Although summer is usually thought of as a time to run barefoot and fancy free, a summer without structure for some children, especially the special needs child, may be very difficult for both the child and parent. The good news is that there are many ways to get the most out of summer while still maintaining a sense of structure; enabling everyone to enjoy time away from school.
Structure is when a child’s activities are organized, predictable, and rules and routines are consistent. Children who are given privy to what the day ahead may look like operate with confidence, feel as though they have control over their day, and can be much less anxious about new activities. Children feel safe and secure through transitions when they know what to expect next. There are less surprises when structure is properly implemented, which in turn results in less anxiety, stress, and even decreases undesirable behaviors from your child.
Create a Daily (Or Weekly) Schedule
Structure is actually quite easy to establish at home with your children over the summer. First and foremost is the idea that children operate better with a daily or weekly schedule. Schools do this every day, which is part of the reason children often thrive in a classroom setting. Plus, a schedule that is clearly displayed will help your child know what to expect each summer day.
Establish Some Responsibilities
Secondly, children are also used to having some responsibility in their classroom. Don’t let this go un-addressed when home for the summer. Give your child some reasonable, easily attainable tasks to help empower them at home. Rewarding these chores around the house will also keep children motivated. Again, having these clearly displayed as a visual reminder are helpful for children. (For tips on helping customize your child’s chores, click here.)
Make Bedtime Consistent and Calming
Lastly, establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine is also essential in the summer. Although your child might be staying up later during the summer months, it is important to keep a routine in place. For example, taking a shower or bath, reading or being read to, and then listening to soft classical music is a routine we use around my house that has everyone knowing what comes next. It even allows them to sleep better, drifting off each night with no unexpected disturbances that can make children overstimulated or overly excited at night. And don’t forget, bedtime is also a great time to review the next day’s schedule!!
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Visit our new Toys for Special Needs Website for top toys and trusted skill-builders that help boost developmental skills in children of all abilities, organized by therapeutic and skill criteria.
About Dr. Melissa Liguori, Ed. D:
After studying early childhood education at the American University in Washington, D.C., Dr. Liguori began her career as a classroom teacher in one of the nation’s top school districts, Montgomery County, Maryland. There she fostered an environment where play and learning were synonymous, and her reputation for thinking outside the box when it comes to toys began. Dr. Liguori completed her doctorate in Developmental and Learning Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, and worked at prestigious private schools in New York, New Jersey, and the surrounding suburbs before settling her family and practice in Westport, CT.
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This post was created for our Summer Fun Calendar series. Click for more info.