I’ve heard parents say they ‘run a tight ship’ when it comes to their weekly schedules. I can certainly appreciate a good schedule, and if it’s laminated with color coding, even better! But I also have learned that too much structure can limit freedom and creativity for our family. And not to mention create unnecessary stress if trying to stick to an unrealistic schedule. So how do we find that balance?
For us, I’ve come up with a weekly schedule that allows for some flexibility, but also creates stability that comes with consistency. Now that two of my three children are in school most of the day, a weekly schedule is a lot easier to keep up with. We also do not have a lot of extracurricular activities going on right now. But I’m hopeful that this schedule will easily carry over into summer and other busier seasons of life.
This desire for a weekly schedule all started with an article I read from the Montessori Academy entitled “The Importance of Outdoor Play in Winter”. This article covered some interesting topics such as the physical, emotional and social benefits of outdoor play. Specifically, how getting your kids outside in the winter gives them a different perspective on nature. If we keep our kids inside all winter, they’re never going to learn to see what the trees, plants, animals and other parts of nature look like in this sometimes-dreary season. But if we get out there, and have fun investigating and looking at it all through a different ‘lens’, it can benefit our children in so many ways. I’ve personally seen this benefit my kid’s ability to learn now that they have two and sometimes three recess times a day at their school.
But I have to confess something…I can’t stand the cold. Unless it’s play-in-the-snow kind of cold, which to my kids’ dismay, it hasn’t been this year. So, we found ourselves coming home from school and hibernating inside the house until bedtime. We didn’t have any real ‘plans’ for after school, other than homework, if needed, and chores. My kids would immediately drop their bookbags, grab a snack, rush through their chores and homework, then spend the rest of the afternoon in front of the TV. We were in a rut and something had to change!
But as I mentioned before, I don’t like being cold. My kids don’t like being cold either (maybe they learned that from me). But after reading that article, I decided I had to literally schedule in Outdoor Time. Maybe this sounds silly to you, especially if you’re already an outdoorsy person, but for me I needed it written on my calendar otherwise I wouldn’t do it. We now have at least two days a week that we do some sort of outdoor activity, such as a playground, bike-ride, nature hike, or just a romp around the yard for 15 minutes. Sometimes as an incentive, I give the kids a goal to accomplish while outside. Maybe it’s finding three things to look at under our microscope or collecting four different types of leaves. Sometimes it’s chore-related, such as walking the trash bins to the road, or cleaning up after our dog. Then while they’re outside anyway, they run around or climb a tree. Anything goes, as long as it’s outside!
I try to look at the weather and pick days that at least won’t be too miserably cold or raining. But I have occasionally mandated the Outdoor Time even when the winter weather isn’t great. It teaches my kids (and me) that we aren’t going to melt if we play in not-ideal-conditions. In fact, I think it makes us stronger and better equipped to deal with uncomfortable situations in life. Plus, it’s on the calendar, so we have to do it.
This got me thinking about scheduling more things into our week that are good for us. We came up with a Game Night, a Movie Night, and a Creative Night. I don’t always do these on the same evenings each week. I move them around depending on what else is going on. And let’s be real, I don’t always do all these each week either. But I do my best to get them on the calendar! For instance, Game Night is best done when the kids don’t have school the next day, such as Fridays, because we like to play late after our one-year old toddler is in bed. (Can you imagine how hard it is to play Monopoly with tiny little hands grabbing the small pieces or running off with a handful of play money?). It’s nice to have that flexibility! And I took a great tip from a mom friend and wrote down the titles of all our games so each Game Night we draw a title and that’s what we play. No arguing or hurt feelings.
Movie Night is something my kids have been asking to do for ages. Currently on Movie Night we just watch a movie at home with popcorn and other fun snacks. But if a movie comes out in the theatre the boys want to see, we may switch it to be a night out. This would also help to incorporate a ‘Boys Night’ or ‘Mommy and Sons Date’ into our schedule. Yay for multitasking!
Creative Night is something that I used to do more in the summer, but I think can be truly beneficial during the school year. Currently it’s very open-ended, but I’m working on creating a jar of options for the kids to choose from so I don’t have to add to my already over-flowing decision fatigue. But it can be something as simple as creating a picture using an art medium of their choice. Or more challenging such as making a one-page comic strip starring them and their favorite hero. Maybe it’s learning a new song on an instrument, or dancing around to their favorite music. It can be building their own house out of Lego bricks, or working on a cross-stich pattern. I have various art and science kits they can refer to also. But it gives them the opportunity to be creative without too much structure, which can be a great way to decompress after a long day at school.
But just to keep things real, we totally still have days where my kids watch too much TV or play video games too long. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m running a super ‘tight ship’ over here with our weekly schedule. It’s probably more like a party boat with the Captain making up the route as he goes, but at least it’s in the water and we’re headed somewhere!
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, has two sons, and baby daughter. Click here to read more of her Mommy Daze blogs.