We know how busy motherhood can be and how wonderful it is to discover tips and tricks that nurture the everyday routine, especially during the ‘busier’ times of the year…aka…the ‘Back to School’ season. Hands up, if this is you this week, Mummas?
This season has us, deep in lunchbox meal prep, unpacking school bags, washing and ironing uniforms, buying school supplies, aiming for earlier nights with earlier wake ups, juggling little ones that are not quite yet at school, homework and the resumption of extracurricular activities…phew…the juggle is real. And the weeks of PLAY we recently embraced feel like a distant memory. Do you feel this too, my friends?
With all of this in mind, we are sharing four of our best tips that are sure to have you nurturing the flow of PLAY during the “Back to School’ season. Grab a notepad and paper to jot down your thoughts as your read this…allowing you to take action as soon as you can.
- Invitations to Play – a term often used in the Early Childhood setting to describe the intentional arrangement of a learning experience and/or a play space so that it invites little learners to explore and interact with materials through independent play. Quite often, an invitation is created with open ended and developmentally appropriate materials that aim to keep children engaged in their learning. They can be as easy or elaborate as you see working best for your family. The many benefits of an Invitation to Play when nurturing the flow of PLAY is having prepared play materials ready to go as they are needed in the daily rhythm, learners leading in their own play and a few extra minutes to do what it is that matters most to you, which is handy when in the busy seasons of life. The Hand in Hand Activity Kits can be presented as an Invitation to PLAY for different times of the day eg, first thing in the morning, straight after school as a way to wind down from their day as well as being used during ‘Sit with Me’
- Morning and Afternoon Rhythms and Routines – establishing rhythms and routines, particularly in transitions, is a great way to nurture the flow of PLAY during any season of life. Rhythms and routines are not bound by set times like a schedule – they tend to follow tasks completed in the same order. Have you heard of the Daily 5 am/pm system? It is a system we created and often share with Mummas as a tool to support positive and meaningful daily rhythms.
How this works for us – It is a series of five tasks to be completed before moving onto the next part of the rhythm/routine. We started with one task until it became a daily habit and gradually increased it to the five tasks until they all became daily habits. There are five tasks in the morning (am) and another five in the afternoon (pm). These 5 tasks can be anything that you see fit and working for your family eg, self-care, mindfulness, pack away belongings. The tasks can be different or the same for individuals, both adults and children, can be done with independence or help. With less time spent in transition and/or insisting on certain tasks to be completed, this is a system that will help establish a smoother ‘Back to School’ routine and indirectly the play rhythm. Pairing the daily 5 tasks with a visual timetable is also a fabulous addition to nurturing the flow of PLAY in the home and following a new routines.
‘Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible’.
Saint Francis of Assisi
- Meal Planning and Daily Activity Tubs – commonly known for its benefits in making cooking and food preparation easier, alleviating stress, saving time, eliminating waste and encouraging variety in the household. And for us, it is also known for being helpful when nurturing the flow of PLAY. Let me explain how this happens – first with how meal planning works and then with the added element of PLAY. Meal planning is the methodical process of working out what meals will be had on each day of the week, based on the daily rhythm/routine/schedule along with the ingredients require for each meal, a set time for grocery shopping along with the budget, time and preparation in mind. Meals are recorded on a planner such as paper, ceramic wall planner or whiteboard and adjusted accordingly each day/week/month. Sometimes, ingredients are prepped ahead of time to make the time spent cooking as minimal as it can be, giving back time to do more of the things that matter most to us. Now, with the added element of PLAY is what we refer to as Daily Activity Tubs – a series of tubs filled with high interest and developmentally appropriate learning experiences for little ones to engage in during meal prep and cooking times. The trick to keeping activities interesting and of value is to only use them when you really need to (as suggested with meal prep and cooking time) and rotating the resources weekly. You may choose to add one of the activities from the Hand in Hand Activity Kit with the recommended text eg, Pets Preschool kit – finger puppets with the Hairy McClary picture book.
- Set your priorities for the day – ending the day and beginning the next with a clear idea on what tasks, ideas, errands, and experiences need to be completed, is a great strategy for nurturing the flow of PLAY during ‘Back to School’ season. You may schedule block time for each of these priorities, so they are completed at a time during the day or night that serves you best. This time may vary from day to day or remain the same for you each day. As always, finding what works best for you is key and recognising that this may take abit of trial and error if you are not quite there yet, is important. By having these tasks clearly in mind, one is more likely to be productive and take action…giving them more time for other things such as PLAY and focusing on the Back to School routine.
As with all our celebratePLAY blogs we love leaving you with a set of actionable steps to help you get started right away.
- Start small – reflect on your current daily rhythm and identify which changes need to be made to work towards creating a smooth ‘Back to School’ routine in your home. Eg, meal planning, lunch box meal ideas master list, launch pad for the everyday school belongings or something totally different.
- Then, jot down the possible solutions you are going to try in order to remedy the current and/or upcoming ‘Back to School’ daily rhythm/routine.
- Once you have established your needs, build on this until you have reached a positive and effective ‘Back to School’ daily rhythm/routine that best serves you and your family.
- Grab a Hand in Hand Activity Kit as an addition to nurturing the flow of PLAY during ‘Back to School’ season.
Come and share with us which strategy resonates with you the most – 1,2,3 or 4. Which of these could you start straight away knowing it is likely to work for you and your family? Pop your thoughts below.
Erin is a Mum of two little learners, wife, Early Childhood and Primary School teacher aswell as the bizMum behind celebratePLAY. She lives a busy and play filled life in Sydney. Her greatest passions are organisation, gift-giving, helping others and lifelong learning.
You can find her:
Website - www.celebrateplay.com.au
Insta – www.instagram.com/celebrate_play