The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 12, 2012

Summer structure: Kids benefit from scheduling activities

JOPLIN, Mo. — If summer has an ideological opposite, it’s probably the word “schedule” in kids’ minds. Freed from the daily routine of school, it seems like kids relish the opportunity to do whatever they want without supervision.

But that’s not true, say parenting and organization experts. A little scheduling and limit-setting can go a long way.

Three strategies

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore, of Buttoned Up, an organizational business that caters to busy women, have three strategies they recommend to customers seeking help with organization:

Designate a standard go-to activity set for at least two days a week.

Free play has been shown to enhance creativity in children. It also helps them figure out what they love and teaches them problem-solving skills. But a complete free-for-all in summer, especially in an era filled with mobile devices and TV screens, may be too much time.

A little bit of a routine gives kids some security and self-discipline. It also helps caregivers to coordinate get-togethers.

Welch and Rockmore recommend balancing some scheduled activities in with the free time. Pick a time and an activity, such as swimming on Tuesday or game day on Wednesday.

Create a “go fish bowl” filled with activities at the ready.

This will keep the “I’m bored” bug at bay, while giving kids the opportunity to deal with boredom by themselves.

It’s a middle path between a hands-off approach that some psychologists recommend and an intolerance of whining about boredom.

Fill the jar with a mix of tried-and-true favorites and of new things kids have never done. Keep it in a central location, then send them to the jar the next time they say “I’m bored.”

Stay on top of chores.

All that free time means that messes can build up more quickly than usual. But chores still need to get done, especially before they become a bigger headache.

The trick is to stay on top of them. Schedule a 30- to 45-minute block three times a week for chores. Stick to the schedule and make it easier to stay with it. Great times for chores include right after breakfast and in the afternoon.

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