In our early childhood classrooms we work to create a healthy breathing rhythm to the day. That means we alternate between expansive, dynamic activities and ones that are more restful and inward. In the early childhood, free indoor play and outdoor play are both very expansive. This mood comes naturally to young children and they learn a great deal through all of their natural activity during play. It is important to create times and spaces for a balance to this. In the classroom, this might be crafting, cooking, painting, circle, story and snack time. These times require more concentration and self-control, as well as joining the group.
When considering how to create a summer rhythm at home, we can look at how to bring in a balance of moods. It can be exhausting for a young child to spend all day in the expansiveness of playing outdoors. So if we spend a lot of time at the beach, for example, we'll want to create moments of quiet and connection that allow our children to come inward. Stories, naps and meals are a good time for this. For children who no longer nap it can still be so helpful (also to the parents) to have a designated rest time for an hour. If this is done during the sun's hottest time after lunch, we're also helping children to avoid excessive exposure.
Special outings are also an enjoyable part of summer. When the regular rhythm of the day is strong and predictable, it is relatively easy for children to handle such outings. But we need to keep in mind the extra effort such an event takes and be cautious to get everyone enough sleep. Some children have trouble going to sleep early in the summer. A walk or time outdoors shortly before bed might help some kids to expend that extra energy and settle down. Dark shades and fans can help as well. It might take some extra effort on the part of parents to keep the bedtime consistent, but it will ultimately mean more freedom (and happier kids) the following day.
A healthy, balanced breathing rhythm to the day can help to prevent exhaustion and melt-downs. The predictability of having the same events happen at the same time allows children the feelings of comfort and safety that leave them free to joyfully explore.
Happy summer everyone!