Structuring Our Summer

When I shared pictures from our first zoo day, I mentioned that it was part of Harrison’s  summer “schedule”. There were a few reasons we decided Harrison, and we, would benefit from structure to his day over these summer months.

  • For the past 9 months, Harrison went to school five days/week from 8:15 – 1.  He got use to, and thrived upon, a consistent morning routine, school, rest time/nap, etc.
  • Harrison needs structure. We worked hard to establish this consistency, and we didn’t want to mess with it. Harrison knew he had to get up, “make” his bed, brush teeth/potty, get dressed… He did this all with little help from us, and we didn’t want to step backwards and start veering from what he was use to.  This doesn’t mean he doesn’t stay in pajamas a little longer on the weekends, but he honestly prefers to get ready for the day first thing.
  • Routine is good. A consistent routine is even better. If Harrison knows what to expect, with some flexibility, he likes that. So do we.
  • If Harrison doesn’t have anything to do, he starts clinging to us. Sometimes, it feels likes he’s literally clinging. to. us. I love my first-born, but when he clings, he starts becoming a little whiny, and he suddenly needs help with everything. He also gets into trouble.
  • We don’t want to feel like we’re starting over come September. There really isn’t a reason to deviate from the norm, other than Harrison is at home instead of school 5 days/week.
  • Oh yea, that’s the real reason. Harrison is home 5 extra days a week, and that’s some serious entertaining to do when your child is 3 1/2. Throw a 14-month-old in there, and it starts to feel like a circus act. Not in a “I’d pay money to see that” kind of circus act. Unless of course, you are in the habit of paying to watch other people suffer. I kid…. Honestly, Harrison thrives when given structured independence (i.e., I set up his environment so he can pick what to do with little assistance from me).

So, where did we start? We happened to read this article, which I also mentioned before. We paired this information along with Harrison’s typical routine, and tossed in some summer fun.

  1. Bracket the day:
  • We start the day the same way. Harrison’s morning routine (bathroom, get dressed, put pajamas away, “make” bed), followed by breakfast. Twice a week, Harrison is responsible for planning breakfast. It can be as simple as deciding it’s cereal and fruit, or more involved like pancakes or waffles. Harrison loves helping in the kitchen, and he received some kitchen tools for Christmas this past year, so he has everything he needs to make breakfast. He also has to take care of the class rabbit (we have her for several weeks) and help water plants.
  • We end the day with a bath (most nights) and a bedtime story. Sometimes, this is a short book, but most of the time it’s 20 minutes or more of a chapter book or David telling a story. While the length of time may change, there is always a story.

2. Establish Periodicity: 

  • We have activities that occur each day. Monday mornings, Harrison runs errands with me while Beckett naps.  Tuesdays and Thursdays, we hit up a park nearby. Wednesdays, we hit up the zoo. Once a month, we will go someplace else (Museum of Transportation, Myseum, Botanical Gardens…). Fridays, we go to the library and hike on the nature trails nearby. David and I also keep our eyes and ears out for other events going on. If there’s something happening on a Monday, we don’t rule it out just because that’s set aside for errands. We obviously have some flexibility.
  • Within each day, we also try to keep the schedule as consistent as possible. Except for Wednesdays, when we try to leave the house earlier than 10, and Harrison and I are gone most of the day, the day usually looks the same with a few variables. Both boys have independent/free play after breakfast. When Beckett goes down for his morning nap, Harrison and I leave for a morning activity before lunch. We come home for lunch, play time, and then rest/quiet time in his room. Right now, he has his basket of books in his room during this time, but I am thinking of adding journaling, in the form of pictures. This is something I would do with him. I would journal with him, or he could dictate to me, or something else.  After rest in his room, Harrison has quiet activity time while Beckett is taking his afternoon nap. Many of these activities are things he can do independently. The idea is that he does them while I am also working. Sometimes, I am in the room with him, but other times, I am taking care of other things, and he can come to me if he needs some help. I asked his teacher for some ideas a few months back, and I’m glad I did. I think I would have focused on too many challenging tasks and missed the point of quiet activities. There are one or two activities that require my assistance/supervision (cutting, pricking), but most of the activities are pretty simple for Harrison (lacing, stringing beads, building puzzles, crayon work). After this, David usually comes home, or it’s snack time, and we go get Beckett up.

