Summer days bring many fun things—water parks, trips to the beach, refreshing ice pops—but they also entail a departure from the normal daily routine. In this article, Sophie Agbonkhese shows that while there are benefits to following a more relaxed rhythm outside of the school year, setting up a summer schedule for kids will pay off in the long run.
Let’s be honest—summer is a time for having fun and most kids (and many adults) do not associate the word schedule with good times. Rather, it’s indicative of work, discipline, and boring routines.
It need not be so!
A great summer schedule will not be an echo of your family’s school year routine. Rather it will give you a framework for incorporating memorable summer activities into your lives without endangering your sanity.
Reasons to Stick to a Summer Schedule for Kids
Here are a few reasons why I love sticking to a schedule, even in the summer:
- Schedules help manage expectations. I find that kids do best when they know what’s coming up next. Schedules are a great way to give them this security without having to answer the question “What are we doing today?” every single morning.
- Schedules help you pack in more fun. All through the year, our family dreams about the summer break and all the exciting things we’ll get to do. However, we also have plenty of household chores and projects that we put off until summer, knowing it’s the only time we’ll be able to complete them. If we aren’t careful, these projects can take over and rob us of the chance to do all the things we’d hoped to do. A schedule allows us to make time for both.
- Maintaining structure makes the end of summer easier. The freedom of summer can be hard to give up as September approaches. If you’ve maintained routines such as bedtimes and chore charts throughout the summer, easing into the fall will be much less painful.
GET INPUT FROM YOUR KIDS
As I prepared to write this article, I asked my children what they thought was the most important thing to keep in mind while creating a summer schedule. If you have older kids, I highly recommend doing the same. Their idea of what constitutes the perfect summer schedule may be vastly different from yours.
According to my children, the best summer schedule is not too rigid and not too tightly packed. They also suggest leaving time in the schedule for summer jobs and visiting friends. My kids even had the idea to make a budget to cover all the fun things you plan to add to your schedule.
On these points, I agree with them. Your summer schedule should give you a little structure. It does not necessarily need give you a precise play-by-play for every hour of the day. One of the simplest summer schedules I’ve seen simply said: “Before screen time, you must: 1) do your chores, 2) spend one hour each reading, moving, and creating.” This isn’t a comprehensive schedule. But it does give structure to the day and instills the family’s priorities into the routine.
Rigidity is another factor to avoid. Your kids’ summer schedule might be amazing. However, if it prohibits them from a spontaneous trip to the ice cream shop or a last-minute camping trip with friends, it will quickly become the bane of your family’s existence.
Your kids may have great ideas for making a fun summer schedule. So be sure to include them in the process. The first step in doing so is to create a summer bucket list as a family.
CREATING A SUMMER BUCKET LIST
For years, my family has created a summer bucket list each June. It’s a special tradition that helps make summer unique and treasured.
It’s also a great starting point for your child’s summer schedule.
A summer bucket list is simply a list of ideas for all the activities you’d like to do over the summer. To make your own, grab a large piece of paper, some colored markers, and some stickers.
Ask your children to list everything they want to do this summer. Be sure to include younger kids as well. Their ideas may be some of the easiest to pull off and the most precious to experience.
Here are a few fun ideas to get you started.
Summer Bucket List Ideas:
- Go to a water park
- Go on a family bike ride
- Camp in the backyard
- Have a lemonade stand
- Have an outdoor movie night
- Visit a local amusement park
- Go to the zoo
- Make ice cream floats
- Host a summer fun club
- Swim in a lake
- Take up a new sport
- Create a summer scrapbook
When you’ve finished the list of things you want to do, post it somewhere visible in your home so everyone can see it regularly. As you complete each activity, check it off.
HOW TO SET UP YOUR SUMMER SCHEDULE FOR KIDS
With all this information in hand, creating the summer schedule for your kids should be pretty straightforward. Consider whether you want to do a daily schedule or a weekly schedule.
SETTING UP A DAILY SCHEDULE
If you plan to have a consistent timetable that you follow each day, a daily summer routine may be best for you. This option works well if you or your children thrive with a predictable routine that doesn’t fluctuate much from day to day.
