakfast, and doing chores with assigned times and expectations. This can give the child a sense of control and aid them in the transition from school to summer.
If you have a child that is a visual learner, it is essential to display the new summer routine. Consider using images to help your young ones understand the activities and how they should progress throughout the day.
For instance, you can use images to show what they should do when it’s time to clean up toys or show them how to brush their teeth by using each step through an image. This visual aid can help orientate them and give them a reference point as they progress through their day and the new summer schedule.
Regular physical exercise is an excellent way to help your child regulate their sleep schedule, improve their mood, and boost their overall health and well-being.
During the summer break, children tend to become more sluggish and sedentary, which can affect their sleep patterns.
By encouraging them to engage in physical activities such as swimming, biking, or sports, you can help them get enough exercise to regulate their sleep cycle. You can also encourage them to play outside more by going for walks, hikes, or simply having a picnic in the park.
Not only will this increase their physical activity, but it will also provide an excellent opportunity for you to bond with your child and enjoy the nice weather.
Independent play is also beneficial when it comes to helping your child transition to a summer schedule. During the school year, children are typically busy with homework, extracurricular activities, and socializing with their peers.
During summer break, however, they may struggle to find things to do and become overly reliant on their parents for entertainment. This can be frustrating for both you and your child.
Encouraging your child to engage in independent play, such as painting, drawing, or building with blocks, can help them build their creativity and imagination. Independent play also encourages children to develop a sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency, making them more confident and independent.
Plan a schedule that allows for enough rest, exercise, playtime, and learning time. Define the amount of screen time allowed each day, and stick to it. Encourage your child to take frequent breaks when using electronic devices and limit their use of social media and gaming platforms.
While it is important to limit screen time, there are ways to make it useful. Encourage your child to engage in educational activities such as watching documentaries or learning new skills via online courses. Interactive learning tools such as educational apps, eBooks, and learning games can also be a great way to keep your child’s mind stimulated during the summer break.
Children learn by example, so it is essential to lead by example. Limit your own screen time, prioritize physical activity, and engage in learning activities with your child. Use the summer break as an opportunity to spend quality time with your child, and help them create fond memories that they will cherish forever.
Summer is a time to have fun! So, when incorporating learning activities into your child’s summer routine, make sure that they are engaging and enjoyable. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend a lot of money or effort.
There are plenty of simple, yet fun activities that you can do at home, such as trivia games, scavenger hunts, outdoor experiments, or arts and crafts activities.
You can also encourage your child to explore topics that interest them by reading books, watching documentaries, or visiting museums or nature centers. Just keep in mind that the activities should be age-appropriate and challenging enough to keep your child interested and motivated.
To keep your child motivated and invested in their learning activities, involve them in the planning process. Ask them what interests them or what they want to learn more about. Choose activities that align with their interests and abilities and let them take ownership of their learning.
This will give your child a sense of control and independence, as well as improve their critical thinking, planning, and communication skills. You can also involve your child in setting up rewards or incentives for completing tasks or reaching milestones, such as a day trip, a special treat, or a fun activity.
Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of community resources that can support your child’s learning and development. Check out your local library, community center, or park district for summer programs, camps, or workshops that align with your child’s interests and needs.
One of the best ways to ensure that your child stays energized and alert throughout the summer is by giving them healthy snacks and lots of hydration. Choose fresh fruits, nuts, and veggies that are high in fiber and protein, and avoid sugary and processed foods that can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes.
You could also try making your own popsicles, smoothies, and iced teas using fresh fruits and vegetables for added hydration.
By providing your child with healthy snacks and lots of hydration, you can help them maintain their energy levels throughout the day and avoid the afternoon slump that can come with a change in routine.
While it may be tempting to fill your child’s summer with as many activities as possible, this can actually do more harm than good.
Overbooking can lead to fatigue, anxiety, stress, and burnout, which can all make it challenging for your child to enjoy the summer and be open to new experiences.
Instead, be realistic about the number of activities you sign your child up for, and allow plenty of downtime for relaxation and free play. This will help your child adjust to the change in routine and enjoy the summer more.
Moving from one activity to another can be a significant challenge. As a parent or educator, you need to be proactive in creating transition strategies that the individual child will find useful.
These can include using timers or alarms that go off at the beginning and end of the activity, or visual schedules and symbols can be used to create a sense of routine.
School may be over, but maintaining social connections is still extremely important. Social isolation can have negative effects on the mental health of your child and cause issues when they go back to school.
Schedule playdates, organize summer camps, or enroll your child in a summer class or activity. This will allow your child to have fun and create new experiences, as well as build and maintain important social connections.
Remember to celebrate the small wins. Transitions can be tough on children, so make sure to acknowledge and celebrate their successes.
Whether it’s waking up on time, trying a new activity, or making a new friend at camp, celebrate it! Children thrive on positive reinforcement, and it can go a long way in helping them feel confident and motivated as they transition to their summer schedule.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.