3. Keep spontaneity:

  • surprise them, but keep the surprises low-key: This is key! I do not tell Harrison the day before, or even the morning of, that we are making s’mores, for example. If I do this, he will ask about it all day. He will also ask to eat marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate before we even have s’mores.
  • make the surprises low-stakes: This means it’s okay if they don’t happen. Don’t make the surprise a family trip. This would be bad on multiple levels, but mostly because no one wants to feel unprepared for something as big as a trip. These types of surprises quickly become stressful for everyone.
  • If it is a big deal, tell them ahead of time. When we go somewhere else on zoo day, or any day, I let Harrison know in advance. If appropriate, we may read about the place we are going, talk about expectations, look at pictures.

4. Continue chores:

  • Don’t let your child(ren) out of chores because it’s summer. This isn’t an issue with Harrison. Maybe older children will feel less inclined to continue chores because it’s summer? We don’t call them “chores” anyway.
  • Consistency and contribution are critical. I talked about how Harrison contributes in this post. 

This is just Harrison’s everyday “schedule” during the weekdays. There is more flexibility during the weekends, but we ALWAYS start and end the day the same. These are key for Harrison. We may not do quiet activities because we are out/spending time with family, though. We also still make time for just spending time together as a family. I don’t want to leave the impression that we schedule Harrison’s entire day down to the minute or that we never do anything without first planning for it. We play games, go on walks, visit the pool (as soon as it warms up), run around, whatever. It’s just nice to not be trying to randomly fill time all day, every day.

Does anyone else do this, or a variation of this, for their kids over the summer? Is it all summer camps and then free time once your kids are at home? Harrison did summer camp last year, and we plan on having him attend one at least one month this summer.  I’d also love any information on events/places around here that we should make sure to check out over the summer. This is just our second summer here, so I’m still not entirely versed on places to go/things to do.

Zoo Day!

Today, Harrison and I went to the zoo (along with everyone’s cousin and their dog). It happened to be our “zoo day”.  After reading an article in the last newsletter from Harrison’s school, David and I decided we needed to sit down and come up with a summer schedule for Harrison. We were already thinking of making a schedule, but reading the article was a friendly reminder to get on it, ‘yo. No, don’t do that. Yeah, the “‘yo'” may have been a bit much.

I’ll write another post about Harrison’s summer schedule, but today is about Zoo Day. We decided every Wednesday will be a day for us to go to the zoo. The St. Louis Zoo is (amazingly) free, but we also received a membership this past Christmas.  That gives us even more incentive to go.  Who doesn’t love free train rides and admission to the Children’s Zoo, to name a few perks. There are plenty of indoor exhibits, too, so we will not be deterred by rain or heat. This trip, we covered: River’s Edge, The Insectarium, and The Children’s Zoo. Not so say we won’t revisit. Honestly, there weren’t many animals out in River’s Edge. We basically saw a hyena and the Asian elephants. Good thing we will be back.

You may have already seen these pictures, but here is a little recap:


Asian elephant.

He always has to ride the frogs before we go inside at the Children's Zoo.

He always has to ride the frogs before we go inside at the Children’s Zoo.

I wasn't so sure this meerkat was real.

I wasn’t so sure this meerkat was real.

Of all the animals to learn about, Harrison wanted to know more about...guinea pigs.

Of all the animals to learn about, Harrison wanted to know more about…guinea pigs.

Driving through rough waters.

Driving through rough waters.

These statues were a close second to the real things.

These statues were a close second to the real things.

When your 3 1/2 year-old requests a picture, you take it.

When your 3 1/2 year-old requests a picture, you take it.

I had to take his picture 3 times :).

I had to take his picture 3 times :).

We planned on riding the train, but I waited until we were close to leaving (mid-afternoon), and that was a mistake! The lines were ridiculously long. Fortunately, Harrison was okay with waiting until next time. I will make sure to do that first thing. I’m sure someone will remind me if I forget, though.