How I'm Balancing Structure & Freedom For The Kids This Summer
The big debate among friends going into the summer was camp or no camp. Do we send our kids to block scheduled activities or embrace the freedom since they’re so little yada yada. I debated a bit. I loved the romantic notion of long summer days where we adventured together but equally I felt Bodie was ready for more separateness and stimulation than I could provide him at home with Lyla. So it got me thinking about how you can be both - structured and free with kids. Structure and freedom can sometimes feel at odds in parenting but I’ve come to find a lot of joy in both. There’s a lot of value in each for our kids but finding the right balance of both is conscious and unique to every child, stage and family.
And I think the bottom line is this: it has to be what keeps you as the person setting the tone for the home, healthy and happy. This is what works for us:
Structure has served us very well on sleep for both of my kids and it’s not something I flex on often. Not even in the summer. It definitely limits our outings and adventures and keeps our radius of exploring small especially with a 7 month old. But for us, the strict nap and bedtimes allow a predictability which lets me be more attune to needs and subsequently more calm and confident. I’m a big believer that rest is restorative for the kids but I also think it affords me and my husband alone time that we love too much to chip into.
Socialization was something I was pretty unstructured with in Bodie’s early stages. I read our moods and if we felt like a class or a playdate we went, if we didn’t we cocooned the two of us at home or at the park. As he’s grown into school and playgroups and simply more energy, I’ve become recently more conscious of giving him that time. Not forcing it but allowing him the consistent room to be independent of me and grow comfortable in a group dynamic and other environments. So I’ve committed to camp for 3-5 chunky weekday mornings. For Lyla, those mornings gift us the uncommitted time I enjoyed with Bodie when he was little and sometimes we play at home and sometimes we head to our favorite playspace or class.
Our afternoons and play is what I want to leave free. Free to choose if it’s going to be quiet art or building activities inside or picnics with friends or just a walk and scoot through the park to do chalk, blow bubbles and listen to live music until dinner at 5. For us, afternoons being blank, open-ended time to make choices based on how we’re feeling feels like enough space for me to enjoy without being overwhelmed with having to fill it.
Finally, there’s my schedule. This spring, we added into our dynamic a mother’s helper who can step in and play with the kids or hang back and help with laundry, food prep or organizing. For her sake, the kids’ and mine I was going to come up with set afternoons to leave and work. Instead, I’m giving myself the freedom to take each day and enjoy the gift of having an extra hand. If I have a coffee date or writing that I want to get done or I’m itching for some time solo I’m going to go with the afternoon plan. If I got enough done in the morning during Bodie’s camp and Lyla’s nap, I’m going to stay home and play and picnic.
Predictability, rest, learning and time for other relationships serves Bodie, Lyla and I but having an equal amount of room to take the pressure off and just listen to what we each need to be happy that day feels really good and really right for this summer.
What do you like structure around? How comfortable are you with free time as a family? Would love to know your summer schedules.