Hooray for summer days!
Summer is on the horizon and with it comes days at the beach, evenings spent playing in the backyard after dinner, and yes, inevitable complaints of "I'm bored!" No matter how much children beg for more playtime during the school year, they still sometimes struggle when facing days of no structure or routine.
Children thrive on routine, and sometimes when structured school days are traded in for free-flowing play time, they get frustrated. Summer is a long break in your child’s daily routine. A gap that needs to be filled with enriching activities that keep your child stimulated and engaged. Little Gems Summer School program has a variety of fun activities. But what if your child can’t attend summer school? Not to worry, there are several things you can do to make sure your child is continuing his or her learning and enthusiasm through the summer months.
We know children thrive on consistency and structure. Let’s clarify what structure is… Structure looks different to everyone, and that’s ok! For some, the structure might be a set of "routine things" that need to happen every day, daily chores, play dates, day-care, free time, the list goes on. The idea is that whatever structure you have for your children it has to be one that works for your child (children). Being the teacher I am, I have to put in a plug for remembering that learning doesn’t stop just because there isn’t school. Summer is a great time to explore some fun ways to learn through discovery, research and science.
Much like a regular Montessori school year, the role of the adult during a Montessori summer is to create a prepared environment that the child can independently explore. The space needs to look simple, well organised, and easy for a child to navigate alone. While Montessori children choose when to paint, to explore, work on maths, to practice reading, or when to experiment with science, there is still a predictable routine that shapes their days. There is a long morning work period, time in the playground, lunch, rest time for the younger children, and another long afternoon work period. While the children have a great deal of freedom within this schedule, there is enough of a routine to keep them comfortable. They know what's coming next, which makes it easier to settle in and focus.
Now, let’s give you some tips to create an unforgettable summer for your child and family!
Create a space
To create this environment in your own home, begin by sorting out your child’s play space. Scan the room for anything your child hasn’t played with recently and tuck it away in a closet or storage space. When your child has begun to tire of the items left in their area, rotate them out for a few that you put away earlier. As you clear up your child’s space, look around and make sure that everything is easily accessible. Can your child reach all their toys? Is everything organised in a way that will make sense to them? Try grouping things together in different places around the room: a reading nook, a puzzle space, an art table, an area for building, etc…
“The child…is a spiritual embryo that needs its own special environment. Just as a physical embryo needs its mother’s womb in which to grow, so the spiritual embryo needs to be protected by an external environment that is warm with love and rich in nourishments where everything is disposed to welcome, and nothing to harm it" - Maria Montessori
Find a rhythm & a daily routine
Once your child’s space is organised, it’s time to create a routine or rhythm your days will usually follow. This schedule doesn’t need to be rigid, nor does it need to account for every minute of your child’s day. A sample rhythm could be waking up for breakfast followed by some time exploring outside. Then your child can come in and help prepare their snack and eat. After that, they can spend some time playing inside.
You will certainly have days that deviate from the norm—beach days, trips to the zoo, or days when pool time trumps nap time. Still, it can be helpful to think through a routine for the days when you find yourself sticking close to home. Try to establish a rhythm so that your child knows what to expect each day. For example, you might have breakfast and then head outside to the backyard or park for an hour or two before it gets too hot. Next, you might come inside for a snack, then indoor play time, followed by lunch and nap or quiet time. A simple routine like this, with designated time for outdoor and indoor play, can help children feel comfortable enough to relax into the new normal of summer.
Let them help
Because summer should also be a break from school, you can incorporate some of your child’s own ideas and goals for the months ahead. Talk with your child and write down a few things they would like to do such as visit a museum or water park, and a few goals they want to accomplish before the next school year begins, like reading a certain number of books or mastering their bicycle. Then when your child gets bored you can redirect them to a goal or take them to someplace on their list. Rather than pack in a bunch of events (even fun ones!) into a day, you need to make sure there is plenty of time for free play!
Not every day will go as planned, and there will be good ones and bad ones. But giving your child a sense of purpose every day will help them mature emotionally and mentally.
Give them time. Give them a safe space to explore. Watch them grow.
Foster a sense of purpose
It's essential for children to get a break from the rigid pressures of the school year, but that doesn't mean their summer has to be without purpose.
Try sitting down with your child and brainstorming a few goals for the summer. You can each pick two or three goals to lend some purpose to their days. You might want them to read a new chapter in their book or finish a Lego set. They might want to learn to do breaststroke or learn to ride a bike without training wheels.
No day is exactly the same, nor should it be. We travel and go on day trips and adventures. We have playdates and soccer class. What works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another. Your daily rhythm will look different than mine. There may be other things (e.g. art projects, baking together, park outings) that you make a specific day for each week, or just choose to do spontaneously. When creating your daily rhythm, try to avoid adding the times, at least at first. Focus more on the pattern of events, to reduce pressure and let the day happen organically.
Make an activity bank
Make a summer bucket list with your child. Ask them what fun things they want to do in the summer months and write each one on a piece of paper. Put the documents in a jar to create an activity bank. Direct your child to choose a paper every time they claim there's nothing to do. This takes the responsibility off of you to entertain your child while providing them with enough direction to find something fun to do successfully.
If your child provides you with several things they’d like to do over the summer, write them down on of paper and place them into a cup or jar. The next time they say they’re bored or need something to do, let them pick one of the slips of paper from the jar. This jar can be a lifesaver because it gives them predetermined activities they can complete themselves.
In some way, wide open days with nothing planned are harder than the ones fully booked with guaranteed fun, but this doesn't mean they aren't worthwhile. The days with nothing on the calendar are often the ones when children get creative when they, for example, discover their love of mud pies or their passion for bugs!
So, be brave mummy and daddy, and leave some time open for exploration this summer. Including a bit of structure and purpose can help make this time meaningful and enjoyable for both you and your children.
Montessori was aware of the importance of parent-child relationships. When writing about children’s development she highlighted the role of parents and carers in supporting a child’s optimum maturation. For example, she advocates that babies and toddlers should participate in the everyday life of the family and engage in shopping expeditions, family meals, and outings. She believed that young children absorb all aspects of human existence and that this absorption nurtures their development. For children to benefit fully from their Montessori education, it is important that parents understand the aims of the pedagogy and support the holistic development of their offspring. The same focus on nurturing the child’s independence should be given at home as it is at school. They need to be given time to feed, wash and dress themselves.
We hope you have a fantastic and safe rest of your summer. It’s never too late to establish a new routine and more often than not your children will be happy to have some order in their day!
Enjoy your holidays!
Thank you Zina for changing our mindset to summer fun! Zina is one of Little Gems enthusiastic Montessori guides in our Larnaca setting. And with this article all of us at Little Gems Montessori Nursery in Larnaca & Nicosia wish you all a relaxing summer vacation, safe travels and an abundance of joy, laughter and love with your family. Enjoy your summer break & see you in the autumn!
Should you want to learn more about routines and out of school activities, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.