Vacation Time and Parenting: Steps to Make it Fun

Children and parents alike look forward to the lazy days of the summer months.  We imagine happy moments on our family vacations.  Children running and playing and painting popsicle mustaches.  But right around the middle of July the honeymoon period fades, and we find ourselves screaming, lecturing on the importance of being grateful for the time spent together, and overwhelmed with finding things to do.  The following are tips and ways to manage these days of summer.

Maintain A Routine (as much as possible)

Following exact time of day is not so important.  It is the sequence and pattern of the routine that makes the difference.  Here is an example of a typical day for children (adjust for your age group and naps, if applicable):

  1. Breakfast
  2. Outside play/walk
  3. 1st nap (if under 2 y.o.)
  4. Free Playtime
  5. Lunch
  6. Naptime/Quiet Time
  7. Play/Planned Activity
  8. Dinner
  9. Bedtime Routine

Be mindful of screen time/media hours, which you can plug in to this routine in the playtime slots.  The American Pediatric Association currently recommends that children and teens engage with media/screen time one to two hours per day.

Maintain and Manage their Eating and Sleeping Schedules

Most children need to eat every three hours, so make sure they are having meals and snacks throughout the day to keep from feeling hungry.  Seems easy enough, but sometimes on vacation we forget this tip or find ourselves fighting because the entire family has forgotten to eat.  Some nutritionists agree that a diet high in protein, fat and vegetables can help children remain leveled and less hyper.  At our space we love the work and website of Your Kids Table. This a a great resource for tips on feeding our children.  Her ideas on picky eaters are amazing.

A child or teen is sleep deprived when they have not had the allotted amount of time needed for their body and neurology to recoup.  Sleep deprivation creates hyper-activity, conduct/behavior issues, mood-swings and memory loss.  During the summer months a lot of families become lenient as it pertains to sleep and sometimes it is necessary, especially when you want your 5-year-old to see the fireworks at Disney World.  However, sleep deprivation is the #1 culprit for most behavioral issues in children.  Here are the recommended hours of sleep for each age group within a 24-hour period (primary sources Dr. Marc Weissbluth's research and Zero to Three Organization):

  • INFANTS: - 0-4 month olds - 16-17 hours of sleep, 4-11 month olds - 14-15 hours
  • TODDLERS: - 1-2 y.o. - 12.5-14 hours, 3 y.o. 11-12.5 hours
  • PRE-SCHOOLERS/KINDERGARTENERS: 4-6 y.o. - 11-12 hours
  • SCHOOL AGE: 7-12 y.o. 8-10 hours
  • TEENS: 13+ 8-10 hours of sleep
Please remember that children younger than 5 years old generally wake up 2 to 3 times a night. Most of them still need a nap.
— Lina Acosta Sandaal, MA

Handling Long Car Trips and/or Plane rides

  1. When traveling with young children we must remember the ones that need to adjust are the adults around these little ones.  To be seated without play and exploration is almost impossible for most children under 4.  If they tantrum or lose their patience, speak to them with compassion and remember how difficult it is to be out of their daily routine.
  2. Try to travel in the hours the children are usually sleeping.  Their bodies' sleep rhythm will take over and they will sleep during the trip.
  3. Bring them a large selection of toys and activities they can do in the plane or car (here's a vlog for ideas).  Most kids change activity every 10-15 minutes; keep this in mind when selecting toys and activities.
  4. Play and talk with them.  Having your undivided attention and connection helps them stay focused, calm, motivated and emotionally regulated. Sorry parents! No lounging and reading on your phone when traveling with children.

You need your Oxygen Mask First

This is true of every day in parenting, but takes on special importance when on vacation and during the summer months.  Make sure that you remember to take care of yourself before you manage your children (read this in case you need help with this one).  It is vacation after all.  Plan ahead and think about when you will need assistance, time to yourself, or the acceptance that the children may melt down because of that late night dinner with friends.  FYI an adult is sleep deprived if they have not had 3 consecutive nights of 6+ hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Get those Zs.

So here's to a great summer vacation and getting past that Mid-July hump!

Click here to watch a clip of Telemundo's national morning show with a segment on choosing a summer camp for your kids. 

Click here to watch a clip of Telemundo's national morning show with a segment on choosing a summer camp for your kids.