Summer! When it finally comes the whole family is craving time. We want lazy mornings and late nights. We soak up the unstructured bliss that comes after a full school year of schedules and deadlines. But it doesn’t take long for the whole family to feel the effects of a lax summer schedule. We fight. Nothing gets done. The kids get whiney, bored, and messy. Pretty soon you start counting down the days until the school year starts, wishing the summer away. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much work to put in place a summer schedule for kids. You’ll thank me later. Let’s get started!
Every family is different
The schedule your family needs for a great summer is not going to look anyone else’s summer schedule. That’s ok! What works for your family might not work for another.
The important thing is to find what works best for YOUR family. Consider the ages of your kids, how many kids you have, whether or not both parents are working, and any other extracurricular activities going on during the summer months. Your schedule might even be affected by your child’s sleep needs or family budget.
Leave plenty of free time
Although it’s tempting to fill your entire day with activities, chores, and learning, make sure to leave plenty of free time in your summer schedule too. Free time is important for kids (and adults!). It allows for creative play, down time, and space to be bored.
Boredom is not a bad thing! It’s in those moments of boredom that some of the best ideas are born.
Ask your kids for input
It might seem easier to set up a daily summer schedule for kids without getting their input. And that might be true if you have younger kids. But, older kids will want to have a say in what they do during the summer.
Let them help you come up with a list of activities they want to do, places they want to go, and things they want to learn. This will help them feel invested in their summer schedule and more likely to stick with it.
Do something fun every day
Are you adding a little excitement every single day? You should! Even if it’s just a small thing, like having a picnic lunch outside or playing in the sprinklers, make sure your kids are doing something they love every day.
A daily dose of fun will help them stay motivated to stick to the other parts of their summer schedule.
Keep it easy for yourself
Raise your hand if you are an overachiever parent? Or maybe just a wannabe overachiever parent? You will be tempted to pack in complicated, expensive, or time consuming activities for your kids. But your kids will remember and cherish the simple summer pleasures so much more than the complicated activities.
Some of the best summer memories are made when you keep it easy. So, don’t overthink it! Keep popsicles in the freezer, let them stay up late occasionally, and say yes when they want to run through the sprinklers.
Plan simple meals
Dinnertime in the summer can sneak up on you. The days cruise by and before you know it, it’s time to eat. Make an effort to have a simple meal schedule. Plan ahead by prepping meals on the weekends or keeping easy ingredients on hand.
This will help you avoid the dreaded question, “what’s for dinner?” when everyone is hangry.
I’ve never really subscribed to the no screens mentality in motherhood. Sometimes mom’s just need a break. But, I do notice that when my kids have too much screen time, no one is happy.
We all end up feeling sluggish, angry, and bored. So, make sure to include some screen-free time in your summer schedule.
You can have a family movie night, turn off screens during dinner, or have certain days or hours that are screen-free. Whatever you do, just be mindful of the amount of time spent on screens.
Quiet time (aka “me time”)
About three days into nearly every major school holiday, I’ll be tapped out and exhausted. I usually realize that I haven’t had much “me” time when I start snapping at my husband or kids.
To combat this, I’ve started trying to build quiet time into every day life. If you have younger kids who are napping, this is a natural part of your day. But once your kids are older, you will need to be more intentional about creating quiet time for yourself. Build it into your summer plans!
Don’t make it all about fun
Use this summer as a chance to teach your kids to work. Here’s a few easy ideas:
A few years ago my sister-in-law introduced me to a powerful idea. Power Hour. The idea is that we spend one hour as a family working on a project. This could be cleaning up the playroom, weeding the garden, or washing the car.
In our case, I stay home with the kids while my husband goes to work, so I get to choose what we do. 🙂 We set a timer for an hour, and then work together until the timer goes off. One hour of hard work and then done!
Regular chores are a part of my kids summer schedule. They have specific tasks that they are responsible for every day.
This helps them to learn how to work hard and be responsible. It also gives me a little break!
And, as an added bonus, kids who do chores tend to be more successful as adults. So, it’s a win-win!
Need ideas for chores? Read: The Best Chores for Kids
Chores for hire
Does your family give chores for hire? This can be a simple as writing down several chores that you are willing to pay the kids to do. In our house, that might include picking up dog poop outside, extra weeding, helping a younger sibling complete a chore, cleaning out the car, or wiping down all the kitchen cabinets.
The sky is the limit! Just be sure that you are clear about what needs to be done and how much you are willing to pay. This will help avoid arguments later on.
Pay them in fun
Some families prefer to “pay” their kids in fun activities rather than money. This can mean letting them choose the activity for family fun night or letting them pick a place to go for lunch.
You could also let them choose the activity for your next family outing. This can be a great way to get everyone involved in the planning process and make sure that everyone has a good time.
The summer slide is something that teachers often reference. Are your kids out of school for part or all of the summer?
