Children benefit from predictable and balanced summer schedule

Yay, it’s summertime! No school and time for fun things. It’s great for kids to have a change from the norm; however, a fairly predictable schedule and activities are great too. Although some kids and teens are fine without any kind of schedule being given to them, children with developmental delays, behavioral challenges and special needs such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder require support and behavior management that provides them a predictable set of things to do without having to stir up their own excitement. The following is a list of ways to do that.

First, keep consistent morning and evening routines. Parents can decide on their own if they want to have a later bedtime overall and what they want to include in the routine (brushing teeth, showers, etc.) That said, toddlers and young children will have better rest and go along better with wake-up/go-to-bed routines if they are consistent, such as regular wake and sleep times, regular hygiene schedules and a regular set of things to do as they are going to bed and waking up.

Consistent feeding schedules often keep kids’ moods more balanced. With all of the busy activities in which people get involved, it can be hard at times to keep feeding and/or snack times within 30-45 minutes of their normal routine. This doesn’t have to be overly restrictive though; it just takes planning. For example, parents and caregivers don’t have to totally abandon a trip to the zoo if they are going to be away from home during a meal or snack time. However, the zoo trip may go a lot better if parents pack a snack or box lunch and then take a quick break at the zoo during their child’s regular feeding time.

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Practicing mastered skills during the summer, such as reading, helps your child transition more smoothly back to school.

Summertime may include academic time. Most children lose some skills over the summer if they don’t practice, which means more frustration for everyone in August. Parents don’t have to go above and beyond to teach new skills, but even practicing mastered skills that are relevant to their child’s academic and developmental level will contribute to a smoother transition back to school.

If you haven’t already received a packet of summer academics from your child’s teacher, it’s still possible to practice. Parents can choose as few as one to three activities or worksheets a day in the areas of reading, writing and math. Appropriate grade level workbooks are available at bookstores or online with suggested materials, although there are also websites with readily available—and free—online resources. Academics are often best done in the morning, when children have better attention.

Active kids are going to need an outlet for their energy. Since parents often have to provide supervision, it can be a challenge to be on the go all the time. One simple formula is to alternate active times (even as little as 15-30 minutes) with times spent indoors or concentrating. That way, kids get to expend energy, and parents don’t have to deal with extra mischief that comes from kids trying to find a thrill if they’re kept indoors all morning or all afternoon. Active time can be in a park, in an indoor playground or other appropriate places.

Finally, predictability does not have to be boring. Parents can plan for variety within a routine. For instance, there can be some kind of museum trip every Tuesday afternoon that changes each week or some kind of different cooking activity on Wednesdays. Alternatively, there could be a daily academic time at 10 or 10:30 a.m. and recess planned at 11 a.m. each day in a variety of places.

Some local offerings this summer are:

  • Cinemark Tinseltown’s Summer Movie Clubhouse with 10 films for kids at $1 per show or $5 for all 10 movies
  • AMC Regency 24’s Sensory Friendly Movies four times a month with more light and lower volume, and with kids able to get up and move about
  • The Museum of Science and History’s Little Learners preschool group the second Wednesday of the month at 9:30 a.m. (visitors can see exhibits any time)
  • The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens’ Florida Blue Free Tuesdays and Art for Two classes for you and your child each month on the second and third Saturday (first come, first in—sign-up starts at 4 p.m.; classes start at 5 p.m.) (and, The Cummer is fun any time plus it has a large garden outside)
  • Your neighborhood public library’s Epic Summer Program full of activities for children of all ages through July (and parents can take a trip with their children anytime they like to get books to read there or to take home).

By Andrew Scherbarth, Ph.D., BCBA-D, licensed child psychologist

Published on page 8, June/July issue, Jax4Kids.com

Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics offers integrated healthcare by a team of highly educated child psychologists, behavior therapists, occupational therapists, speech/language therapists, feeding therapists and a medical director who lead the 120-person staff in collaborating to bring the best resources for addressing behavioral, developmental and physical issues in children. It offers one stop services to parents plus collaboration is the most effective way to address interactive issues that children often have. In addition to pediatric occupational therapy, child behavior therapy including applied behavior analysis, pediatric speech therapy, Keystone Child Development Center, located in Southpoint Office Park is the area’s premier early learning and child development center, providing day care and education to all children, 3 months through kindergarten, in four levels – Infants and Walkers, Preschool, Pre-K/VPK (state-endorsed free VPK for 4- and 5-year-olds) and Kindergarten.

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