To set up your daily schedule, break the day down into blocks of time. These could be anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. You can be as specific or general as you like. The example given above of needing to complete four tasks before screen time is quite general. But if your kids are younger or if they need more direction, you’ll want to create a more rigid block schedule.
Here are some examples of activities that could constitute your blocks of time.
A morning routine might include breakfast, chores, a Bible study, reading together, or going for a walk or swim as a family. Having a consistent morning time routine can make the rest of the day run more smoothly.
After lunch is a great time for a little rejuvenation. For younger siblings, this could be a nap time. For older kids, it might be a chance to read, write, or draw.
Summer is the perfect time for kids to catch up on all the great books they didn’t have time to read during the year. It can also be beneficial for young readers to maintain a daily reading routine and strengthen their skills outside of the school environment. Grab a summer reading list from your local library and stock up on kids’ books so you always have an answer to the “I’m bored” refrain.
Independent play time
Just because it’s summer does not mean you are now completely responsible for entertaining your kids from dawn to dusk. In fact, creativity blossoms most when kids are encouraged to entertain themselves. These are the hours for blanket forts and backyard construction projects (cardboard boxes and painters tape are great for this). It’s the perfect time for Lego masterpieces, paper airplane competitions, and anything else they can come up with.
Like independent play time, free time is a less structured part of your child’s summer schedule. It may also be used for free play, but it can also be defined more broadly. For example, this could be a two-hour window before dinner where you pull one of your bucket list ideas from a jar and go do it. It could be playing a board game as a family or making popsicles together. If your kids get caught up in their books or play, you may want to let them continue with that in your free time block.
Depending on where you live, summer may be the only season where kids can comfortably play outside every day. The opposite may also be true, and it may be too hot to play outside where you are. If it’s an option though, getting kids outside daily is a good idea. It gives them exercise and helps them burn off steam. A daily dose of natural Vitamin D will also keep their spirits lifted.
Depending on the ages of your kids, maintaining a consistent bedtime routine over the summer months could make all the difference in how well they adjust to the freedom and excitement of summer. I know some families with older kids who can get away with not enforcing bedtime in the summer. But this has never been the case with our family. Our young kids—and our teens, too—do best with a consistently early bedtime. So we stick with that no matter the season.
SETTING UP A WEEKLY SUMMER SCHEDULE
If you like the idea of a schedule but also want to switch things up each day, a weekly schedule may be the better option for you. In this case, plan for a good balance of routine and fun activities for each day of the week.
You could still have your structured morning time routine and use your afternoons to plan a theme day for each of the days of the week. For example:
Make It Monday
Summer offers us the freedom to take on the creative projects we haven’t had time for the rest of the year. You could designate Monday as your creative day and take on a new project each week. Or you could have one big project that you work on each Monday throughout the summer.
Field trips are a classic summer activity. Go to the museum, aquarium, art gallery, waterslides, or anywhere else you’ve listed on your bucket list.
It’s likely that water will make an appearance more than once a week. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have its own special day. Try setting aside one day for going to lakes or pools, setting up a splash pad, or running through the sprinkler.
You could dedicate one day each week to doing acts of kindness for others. Mow a neighbor’s lawn, babysit for a friend who needs a day off, or make brownies to take to another family.
This might sound a little redundant as your schedule is already packed with fun, but you could reserve Fridays for a special type of fun. Maybe this is when you get together with friends and do some of the bigger, more time-consuming items on your summer bucket list. Or perhaps this is the day when your kids decide what’s on the schedule.
MANAGING YOUR CHILD’S SUMMER SCHEDULE
The summer schedule you set for your family is meant to be a helpful tool, not a burden. Monitor how things are going and make regular adjustments if needed. If you or your children start to feel tired or overly restricted following a schedule, you may need to ease up a little.
Hopefully, with a little preparation and some careful planning, your summer schedule for kids will give your family a sense of balance and will lead to a fun-filled and memorable summer for everyone.
Do you typically set up a summer schedule for your kids? What are some tips you might add to Sophie’s list?
Want more summer ideas from Sophie?
Click the button below to download Sophie’s free ultimate summer bucket list with 100 different activities you can do with your family to make the most of your summer vacation.
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