No matter how much family fun we’ve managed to squeeze into summer, preparing for a new school year is always bittersweet. It’s easy to get wrapped up in back-to-school details like shopping for supplies and organizing after school activities. We’re here to help you put down the to-do list (yes, really!) and reflect on what your family truly needs during this hectic time. Eager for a fresh start but unsure where to begin? Prioritize play and set aside a few precious minutes to connect as a family each day. These playful strategies will help you rock the school year!
Whether you’re prepping lunches or packing bags, invite your child to be part of the process. Most children are thrilled to take on special tasks, such as assisting with menu planning or selecting their own clothes for school. If mornings already feel rushed (and you cringe at the idea of your little helper slowing things down), try tackling some prepwork together every evening.
It can be tempting to overschedule your child, especially when you hear about the impressive after school activities your friends have lined up for their own children. How busy is too busy? Be sure that your child has at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted play per day. Experiment with your family’s daily routine, observe your child, and try to follow her lead. She may benefit from morning play sessions as she prepares for the day ahead. Many children also crave independent play when they return home from school, as it helps them process all that they’ve experienced.
Spending time outdoors can have an enormous impact on your family’s health and happiness. If you find it challenging to squeeze in outdoor play, try bringing a few of your weekday activities outside. We’re in favor of outdoor snacks, meals, and even homework sessions! Enjoy a family walk after dinner or read bedtime stories on the back patio. In cold or rainy weather, bundle up for a quick round of tag or hide-and-seek. Bring on the snow balls, puddles, and flashlights! This is a great way to expend some energy before bedtime and makes a warm bath more enticing.
Weekday mornings can feel like a never-ending checklist of tasks. Eat breakfast. Brush teeth. Get dressed... Do you feel like you’re simply going through the motions to get everyone out the door? We’re guessing that your weekday routine could use a little FUN. Choose a family anthem to play as you prep breakfast together or while everyone brushes their teeth. If you have a hard time agreeing on one special song, create a family playlist and include everyone’s favorite. Positive shared experiences help set the tone for the day ahead; a little family fun can make a big difference!
Create a daily ritual that inspires your family to connect and reflect. When are you most likely to be in the same place at the same time? Dinner time works for some families, but bedtime may be a better, more realistic fit. Challenge yourself to be fully present and model active listening by shutting TVs off and placing phones out of sight. Choose a practice that feels right for your family. Here are a few of our faves:
- Take turns sharing the very best part of your day.
- Discuss your daily “low” and “high”.
- Identify a “thorn” (negative moment), “rose” (positive moment) and “bud” (something you are looking forward to).
- Share your proudest moment of the day, as well as something you’d like to do differently tomorrow.