It’s that time of year again – school’s nearly out for summer.
While the kids are eagerly anticipating all they can eat ice cream and late night movie marathons how many parents are dreading that last day in June when the school bell confirms that little angels are once again a full responsibility for two whole months?
Those silently screaming inside and wondering how they will possibly to make it through summer vacation should rest easy knowing they are not alone. Many parents approach the summer with mixed emotions ranging between the excitement of being able to spend more time with their children and the fear of losing their minds from all that time with their children.
What some parents lose sight of are those little things that can go a long way in maintaining a certain level of sanity.
Little things kids need to stay out of trouble and parents need to stay sane:
What works when the kids are in school is that they have routine. In fact, they have a number of them; morning routine, school routine, after school routine, bedtime routine. Routines allow for a natural and somewhat controlled flow to the day and believe it or not – kids actually find as much comfort in routine as parents.
Similar to routine, structure gives the day a foundation and a backbone. Have set meal and snack times and balance the day to provide time for structured activities (games, crafts, making meals and snacks, outings in the community), free play, and down time.
Allow some time in the day for the kids to choose what they would like to do. Give the kids a choice of a few activities, let them decide, and then sit back and enjoy the kids.
Down time (naps, quiet time, relaxing activities)
There is a reason to love teatime and naps – we need them and so do kids. Plan down time with quiet activities like crafts, reading, or watching a short movie.
Sometimes people confuse consistency with boring but everyone appreciates to some extent knowing what to expect. Children need to know what to expect and count on parents to be consistent. Mixed messages can be confusing so, say what you mean and mean what you say.
Involve kids and plan ahead
Parents cringe with the inevitable “I’m bored” and often resent feeling as though they are solely responsible for entertaining the kids.
An easy and effective way of at least limiting that refrain is to involve them in what their days will look like. Ask them what they would like to do, plan ahead, include their ideas, and then review them each night. Kids will appreciate having their thoughts respected and will eventually feel responsible for their own entertainment.
Keep them busy (tire them out)
The more they are moving and doing things the less time they have to be bored. That also helps with getting a good night’s sleep.
Switch and swap
Sanity and self-care need to remain a priority or the summer could feel extremely long. Plan group activities with friends and share the load or swap kids for free time.
Along with days full of activities and play, keeping kids occupied includes managing the inevitable “I’m hungry” mantra. Not sure what’s healthy and what should be reserved as treats? These tips may help you keep kids healthy and satisfied with ease.
Sitting down at the end of a week and spending 30 minutes to meal plan for the next week will definitely help keep stress levels down, save time and money.
Plan for foods from at least three of four food groups on the plate at most meals: fruits or vegetables, grains, milk and alternatives and meat and alternatives:
For example: a ½ plate fruit or vegetable, ¼ protein (meat, beans, hummus, tofu, eggs, peanut butter, etc.) and ¼ grains,breads, pasta,rice plus glass milk, soy, or rice beverage is a complete meal
Include healthy, easy snacks: With rising rates of childhood obesity it is especially important to watch portion sizes and the frequency of those between meal fuel-ups.
Offer snacks at regular times of the day, preferably 1-½ hours prior to their next meal, and include two food groups in each snack.
Limit distractions by having kids eat their food sitting down in the kitchen or on a picnic blanket outside to eliminate mindless overeating that can lead to overweight.
Two snacks per day of 150 to 200 calories each should be plenty for most school age children.
Here are a few examples:
– ½ cup applesauce plus small low fat muffin;
– Yogurt cup plus plum;
– 8 crackers plus cheese;
– 1 apple sliced with 1 ½ tbsp. peanut butter to dip;
– 1 slice bread with low fat spread (light cream cheese, jam, etc);
– Veggies and dip;
– 2 rice cakes plus peanut butter, or hummus;
– ½ cup trail mix (with nuts);
– Granola bar plus piece of fruit; or
– ½ wrap, spread with cream cheese plus strawberries (or peanut butter rolled around banana).
Limit treats. They aren’t treats if they happen every day! Those foods should be eaten less frequently (1 per week or fewer): chocolate, ice cream, candy, cakes, doughnuts, fries, pop, etc.
Fill up on fruit and vegetables.
Drink water. The tap is always on for drinks. Water is easy to find anywhere, will not go sour in the heat, and it’s all most kids need to stay hydrated and healthy.
Freeze bottles to take as an ice pack in your snack bag or freeze things like applesauce, yogurt tubes or cups to keep perishables safe. They will thaw and be ready to drink at snack time!
Summer is for fun, relaxation, and time to share with families and friends and it can be all this and more with a little planning in advance to help maintain your sanity.
Health promotion and prevention advice from Steph Green, Mental Health Therapist, and Amy Waugh Registered Dietitian with the Upper Grand Family Health Team.