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Let's Play Series: Summer is HERE!

I'm trying to get my life together (I feel like I'm always saying this!) and I've come up with a summer schedule for my 2 and 3 year old! I wanted a schedule that allows for lots of playtime and exploration in a laid back, no pressure kind of way. I didn't want to be on a specific timeline, so I only chose a few things that require a specific time commitment. The rest of our schedule is on our terms!

This is the first summer that I feel like I'm ready for something structured. My kids are 19 months apart, and my youngest is now about 2.5 and I'm not tied down with needing to breastfeed a baby or rushing home for nap times (car naps are the WORST!!). I'm still pretty rigid with nap times, but they are old enough that we can be a little more flexible and it's not that big of a deal anymore. Last summer, my husband was deployed, so trying to do things by myself all the time with a 1 and 2 year old was truly a struggle some days. So I am READY to embrace a fun, active summer this year!!

As a former preschool teacher, I know it is possible to fit lots of activities into a day that work on many skills. I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to do lots of learning activities with my kids, and then also feeling disappointed with myself that I haven't done much of those activities after all. I kept thinking that I suck as a mom because I have all this Early Childhood Education knowledge, and I'm not really using it very often on my own kids.

But then one day, I told myself, "ENOUGH!! STOP!!!"

Being a stay-at-home mom is a whole different ballgame from being a teacher in a classroom. I, of all people, should know that. Of course I'm not going to be able to do a million enriching activities at home - I'm busy doing everything else!! My kiddos are going to be *just fine* with doing a few activities here and there. While my husband was overseas for 12 months and I was solo-parenting, my mental health went to a place where I was just surviving. And I was pretty hard on myself. I didn't have very many positive self-thoughts. Survival mode for 12 months was hard, and I find that even 9 months later, I am still coming out of that mode. More on that topic another day! But anyway, I've come to realize that YOU DO NOT have to be amazing at everything, all the time. Life comes in seasons, and sometimes you're just going to feel a little defeated, and that's okay. We are all just doing the best we can in the circumstances we are in!

So, here is our summer schedule, based around what currently works for us!

6:30  Wake up, potty time/diaper change & get dressed, brush teeth, breakfast
7:15  Playtime, mom breakfast & coffee time, tidy kitchen
8:15  Exercise, shower. Kids *hopefully* play or watch tv.
9:30  Snack, Activity/Outing of the day
12:00  Lunch, tidy kitchen, dinner prep if needed
1:00  Nap/Quiet time
3:00  Tv time, snacks, chores
4:00  Outside time (weather permitting)
5:30  iPad time, make dinner
6:00  Dinner
6:30  Clean up time, baths if needed
7:00  Liam bedtime
7:45  Ava bedtime

**NOTE: this schedule does not apply to weekends!!! We like to be a little more spontaneous and ditch a little bit of the structure. But we still make nap times a priority!

I would like to include some comments about some things in our schedule.

First of all, we all know that every day is different. What we want to happen and what actually needs to happen are two totally different things!! So if we aren't exactly on time with each part of the day, we will just roll with it! Sometimes you just gotta say "screw the schedule!!"

My goal is to exercise daily. I will have rest days on the weekend, so I *should* be able to handle 5 days a week. I am usually a sweaty mess after working out, and depending on our day, I might shower immediately after or I might not. Regardless, I will at least need that time to get myself presentable for the day! I'm always more productive after I'm dressed! I ALSO RESERVE THE RIGHT TO HAVE A PAJAMA DAY. :)

With summer being super hot, we might have outside time in the morning, if we don't already have an outdoor activity planned. Our afternoon outside time will probably always involve water! Our backyard is partially shaded in the afternoon, so its the perfect set up for water play!

YES we do screen time - a variety of kids shows and movies and iPad games that are educational. I've decided it will work best to have a designated iPad time. That way, when they are whining for the iPad, I can say, we will have iPad time this afternoon. And also so I can (hopefully) cook dinner in peace!! Tv is the tool I use for my sanity to be able to run upstairs and shower (although most times they follow me anyway) or some cool-down time for the kids and/or me. Because let's be honest, we can't be awesome moms 24/7, and there's nothing wrong with putting on a show for a change of pace. Plus, for me, knowing that I've helped my kids learn a few things and be stimulated in other ways means that screen time has been "earned" for the day. Having 2 toddlers is no joke some days!!

Here's something else that might make you feel better (or surprise you!) - I don't always eat at the same time as my kids - GASP - and here's a few reasons why! My kids have nearly constant requests during mealtime. I'm constantly up and down from the table (I do ask them to wait so they are learning that they don't always get their demands met immediately) and that drives me NUTS when I'm trying to eat! They normally are fast eaters anyway, although occasionally they will spend 30-40 minutes eating and then I can sit and eat! So unless my food is ready to go and I'm feeling like I can hang with them and handle the interruptions, I usually choose to eat after they are done.