If so, you’ll want to include some learning activities in your summer schedule. This can be as simple as reading books together, visiting the library, or working on a puzzle.
You could also visit a museum, go on a nature hike, or plant a garden. The options are endless!
The key is to find something that your kids will enjoy and that will help them to retain what they have learned during the school year. Our family does a few pages in a workbook every day. We use these workbooks every summer.
Give it time for the summer schedule to work
The transition to summer is messy and sometimes chaotic. Whether you have a schedule or not. The trick is to not give up too soon. Set you schedule and systems in place and then keep going. Give it time for your kids summer schedule to work.
Keep it visible
Unless you and your kids can see what is expected every day, it’s hard to keep a good schedule. Write it down. Print things out, and post it up on the wall where everyone can see. This will help everyone to know what is happening and when.
Be open to changes/flexibility
You might get a few weeks into summer and realize that a certain part of your schedule just isn’t working. That’s okay! That doesn’t mean that the schedule has failed. What does mean is that it’s time to tweak things!
Make changes as needed, and be open to the idea that things might look different than you originally thought.
The most important thing is that you have a plan. Having a summer schedule for your kids will help to make the season more enjoyable for everyone! What tips do you have for creating a great summer schedule? Share them in the comments
Make sure everyone is getting plenty of sleep
As summer progresses, it becomes more and more difficult for our kids to get enough sleep. With the later sunsets and warmer weather, they just want to stay up and play!
While it’s important to let them enjoy the summer evenings, it’s also important to make sure that they are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to crankiness, grumpiness, and even illness.
To help combat this, make sure that bedtimes are consistent and that everyone is getting enough rest.
Whole summer planning
In addition to having a daily or even weekly schedule, I find it helpful to be able to glance ahead at the entire summer. What is happening next weekend, or even that last weekend in August? Keep a good calendar so you can plan ahead for big events, out of town visitors, or even just a day trip to the beach. We like to schedule things such as:
- camping trips
- family reunions
- pre-planned day trips
- sports camps
- family vacations
Summer bucket lists
I also like to have a list of ideas for things to do with the kids on days when we don’t have anything specific planned. This could be simple things like going for a nature walk or visiting a new park.
You could also have a list of larger projects to work on, like painting a mural or building a fort. The key is to have something to reference when you need it.
One of the best ways I’ve found to create this list is to sit down with my kids to make a summer bucket list. We brainstorm all of the things we want to do together and then I write them down. This way, I have a list of ideas to refer to when we need it.
Our summer buckets usually include big things such as big trips, and small things like trying hair chalk or tie dying t-shirts.
Weekly activity ideas
Have you tried themed weekdays during the summer? This has been a lifesaver for our family on long summer days. This might include themes like those found below:
- Mondays: Make it Monday, Move it Monday
- Tuesdays: Take a trip Tuesdays, Learning Tuesday, Thinking Tuesday
- Wednesdays: Wet Wednesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday,
- Thursdays: Thoughtful Thursday, Time to Read Thursday
- Fridays: Fill a need Friday, Friend Friday, Fun Friday, Foodie Friday
- Saturday: Super Saturday, Selfless Saturday
In the past few years we’ve added extra fun to our summer with Adventure Club! Essentially, we invite friends and neighbors to join us once a week on a park trip, hike, or water day. It gets us out of the house regularly.
We have a lot of fun and it’s a great way to socialize our kids (and ourselves!) during the summer.
Sample Summer Schedule:
Still not sure what summer might look like in your home? Here is a example schedule that I used with my kids last summer.
- 7:00-7:30 am Wake
- 7:30am Breakfast
- 8:00am Get dressed/brush teeth
- 8:30-11:00 am Chores, doing workbook pages, reading
- 11:00 am Power Hour
- 12:00pm Lunch/lunch cleanup
- 1:00pm Finishing tasks from morning (usually at least one of my kids hasn’t finished their chores/workbook pages/reading).
- 2:00pm Free time with friends/nap for youngest child
- 5:30pm Dinner/Family Time
- 8:30 Bedtime
This was our basic schedule, but this might be shifted a bit if we go to the park or library in the morning.
Kids Summer Daily Checklist:
One of the best ways I’ve found to help my kids accomplish regular chores and activities is with a checklist. We use an After School Checklist during the school year
Read: Creating An After School Checklist
During the summer I like to have a checklist for my kids too. They love the reminder of what they need to do (without mom nagging them). Get your free Kids Summer Daily Checklist here.
Getting kids to do their checklist
Just having a checklist doesn’t mean that your kids are going to be excited to jump in. In fact, I’ve found that some days the checklist is hard to get through. Some ways we make the daily checklist more fun is to:
- Play music
- Set a timer
- Make it into a game
Creating the Best Summer Schedule for your kids doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. It’s possible to create structure for your kids without scheduling every moment of the day.
How do you keep summer structured but fun?