My facebook feed has been flooded with back-to-school photos for weeks, my son starts back at preschool next week, and we’re a good week+ into September. I admit that I was not ready to end our summer, but it seems that the weather turned cool and fall-ish the moment we switched the calendar to September, so now I feel more ready. But what a summer it’s been.
We didn’t doing anything especially cool or unique – no family trip (we had an awesome trip to Maui last January), no big events – just lots of full, rich summer days. I admit that last spring I felt a lot of trepidation heading into a summer with no preschool and lots of days that were blank slates. My sweet boy is pretty much the exact opposite of myself when it comes to social needs. Since he was around 18 months old, he wakes up every morning asking “Who are we seeing today? Where are we going? Is anyone coming over?” While I don’t relate, I recognize his need to be with people, and I have done my best to meet those needs (for everyone’s sake) as he’s grown up. Preschool has been a great way for him to connect with friends and have some independence from me. Last spring, it seemed like his social needs were increasing, and I worried how our summer would go. I prayed and I plotted, and what I came up with was the weekly calendar:
A sheet of dry-erase poster board that hangs on the kids’ door with a full view of the week ahead. Each Sunday morning, the new week is revealed, and Luke has been known to ask about it as early as 2am in the morning. With our highly spirited boy, you just never know how an idea like this will go over. We’ve done visual schedules in the past, but he’s never fully embraced them. But this one was a winner. And it has greatly reduced the number of meltdowns regarding “What are we doing?! I don’t want to stay home! Who can come over?!” Now he can see the mix of outings and friend time and time at home, and is more accepting of the big picture. Which is not to say that I never heard him complain about wanting more social time, or asking “Is this a ‘down day,’ mom?” with a sarcastic tone (gotta admit, I feel a glimmer of pride that I can almost hear his use of air quotes – soon I’ll teach him my signature eye roll) – but overall, it has been a great success for both of us.
And we were busy. So many fun outings and playdates. Parks, berry picking, hikes, zoo days, riding the bus, spray parks, camping locally with my parents in their camper, the marine life center, and tons of picnics – just lots of fun enjoying our lovely PNW weather.
These two kiddos are at such a fun age for all these little adventures, it was really a blast.
And when we were home, I tried to sprinkle in some “scheduled” activities, which made Luke feel better. I’m a big fan of open, self-directed play (especially now that Luke and Gracie are such awesome playmates), but mentally Luke likes more structure. Often, he would get so caught up in playing that he would forget about what was on the calendar, so we would just skip it. If the kids were having a hard time playing together, it was nice to already have a planned activity to whip out and turn everyone’s attitudes around.
Mostly we did “craft time” and “school time.” Crafts were easy – the kids love painting, so we’d do that a lot. Chalk paint was a big hit for everyone. School time was my way of sneaking in extra OT work for Luke. They would each get ~15 minutes of tablet time with the ABC Mouse program, which was super exciting for them because they didn’t even know we owned a Kindle. While one was working on that, I worked with the other one on a hands-on project. I got so many great ideas from my friend Stacie’s Fine Motor ABC book, and the kids usually loved getting to do this part of school time. It was fun to come up with different activities (like the awesome 50 cent lacing cards I found at a garage sale!) and surprise them with it.
And can I just say? My boy has come so far in the last 6 months! It’s probably a post for another day, but I am just so thankful for our time in occupational therapy. Not many people know about Luke’s challenges because they are so easily masked by his super energetic and social personality. But he has to work so hard in a lot of areas – most fine motor tasks like writing and cutting are really challenging for him, as well as some gross motor planning (he wasn’t even able to pedal a tricycle or use a balance bike until a couple months before his 5th birthday, which I’m sure would be super surprising to a lot of people). I am so proud of how far he’s come, and how hard he has worked. “School time” was a big breakthrough for us, because previously he had been unwilling to work on these often frustrating tasks while at home with me.
Overall, it has been a great summer. I love cozy weather, so moving into fall is not too sad for me, though I will miss this particular season – the sweet sounds of my 2.5 and 5 year old playing together, and finding delight in the simplest activities. So long, sweet summer.