Strike a Summer Balance
Hello <<First Name>>
Summer is a time to slow down, get away, break from habit and change it up a bit. What a lovely idea amidst our busy daily lives. Enter the toddler who rarely slows down and thrives on predictability and the repetition of routines. What sounds like a good idea to you may not sound so good to your little one—‘A different bed at grandmas? No way!’ ‘No plans for today?’ Your toddler may fall apart.
WHAT’S GOING ON: Toddlers know what they know, which is heavily grounded in repeating routines you’ve lovingly created for them to help organize their days. And yet, there can be a comfortable balance.
Here are my suggestions for summer success—time together that allows for the relaxed summer pace you desire while providing the predictable rhythms your toddler thrives on.
Stay On Time. Even though school is out and you may be working less, still keep to the timing of everyday routines. Meals, bath time, bedtime, getting up, dressed and out for the day. Keep your timing in place for these basic routines, whether you are away or at home. If you are traveling, the first thing to do once you arrive is to consider the timing of these regular routines. Is it nap time? Near dinnertime? If so, rather than unpacking or jumping into an activity, put your child down for their regular nap or find the nearest restaurant! This will help to keep your child regulated and also give her that sense of control from knowing what to expect.
Make New-ness Familiar. When you travel, there is often a lot of new-ness—people they meet, where they sleep, play or take a bath. This is true even if you are returning to a place your child visited in the past. Grandparents’ house may be a place they enjoyed last time, but if they haven’t been there in months it can feel new again. Help your toddler adjust by taking it slowly and giving them time to acclimate once you arrive. Yours may need a few hours to settle in. On a longer vacation, perhaps one that is further away and where flying and jet lag may be involved, it may take a day or two for them to readjust. Expect a transition and respect the amount of time your child needs to feel comfortable in a new place.
Tip: Pack a small stuffed animal or blanket from home to have wherever they sleep. Bring 1-2 books from home as a way to bring in the familiar and offer comfort.
Less is more. It’s easy to become excited by ALL the things to do when you’re on vacation or enjoying summer in your own city. I was guilty of this for many years until I figured out that doing less made my children happier. Is there a pool or beach nearby? A fun playground? A museum to easily walk to? A backyard to play in? Simple events can feel new enough to your child without being overwhelming. Rather than run your child from place to place and pack in multiple social visits every day, choose one friend to spend time with and one place to discover, explore and enjoy.
Schedules are Helpful. My tried and true method for relaxation away or a stay-cation in New York is to combine the less-is-more approach with a basic daily structure that allows for flexibility. It looks like this: divide the day into morning and afternoon activities. Plan one activity for the morning (such as park, beach, pool, going to the museum or zoo) then have lunch followed by nap or downtime. After this mid-day break, jump into your second activity (such as visiting a relative or friend, or simply playing in the backyard). Whatever the activity, schedule another period of downtime before dinner. After mealtime, fall into your regular routines—bedtime, bath, books and tucking in.
The goal is to enjoy your days together, even if it is not the summertime of old when you didn’t yet have children to organize, entertain and soothe. Long and endless days may still sound dreamy to you, but will surely lead to meltdowns for your little ones. A little daily plan goes a long way.
Here’s to enjoying the rest of summer!
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For more toddler insight, visit HOW TODDLERS THRIVE and feel free to share what you've read here with other parents on the playground!