March is often a tough month for parents and kids. The excitement of the new school year is long gone, the holiday season is over, the humdrum of the usual routine has become stale, and the summer is not quite around the corner. It can be difficult to stay motivated—to get through the school week with a smile or with the same effort as everyone applied when the teachers and activities were new. But of course, you can’t kick back just yet—there are still at least a couple of months of homework, afterschool activities, and commitments to get through before breathing a sigh of relief that summer is here

Get Motivated

So, what can you do to stay motivated? I would like to offer a few ideas that will keep you and your family smiling through the rest of the school year:

  • Become a tourist in your own town: Look for one or two activities that you’ve never done, right in your backyard. It can be as simple as attending storytime at the library, or visiting a playground that you have never explored. You’ll be surprised at how something so simple can brighten the week for everyone.
  • Change up the menu: Over the next few months, introduce new foods or menus to your usual repertoire. It doesn’t have to be complicated! For example, kids love themed dinners (Italian night with pizza and garlic bread; Mexican tacos with different toppings). You can also add little surprises to school lunch boxes, or serve up weekend breakfast treats like shaped pancakes (use a cookie cutter), or how about breakfast for dinner.
  • Spring clean: At first, you may not warm to the idea of tidying up or sorting through clothes or toys. But once you and your child get started, it cannot only be fun, but offer a sense of accomplishment and an eye to the coming summer months.
  • Read a book, watch a movie, play a game: Kids love repetition, so you have probably been reading the same bedtime books, watching the same TV shows, and playing the same board games over and over for the past few months. Shake it up a bit with some new selections. There is a world of fabulous children’s books and movies that your child has probably never seen—both available free at your local library, if you don’t feel like committing to a purchase. Plan a family movie or game night. You might introduce a new board game or movie (maybe one that you loved as a kid) and have some fun.

You will be surprised at how a few changes can really brighten up the final stretch of the year. As you introduce these small motivators, they will surely put a smile on your child’s face; and that smile is sure to motivate you as well!

Dr. Susan Bartell is a family psychologist. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions That Kids Ask.