AMES, Iowa -- Although it may feel like summer has just begun, it is not too soon for families to begin preparing their children to head back to school. Following a routine during the summer can lead to back-to-school success, says Dawn Dunnegan, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“Following a routine or schedule during the summer and throughout the year can reduce anxiety and frustration for all children,” said Dunnegan, who specializes in family life issues.
“The Brain Balance Achievement Centers suggests that this is particularly true for children with neurobehavioral disorders such as ADHD, Learning Disorders, Autism or Asperger’s. These children often long for the routine and predictability that the school year offers. However, this can be the case for many children who feel uncertain about what will happen next and what is the expectation for today,” Dunnegan said.
Dunnegan offers the following tips for setting a summer routine for children.
Keep a reasonable bedtime. “We all feel better when we are well rested and have had a good night’s sleep. This is even more so for our children. Sleep is important for overall health and wellbeing,” Dunnegan said.
Encourage academics with summer camps, library programs, school or community programs, or downloadable sheets and projects found online. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers many youth enrichment summer activities; check with your county extension office.
“Academic activities help children retain skills they learned during the previous school year and keeps them in the routine of learning over the summer,” Dunnegan said.
Continue to limit screen time and encourage outdoor play and activity. Research shows that outdoor play can increase creativity and problem-solving skills and can reduce childhood obesity rates. Physical activity can increase children’s attention span and reduce aggression. In addition, spending time outdoors helps children feel connected to their environment.
Families can find downloadable schedules online to help develop and implement a successful summer plan. Science of Parenting from ISU Extension and Outreach provides trustworthy research on popular parenting topics, Dunnegan said.
Research shows that schedules, routines and limits aren’t just for young school-age children. Setting limits, providing structure and enforcing rules is important when parenting teens as well, Dunnegan added.
“Keeping a schedule can also help reduce behavior issues, which will reduce the amount of discipline we need to use and contribute to more pleasant family times. This will help us all when returning to the school schedule and routines in August,” Dunnegan said.
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