I have recently decided to stagger the kids' bedtimes. They have always had the same bedtime, except for when Liam was a young baby. But recently I've been thinking that the kids could really benefit from some time apart during the day. They are used to doing EVERYTHING together, which hasn't been a bad thing - its actually made my life easier in many ways- but now that Ava is headed into her Pre-K year, I feel that she needs some more individual attention. I'm excited to try separate bedtimes and also to see if maybe Ava will sleep in a little...she's such an early riser (usually around 5:45)!!

My kids are horrible at cleaning up toys. I feel like most parents could say the same about their kids! But here's the thing: our kids aren't born knowing what we mean by "clean up". They are overwhelmed by the mess and will probably struggle to stay on-task. The best way I've found to get them to clean up is to tell them a specific task that you want them to do. So, in our house, clean up time sounds like this, "Liam, pick up your cars and put them in this box (show him which box) and Ava, you can pick up all the baby dolls and put them in the crib". Clean up with them and model how to do it! It's a learning activity that will take some time. They are learning how to categorize toys ("pick up all the books/balls/superheroes/barbies/etc") and then thinking about where they should go. It is actually a pretty complicated task for them! Keep it fun; no yelling!! Then it just becomes a negative experience for everyone.  I still get frustrated at times when they don't stay on task, but that's pretty normal considering their ages! Ava drastically improved her clean-up abilities once attending school. I'm making a point to put clean-up time in our schedule because it is something the kids need to work on, and they always play better when they toys have been picked up! It teaches them how to be responsible and how to take care of their things. Something that has helped immensely in my house, is that Ava has learned that if she picks up the toys off of the rug, then we can vacuum! She loves to vacuum run around the room while I vacuum! She also loves to dance to music, and she knows we can only do that if all the toys are put away. So I have a feeling we will also be having a lot of dance parties every night after we clean up. And THAT, to me, is worth spending 15-20 minutes every night, directing and helping the kids pick up their toys. They love the reward of being able to dance with each other and with mommy and daddy!

I also want to add in a daily chore for both of my kids - what are some things your kids do to contribute to your household? I'm still working on this list! I know for sure that one chore will be wiping off the fingerprints on the sliding door! ;)

So anyway, this is my plan for our summer schedule!! Some days I'm sure we will totally ditch it, but I know it will help to keep me more productive and to make sure we aren't just sitting around at the house all summer.

It took me a few weeks to finally find a good balance of fun things to do and not making a list that was too ambitious. This schedule feels just enough of spontaneous AND routine, child-led and parent-led, and a good balance of activities inside the house, outside, and in our community.

I spent some time searching online for events in our area and pieced them into our summer. Most of the things I found are free, and some will cost a few bucks. And a few of our bigger adventures might be +$20, but I chose them because I think the kids will really enjoy them!

I've also added in a theme for each day of the week, and we will rotate through all of these activities! Pinterest is your friend if you are looking for fun things to do with your kids! I have a ton more ideas for crafts and learning activities, but I only listed a handful for now. And I added my daily chore! I hate cleaning bathrooms, and we have 2.5 of them, so I decided to split them into 2 days. I might have to tweak my list as the weeks go on!

Make It Monday/laundry, grocery day
Take a Trip Tuesday/laundry, tidy clutter
What's Cooking Wednesday/bathrooms
Thinking Thursday/bathrooms
Fun Friday/floors


Make It Monday
painting with Qtips
tissue paper on contact paper
paper plate crowns
watercolor coffee filters
paper plate spider web
cutting paper
noodle necklaces
paint 4th of July tshirt


Take A Trip Tuesday
Manhattan/Topeka/Salina zoo 
Discovery Center
Ft. Riley historic sites/museums
Milford Hatchery
Library
Pet store
Children's Museum


What's Cooking Wednesday
dirt and worms cups
mini pizzas
fruit pizza cookies
banana bread
make your own pb&j
peanut butter apple slices
muffins


Thinking Thursday
puzzles
board games (hungry hippos, bingo, memory, counting chickens)
name writing/tracing
counting activities
letter/shape/color recognition activities
building activities
sensory table activities (scooping and measuring sand, dry beans, dry pasta, dry rice)
playdoh


Fun Friday
pool
splash pad
beach access at the lake
picnic
lunch at a restaurant
playdates
wash the car
walk to the playground
Dollar Tree
open gym at gymnastics
Library story time

I'm really really really hoping that utilizing this schedule and list of activities will help my household. My kids (and myself) love to get out and about, and we all tend to go a little crazy if we stay in the house too long. I can definitely be a couch dweller and then I end up getting nothing done, so I'm hoping a routine while there is no school will help me!

I would love to hear about your ideas for your summer plans with your family - I'm so ready for a fun summer!!

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