Have you noticed that living in Quebec makes it more difficult for our children to develop independence? Why is this? Because each season has its own set of little instructions that children have to learn from year to year. Some examples? In winter, there are mittens and boot felts to dry when you enter the house. In the spring, boots full of mud must be removed before going through the door. During school time, there are school bags and lunch boxes to unpack every night. In the summer, you have to think about putting on sunscreen every morning before going out. When our children go several weeks or even months without having to do anything, they very quickly break their habits, and that's normal! Each time a new season begins, we must help them to put these good habits back in place. Conclusion: Quebec parents are doomed to repeat their habits for the rest of their lives! The good news is that visual cues can help you save your saliva and your patience!
In this blog article, I suggest that we set up a summer independence station to facilitate the integration of these little habits that we would like to see in our children for this time of year. The big advantage of the "beautiful season" is that we can live outside! This allows us to have a house that stays clean and tidy. Here, we have even built an outdoor shower so that the children come in at the end of the day, all clean, no more sand between their toes.
Before setting up this station, I made a list of the things that take me the most time to do for the children but I also took note of the little irritants, those little things that I repeat most often throughout the summer.
Here's what I came up with:
- Apply sunscreen to them every morning
- Apply mosquito repellent if necessary
- Make sure they wear hats, especially between 11:00 and 3:00.
- Make sure they drink enough water.
- Manage the 1001 round trips in the house without removing their shoes and also without closing the door bringing in a lot of sand and mosquitoes each time.
- Responding to "Mommy, I'm hungry when is snack time?" or "Mommy, I'm thirsty, can I have some water?"
During the school year I always have this little homework bin that's actually an IKEA cart. That little cart becomes useless in the summer. So I've decided to turn it into a summer self-sustaining station. Since the cart is on wheels, it can be easily moved from the hallway to the patio. Here's what I put on it so that the children are as autonomous as possible, so that I don't have to watch them all the time or repeat 1000 times "close the door", "take off your shoes", "no it's not time for a snack yet", "have you been drinking water" etc. I've also decided to use it as a summer station.
In my home base station there is:
1- The biggest sunscreen in the world, with a pump (very important!), the sign "My sunscreen routine" and a time timer.
First step before going out: put on sunscreen. I laminated the "My sunscreen routine" poster and hung it on the cart. The older kids can do it on their own and sometimes give a hand to the younger ones when I'm busy. I added a time timer so that they respect the 15 minutes of penetration before swimming.
2- A bottle of mosquito repellent
I put a lemongrass mosquito repellent on it so the little ones can use it on their own. For long walks in the forest, I put the mosquito repellent, the one with DEET to protect against ticks.
3- Everyone's caps, hats and sunglasses
The caps are always in the same place and above all accessible without having to enter the house. When 11 o'clock rings everyone must have a hat on their head. I often put the big one in charge of keeping an eye on the time and warning the group.
4- Everybody's water bottles
In one of the baskets in my cart are everyone's water bottles. Often I fill them half full and put them in the freezer the day before. I fill the other half the same morning. That way they always have cold water at hand. The idea is that they don't have to go home every time they get thirsty. Every time they go to the cart they have to drink a little water. If I pick up the water bottles at night and they are still full, I know they haven't had enough to drink.
5- An am snack and a pm snack
I buy snacks such as soy sticks or corn and flax seed crackers that I portion out in small dishes at the beginning of the week. In the morning, I put two per child in the bin of my autonomy station with the bottled water. One for the morning snack (10am) and another one for the afternoon snack (3pm). Once again, this avoids the small round trips around the house.
6- A watch (or a clock):
This allows them to see the time so they know if dinner is approaching, if the snack time is past, etc.
7- A hook on the doorknob of a blank "Little Messenger" on which I wrote: "Don't forget to take off your shoes before going to the bathroom and also to close the door behind you!
The only reason they have left to get in the house is to go to the bathroom. All I need is a chemical toilet outside! (No I won't go that far!) This door hanger reminds them of the two most important things. It works pretty well!
I love to see them organizing themselves! Not that I don't want to take care of them, but to see the pride they take in not needing me every second fills me with happiness. Not only does it make daily life easier, but it literally changes the way they see themselves, seeing themselves as independent beings, able to organize themselves.
And you, what would you add to this station of autonomy?