At Lonehollow, we have the best schedule in the world.
Our days are filled with kayak races and archery shootouts and our nights are filled with dance parties and carnivals. From breakfast to dinner, first period to sixth period, reveille to taps, each day is a whirlwind of playtime, laughter, and learning.
And while we always strive for a little bit of spontaneity, the truth of matter is, almost everything that happens at camp is planned out from beginning to end.
Why so scheduled?
Because research shows that consistency matters – a lot. There’s a link between stable routines and your child’s social-emotional health.
In an article titled “Why Routines Matter and How to Improve Them,” child development and family specialist Merete L. Kropp says that family routines “are important because they provide a rhythm to the day and ensure that children are getting the attention, nutrition and rest that they need in order to thrive.”
But we get it.
Establishing a family routine that works well for everyone and will last past next Tuesday can seem impossible. It’s easier for us at camp, where the variables are limited, and everyone is on the same schedule.
“Remember that each family’s priorities, expectations, and routines will look different,” Kropp says. “Find what can work for you and your family.”
You may not even notice it, but the little habits you fall into and the tentative schedules you follow at the start of a new school year are the beginnings of a routine that’s unique to your family specifically.
What works for others may not work for you, and that’s okay! According to Kropp, your routine only needs a few specific elements to be successful: nurturing interactions, mealtimes as a family, bedtimes, and shared story times.
With September coming to an end and your unique family routine starting to fall into place, we’ve listed some ways you can incorporate Kropp’s elements (and a little taste of camp) into your everyday life.
When you’re splitting your time between driving your 9-year-old to a different birthday party every Saturday and trying to teach your 15-year-old how to drive without having a heart attack, finding the time to give each of your kids an equal amount of undivided attention can be hard.
Don’t underestimate the time you spend sitting in pick-up/drop-off lines or in the bleachers before kick off! Use this unscheduled but inevitable wait time to squeeze in some girl talk or play a quick round of “I Spy” before sending your kids off to school or to practice or to grab the camera out of the car before the meet starts.
You can also use homework as an opportunity to spend some quality time together. Sit down with your third-grader as he figures out fractions or buy yourself a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” to re-read alongside your high school freshman.
Mealtimes as a Family
At camp we eat family-style for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we understand that sitting down to a home-cooked meal every day is a bit of stretch for most families.
Make it routine to sit down to dinner as often as you can, using those 20-30 minutes to debrief on the day, recount your successes, and tell funny stories.
Family dinners are great, but other meals count, too. If you can’t find a way to make dinner fit your schedule, try working in a family breakfast a few mornings out of the week, or make Sunday lunch a regular occurrence.
A good night’s rest is important for everyone, but going to bed at a regular time is especially important for kids, so every night during the summer, taps plays at 10:00 PM and the lights go out in main camp.
Your kids know that sleep is a necessity, but because they are kids, most will do their best to negotiate a later bedtime, no matter how fair and reasonable you try to be. Stand your ground when establishing a bedtime, but allow some room for flexibility.
When campers are showered and ready for bed on time, our counselors like to give them ten minutes of what we call “flashlight time” to read a chapter or two of their current book before the lights go out completely. Some cabins play a game called “Statues” where everyone stands still at the edge of their beds while a counselor walks around with a flashlight. If you are caught moving when the flashlight lands on you, you must get into bed. The winner receives a high five and then the lights go out.
Shared Story Times
If you and your family consistently struggle with bedtimes, consider using shared story times as an incentive to get to bed.
Start a new book together and read a chapter every night, but only if everyone has showered, brushed their teeth, and prepared their clothes for the next day before time is up! You can also end each night with a tuck into bed and a quick recap of the day’s highs and lows. Kids will say a lot in the dark that they won’t admit face-to-face and will look forward to sharing their stories with you at the end of the day!
You can always squeeze in shared story times throughout the day as well! Asking questions like “What’s new this year?” or “Tell me about a book you’re reading” while in the car or as you cook dinner with your kids will encourage them to open up and start sharing.
“The good news is that routines do not need to be rigid in their structure, nor is it necessary for routines to be a specific set of rules and regulations,” Kropp says. “When families have manageable routines in place, life can become simpler instead of adding complications.”