The Summer Routine Requires More Free Time
Instead of overscheduling, having more free time built into our summer days makes all the difference.
When I was a sleep-away summer camp counselor, the hardest part of the day wasn’t the Texas summer heat, or the average food, or being tired at the end of the week. I didn’t mind taking care of kids who were crying, or who got into arguments, or who needed help to get along.
No, the hardest part was the water relay races that were scheduled every day at 10 a.m. Every single day I got buckets of water poured on my head, and then I had to walk around like that for the rest of the day.
At sleep-away camp, every morning I dragged myself out of bed before the sunrise, got my campers ready for the assembly at the flagpole, shepherded them through the breakfast line to dine on chewy pancakes, and chaperoned them to their morning class.
When it was time for the water relay races which lasted from 10:00 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. (this camp was run precisely on schedule), the man directing the races always thought it was a good idea for the final race to be “Soak Your Counselor.” The kids loved it.
While he stayed dry, holding his whistle and clipboard, the rest of the adults sat at the end of the relay line so each kid could drench us with a bucket of water. It would have been fine if we had more time to dry off afterward, but there was not enough time before the next activity.
After getting my clothes and hair soaked, I shuffled my group of campers from art to lunch to music to swimming and then to the quiet time, that no kid wanted. Then it was dinner, assembly, canteen, and finally back in our cabin for lights out, and that’s when the flashlights came on.
This sleep-away camp packed the day full of activities to keep the kids occupied, but there wasn’t enough transition time. The counselors always had to rush the kids to the next thing. We hurried the kids who walked slowly because we only had five minutes to make it across the campground before the next activity on the schedule. At the end of the week we were worn out from all of it, especially from not taking care of ourselves.
The following year I chaperoned kids at a different sleep-away camp, one with more free time and a looser schedule. It was awesome. The kids loved it, and the adults did too. It was flexible, so we didn’t have to rush, and the adults were more enthusiastic about doing the activities that were wet, messy, and just plain fun.
So as I’m spending summer with my young kids, I’m trying not to pack too much into our daily schedule. Sometimes I veto the sprinkler games that always seem to end with one of my kids crying, but I don’t mind doing the other things they want to do that are messy. Having enough transition time built into our summer days makes all the difference.