Child development expert has secret solution to summer boredom

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MILWAUKEE -- The kids have now had a few lazy days of summer -- which means the whining, bickering and complaining about being bored are about to begin. But our child development expert, Jessica Lahner, has a secret solution to the boredom -- structure!

Jessica says the secret to preventing kids from complaining about being bored during the summer is to give them a little structure -- a little bit of a predictable schedule.  Predictability can give kids a greater sense of security.  A schedule can also result in fewer power struggles and more self-directed kids.

Summer STEM Challenge Activities

Summer 2016 Planning Pages

Sand Table

Sand Table

Why kids thrive on routines

  • The school year requires structure: School starts and stops at the same time, and days follow a predictable schedule.
  • Structure results in:
    • Predictability providing kids a greater sense of security. When kids know what to expect, they are less anxious and can use their energy to explore, learn and tackle other developmental tasks.
    • Fewer power struggles. When kids know what’s coming next, transition is easier. And when “chores” “bedtime” and other dreaded tasks are preplanned and on the schedule, kids are less likely to resist.
    • Self-directed kids. Over time, kids will do even the unpleasant tasks without reminders. Reminding them to consults the schedule instead of “empty the garbage” progressively teaches them to be self-directed. Bonus: When it’s chore time, the schedule becomes the bad guy instead of mom!
Water Blob

Water Blob

Establishing summer structure: 3 steps

  1. Set goals
  2. Create a flexible schedule
  3. Plan activities

Set Goals

  • What do you and your kids want to do this summer?
    • The answers to this question are your summer goals
    • Consider writing them down (you and your kids)
  • When planning your weeks, consult your goal list to ensure you are making steps toward reaching them
    • Teaches kids how to set and work towards meeting goals
    • Have older kids? Consider teaching them the SMART goal setting process. They will use it for the rest of their lives!
Water Wall

Water Wall

Create a Flexible Schedule

  • Daily
    • Writing out a daily, flexible schedule will result in smoother days.
    • Key is flexibility! Your days will change, and some days you’ll throw the schedule out the window. But your schedule says: This is how our days generally go and this is what comes next.
    • Working in unstructured play times, naps and chores ensures that summer days include both work and play.
    • Especially if you have young kids, start by scheduling in sleep: Your schedule will begin when you/kids wake up, pencil in naps times and bedtime. Now work everything else around that. Ideas to include:
      • Free play time, exercise, reading/school skills
  • Monthly
    • Create monthly calendar of summer months (June, July, Aug)
    • Put all known activities on calendar (weddings, camps, ball games)
    • Fill in with local low-cost/free activities. These are simply options. We don’t do all of them, but they are options should we chose them on those days. Places to look:
      • Local library
      • Zoos
      • Bowling alley. Some offer free bowling all summer long (
      • Home Depot. Your local store offers free kids’ weekend workshops
      • Local parks and recreation department
      • Museums
    • I create a cheat sheet of these “Places to Visit This Summer” that include address, phone number, hours and entry fees.
    • Reoccurring activities. Many venues offer the same activities each week. Create an easy reference of these options.

Plan Activities

  • We do not schedule activities every day – but 2-3 times a week we will do something “special” during the day.
  • On Sunday, consult calendar, reoccurring activities sheet to pencil in our schedule for the week.

Free Play Ideas

  • Daily schedule includes lots of time for free, open play
  • Limit screen time and opt for creative/outdoor play instead
  • Options for when kids are stuck and need new ideas
    • Camp Mom Activity Pack
    • Scour Pinterest for ideas you think your kids will love
    • STEM activity pack
    • Some of my favorites ideas: water blob, water wall, DIY sensory bin
      • Stock indoor cabinet with arts and craft supplies, outdoor bin with water balloons, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, etc.