For many families, social distancing and quarantining have created a whole new world of extended periods of togetherness. That means more snuggles, more playtime, and more family meals together. It also means more pets and more children creeping into the background of your Zoom meetings, more cooking, more cleaning, more planning, and a bit more stress. With the world working to manage COVID-19, the need to manage summer schedules has also crept upon us.
Sensory-Friendly Summer Schedules
As parents refine activity options for their children this summer—outside or inside the home—it is helpful to consider a child’s unique needs and sensory preferences to create meaningful structure. Sensory-friendly schedules offer opportunities for children to engage their brains and sensory systems in dynamic and thoughtful ways. They also provide flexibility for active high energy moments throughout the day paired with calm moments to reenergize and refocus. Thoughtfully planning your child’s day ahead of time will allow you to consider when your child needs breaks, when they need more parental support and when they can play more independently. Through creating structured opportunities for children to build summer routines while having fun, they will best learn to not only cope but flourish during these long summer months!
Recently, Skills on the Hill offered a free community session on building summer schedules and communicating daily plans to children. Here is what one parent had to say after practicing her newly learned tips and tricks:
“I am having a productive day implementing our new strategies for a better week. When I posted [my son’s] new color-coded schedule next to the fridge, he immediately gave me a hug. He said, ‘That’s not too bad! I can do that.’ I felt like you gave me the tools to be a better mom. Thank you,” said the mother of a 7-year-old who attended Skills on the Hill’s Surviving Summer series.
Tips for Managing Virtual Camps
Many large scale camps are out in many regions. Virtual activity groups and camps are a great way to add structure to your child’s day without over-scheduling them. To avoid the experience of virtual class fatigue, consider shorter duration virtual offerings! Look for activity groups that offer the chance for your child to move their body, engage in friendly social interactions, and teach a new skill. Occupational therapists frequently use easily learned novel activities to help increase attention, focus, and overall playful engagement in a fresh and new way. Use these tips when choosing your virtual options this summer:
- Activities are developmentally appropriate. This means that the requirements of the activity meet your child’s abilities. For example, while your 3-year-old toddler may enjoy chunky building blocks, a Lego class with tiny pieces might be tricky and frustrating for their little fingers.
- Instructors are friendly and well-trained. Ensure that the class leader is enjoyable and well-trained. How does he or she change activities to meet the needs of different children? Do they speak comfortably and clearly? Are they well prepared?
- Consider your needs as the parent. Are you still juggling work calls throughout the day? Do you need to be present for the group session or can your child participate on their own? For younger children, movement groups are a sensory-friendly way to jump-start their day and play with a caregiver!
- Avoid over-scheduling. While having several online options is great, make sure your child has time away from the computer screen throughout the day. More than one hour at the computer screen is tricky for kids and not recommended by most pediatricians. Make sure to balance opportunities for kids to play freely and give breaks to unwind with fewer expectations.
At Skills on the Hill, activity groups include interest topics such as kid-friendly cooking, Lego building, kids yoga, origami learning, infant/baby development support, and dance parties (seriously—the kids will have no idea they are working on real learning and motor skills). Zoom is COOL again for your kids!
Also, be sure to stay tuned for a Skills on the Hill giveaway exclusively for DC Area Mom Collective followers on their Facebook page! You don’t want to miss out.
About Skills on the Hill
Skills on the Hill is a pediatric therapy clinic in DC and Arlington, VA. At Skills, we specialize in supporting and empowering families through many of life’s challenges. During this unique time, we have reimagined the way that therapy and parent support look like. Parents are concerned about their children’s physical and social-emotional development—we have the tools to keep them connected and on track both in-person and virtually. Our new Parent Support Network includes a menu of options including specialized parent support groups, a dynamic parent education webinar platform, fun virtual activity groups for children, and a variety of in-person mini-camps and therapeutic groups.