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Buttoned Up: Setting up a summer schedule for kids

Scripps Howard News Service

Must credit getbuttonedup.com

With photo/graphic: SH12G027BUTTONEDUP

By SARAH WELCH and ALICIA ROCKMORE

getbuttonedup.com

Summer is a magical time for children. It's a time for discovery; it's when imaginations take flight and lasting friendships are formed. But for parents, the loosey-goosey schedules that come with this season can be fairly frustrating.

We've got three strategies you can use to maximize everyone's enjoyment even at this stage of the free-form season and yet retain enough structure so that everyone and everything remains sane and organized.

Strategy No. 1: Instill a basic routine by designating a standard go-to activity for at least two days a week.

Free-play has been shown by researchers to enhance a child's creativity, help her figure out what she loves, and to develop her critical problem-solving skills. So, by all means, do not go overboard in the scheduling department. But in an age where TV and mobile-device screens beckon, a complete schedule free-for-all may not be best option, either.

A little routine gives children a sense of security and it helps them develop self-discipline. It also makes it a lot easier for parents or other caregivers to coordinate meet-ups and play dates. For example if you know you are always going to be at a certain local park on Mondays from 2 to 5 p.m., it's easy to let the parents or other caregivers of your child's friends know so they can meet you there for some fun.

We recommend developing a schedule that balances the need for unstructured play with the need for routine. Pick two days of the week and institute a regular activity, such as going to the pool or park. At the start of the month, take a few moments to make your plan and communicate it with friends and family.

You can download a free summer routine printable to help organize your family's routine at http://www.GetButtonedUp.com/tools.

Strategy No. 2: Create an activity "Go Fish" bowl to keep the "I'm bored" whining to a minimum.

Whether or not it's good for kids to be bored on occasion is up for some debate. Some parents and psychologists argue that kids need to learn how to be alone and quiet because that's when the brain kicks into high gear and learns how to imagine other possibilities. While we agree that a steady diet of videos, or even organized activities, can weaken imaginations, we're not entirely fans of boredom, either. If you've ever been on the receiving end of a steady stream of boredom-induced whining, you know why.

Again, we recommend a middle path between a hands-off approach that forces kids to overcome their boredom on their own and helping them with ideas for overcoming it. The trick to doing this successfully, of course, is a little planning.

Take a few minutes to brainstorm a host of activities that your children would have fun doing and write them down on a sheet of paper. Have them help you create the list -- the more invested they are in coming up with the ideas, the more receptive they will be to doing them when they're "bored."

Cut up the suggestions into small slips and put them in a bowl, box or envelope labeled "Go Fish: Boredom Blasters" and keep it in a central location. Then, whenever you hear a chorus of "I'm soooo bored," direct them to the container to pick out an activity.

You can download a preprinted and organized list of fun summer boredom busters for your bowl at http://www.GetButtonedUp.com/tools.

Strategy No. 3: Set aside time blocks to stay on top of the basic chores.

Even in the summertime, chores like paying the bills, keeping the house clean and organized, and doing the laundry have to get done. If you don't set aside time to do them, they'll pile up quickly and become a much bigger headache than they need to be. The key to staying on top of basic chores is to designate a small window of time, say 30-45 minutes three days a week, for tackling them. Try to keep the time slot consistent across all three days as it makes it easier to stick with the routine. Great times include right after breakfast, during early-afternoon nap windows and at around 4 p.m.

What's your regular summer routine?

(The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to yourlife(at)getbuttonedup.com. For more columns, go to scrippsnews.com.)

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