Summer breezes in bringing family trips, new adventures and late nights. But all good things come to an end...and sometimes - let's be honest - it's a bit of a relief to get back to a quieter and more manageable season. So as these free-wheeling, open summer days come to a close, we start to think about the rhythms of fall.
As doulas we love helping our clients plan, organize, and make their life as simple as possible, to allow time for deeper connections with littles and partners alike. Here are some practical tips, gleaned from our experience as both doulas and as parents, for establishing a successful fall rhythm.
MAKE A MORNING FLOW
Mornings can be tough, especially for back to school. Setting expectations and then having a list of those expectations can help everyone - including parents! We usually make two charts. The first divides the morning routine into 15 minute blocks for each person - to keep us parents on track. The second has simple pictures and is specific for the kids. We also have an ‘out-the-door’ checklist that has things like shoes, glasses, backpack, and checking the weather to see if you need a jacket.
MAKE AN AFTERNOON/EVENING PLAN
For the afternoon and evening, having a similar flow helps to establish an after school routine. Routine sets expectations. When setting your post-activity or school routine be mindful of scheduling in time and space to decompress and ground into being home. This is important for littles and adults! Also, similar to the ‘out-the-door’ checklist, a bedtime list with pictures is priceless. You can take pictures of your children doing tasks like brushing their teeth, then print them and use them to make the list.
MOVE THE CLOCK
We tend to let bedtime slide during the summer, but as the sun starts to set earlier we start to inch up bed time. It’s important to slowly work bedtime back to where you want it for yourself and your children. Pick a goal bedtime and then move bedtime earlier by 15 minute increments each day until you reach your goal time. If you laminate the bedtime list from above you can write the times you want those tasks to be completed on the actual chart - then change as you needed. The same goes with wake-up times that may have crept later over the summer.
GET THEM EXCITED FOR FALL
Children at any age want to feel they have a voice and some control in their life. Whenever possible, let them pick out some or all of their own fall clothes, school supplies, a new lunch box, or a new after school book or toy. This will help them feel like a “big kid” and get excited for the new season ahead.
CREATE A WELCOMING SPACE FOR ART OR HOMEWORK
Homework can be a cause of anguish for most families. Creating an organized, creative space can at least set a positive tone. Again, engaging your kids in helping you design it will give them a sense of investment in it. Having an afternoon routine will establish a time so they know exactly when it’s time for homework. And for the little ones staying home, having a space to paint, color or play lets them have the freedom to create and do their own "homework."
CREATE A LUNCH BOX PACKING STATION
Having a basket with all your snack options and prepped food makes packing lunches easier. Older kids can pack part or all of their own lunches; if you can keep the snack station somewhere toddlers can reach on their own, the ability to pick their own snack gives them some agency and may reduce snack time battles.
Lastly: food prep! Even if a freezer full of ready-to-go entrees isn't within reach, it’s always helpful to have a meal plan or some go-to meals for breakfast and dinner. You don’t have to get specific but if you pick a theme for each day it helps direct your meal options. For example: Pasta Monday, Taco Tuesday, Stir Fry Wednesday, Breakfast for Dinner Thursday, Pizza Friday.
How do you center and prepare for the shift from sunny summer into the more structured days of fall? We love to learn from our clients and readers - please leave us your comments!