Ah, summer in the time of Covid – where the kids roam free and parents lose their minds. With a little planning and a lot of grace, we can enjoy this time together while keeping our families on routine…even when we don’t have a routine to follow.
For starters, this dietitian’s recommendation has absolutely nothing to do with food. Maintaining a routine is a basic life task that, in the time of scrolling through flashy screens, even adults find difficult to attain. Routines are more important now than ever – in this unrelenting time of “what’s next,” they keep us grounded and accountable.
Display a Schedule
One of the best ways to establish and maintain a routine for your family is first by having the schedule on prominent display in the home. Even the littles, who are just beginning to identify numbers and sound out words, will feel special to know that their very own schedule is on display at home. Think – a chalkboard, dry erase board, poster board, any board will do! I love this one for my fam! For kiddos 5 years and older, have a family meeting to establish the schedule together. It’s a great way to foster senses of inclusivity, responsibility, and ultimately, accomplishment.
Maintain Consistent Sleep/Wake Times
Once a schedule is established, the next task is establishing and (dare I challenge you?) maintaining consistent sleep times and wake times. Maybe you’re thinking, “Waketime? Who are we kidding, they wake ME up!” That’s ok.., even better! If your monkeys are the first ones awake, let THEM start the day. If your not-so-tiny minions have graduated to cranky pants when they don’t get their beauty rest, well this tip is for you: Wake them up at the same time on weekdays to get the day going.
A consistent wake time Monday through Friday helps set the master clock in our hypothalamus. This consistency helps our brain keep track of times by queues such as light and darkness, physical activity, and mealtime schedule.
Maintaining a routine helps us establish a good circadian rhythm, which is essential for overall health.
Maintain Consistent Meal Times
Everyone’s schedule will be different but it’s important to maintain consistent meal times. Setting a schedule that includes breakfast, colorful lunches, and dinners (think – a nice protein, a complex carbohydrate, and colorful veggies), plus two well-rounded snacks is really important. When it comes to snacks, I would suggest nixing the twinkie or ice cream cone. Snacks can be a great way to balance the calories kids consume over the course of a day, as well as an effective way of holding them over between meals – in other words, avoiding the “Mommmm I’m hungry” moans and groans that seem to come like clockwork. Healthy snacking is one of my favorite things to talk about, and we’ve devoted an entire post to kiddos snacking here.
Let’s talk about physical activity. Many of us are still working in quarantine. With our kids climbing up our legs, it’s no secret that daily physical activity can be a challenge. For both your benefit and the benefit of the kiddies, make a point to get everyone moving! Get outside during your lunch break or plan a family walk or bike ride each day after dinner. If you have a backyard, kick them out of the house just like our parents did in the 80s!
Let your routine be your own. No two families are the same – therefore the same routine isn’t going to work for everyone. And don’t forget to give yourself some grace. Nothing will be perfect and trust that it doesn’t have to be. Have fun with it and be silly! At the end of this nonsense, I truly believe our kids will remember all the quality time we spent together. We may never complain again about running around to sports practice and dance class and games, all while juggling work, cooking, laundry, and strategically planning when to wash our hair. But at the end of this messy messy time, it’s just us – together with our families. While behind the scenes we may be struggling to keep our heads above water, our kids won’t remember that part. They’ll only remember us, together. There’s nothing more perfect than that.