Summer break is the time for lazy days, big adventures, and making lots of memories. Still, kids thrive on structure (and so do I). Having a flexible summer schedule for kids will help you keep life balanced.
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I LOVE summer time! Give me a sunny day and a big slice of watermelon and I’m one happy girl. I dream of roasting s’mores, exploring mountain trails, and splashing at the pool together. Summer is magic.
Still, I like structure to my days. And so do my kids–my oldest son in particular needs a schedule to live by (he’s my child through and through).
This year, summer feels a little bit weird. We’ve all been home for the past several months, and so it kind of feels like we’re already doing summer–other than the whole “distance learning” thing. And I know some people are beyond ready to kick the whole “homeschool” thing to the curb and just RELAX.
Why do my kids need a daily summer schedule?
When we don’t have any structure to our days, my kids end up bored and fighting with each other. And I end up feeling grumpy and unproductive. Having structure helps my kids (and me) feel more secure, knowing what to expect from life each day.
That’s not to say we won’t ever throw caution to the wind and hop in the car for a spontaneous adventure, but I like having a predictable rhythm to our days to fall back on when we don’t have special activities planned.
I tried to give our schedule enough structure to keep us on track, but leave enough flexibility to enjoy the freedom of summer. After all, that’s what summer is about, right? Having the freedom to do ALL the things we never seem to have the time for during the busy school year.
Here’s what our daily summer schedule for kids looks like:
Our summer schedule explained
My kids usually wake up between 6:30 and 7:30. I like to keep the early hours low key so that we can wake up slowly and enjoy breakfast together.
My husband heads to the “office” (currently he’s working from home in a spare bedroom) at about 9:00. This makes a great transition time for us to do our daily learning time.
Summer is still a time for learning in our house, but I try to keep things play-based and hands-on. We choose topics we want to learn about together, and we use our learning time to read books, do experiments, make crafts, etc. Last year, we loved doing these summer activity books, and I just bought new ones for this summer.
By the time we’ve done an hour or so of structured learning, we’re ready to play! Last year, this included bike rides, trips to the library, meeting up with friends at the park or splash pad, etc. These days, we’re staying at home more, but we’re still hoping to get out on some fun adventures this year, even if we’re limited to more socially distant options. On days when our outings are longer (like hiking), we’ll take a picnic lunch with us.
Lunch is usually around 11:30 or 12. To simplify mealtime, when COVID struck several months ago, I simplified my meal-planning and put breakfast and lunch menus on repeat. Several months later, I’m still loving this set-it-and-forget-it approach to feeding my family.
After lunch, it’s chore time…AKA “power half-hour” (if you want to sound more exciting). This is a new addition to our schedule, so we’ll see if I end up tweaking the timing depending on how it goes. My plan is to set a timer for 10-15 minutes that we’ll all spend cleaning up one of our family zones together (kitchen, mudroom, backyard, garage, etc.). Then, we’ll set another 15 minute timer for the kids to work on their individual chores/zones. If they do their chores during the power half-hour, I’ll help them. Otherwise, they’re on their own if they wait until later.
Around 12:45, we snuggle up to read and have quiet time. My youngest (two and a half years old) still naps some days, but regardless of who is sleeping we ALL have mandatory quiet time for at least an hour.
We’ve done daily quiet time ever since my kiddos stopped napping, and I tell everyone I know that we will continue doing quiet time until the the kids move out of the house. I ADORE my children, but it’s essential for everyone’s sanity (especially mine) that we get a little alone time during the day.
Want to know what they DO during quiet time and how we make it work? See the following post…
After an hour, I let my older two have some educational screen time. We are going to keep using the same programs we used during the school year (rotating through Epic Books, Khan Academy, Teach Your Monster to Read, Starfall and Prodigy). They know and like these programs, so it’s hands off for me. That’s critical, because this is my prime work time during the day.
Note: On days when my two-year-old rejects naps, he still does quiet time for an hour, and then I let him watch a show while the other boys are on the computers. I don’t love using the TV as a babysitter, but as my husband reminds me: letting your child watch a show doesn’t make you a bad parent. Sometimes, I worry too much and I need to be reminded to chill out.
After quiet time, we have a snack, and then spend the rest of the afternoon doing free play time…usually outside. This is our most unstructured part of the day, and I’m okay with that.
When it’s time for me to start making dinner (usually around 5:00), we take a few minutes to clean up, and then I let them watch a show while I cook. Screen time is a great motivator for my kids to be willing to clean up, and it saves us from bedtime battles later. Sometimes, they skip screen time before dinner so they can plan Minecraft with Daddy after dinner (their new obsession).
Want more ideas to get kids to clean up willingly? Try this…How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up: 6 Tried-and-true Strategies
Since Daddy is working from home these days, we can eat earlier (around 5:30), and then spend the evening playing games, going on bike rides, watching a movie, etc.
Bedtime routine starts around 7:30 or 7:45. Our goal is to have everyone in bed, lights out by 8:30. That’s including the time I spend reading aloud chapter books to my older two sons in their beds (my favorite mama tradition).
I know many families stay up late in the summer, but we just don’t. My kids hardly EVER sleep in no matter how late they stayed up the night before, so I reap the consequences of late nights (i.e. super grumpy kids) if we do them. Occasionally, we will let them stay up late for something special, but most nights we rely on our blackout curtains and send everyone to bed on time.
And that’s it–our days in a nutshell. Keep reading for a few ideas of how to make a summer schedule work for your family!
Tip #1: Post the schedule where your kids can see it
It’s one thing for YOU to know how your days are going to go, but it’s also helpful to keep your KIDS informed. Especially for kids who struggle with transitions, try making a visual schedule. Having the daily routine visible on the wall helps them know what to expect. I just printed out some simple word strips, added clip art for my younger kids that can’t read yet, and laminated them for durability.
Don’t want to make your own? Here’s a done-for-you free printable visual schedule.
Tip #2: Be flexible
Please understand that our schedule is meant to be VERY flexible. I’m a firm believer in having a schedule, but also being willing to throw the schedule out the window when necessary. There are days when we stay in jammies later, days when we don’t do chores until right before bed because we left the house in a hurry in the morning, days when we stay out late and I don’t make my kids clean up the massive Lego pile in the family room.
The whole point of having a schedule is to have a structure to fall back on when we DON’T have special things going on. This is how our life looks on the humdrum days, the simple days. But we don’t hold ourselves strictly to it.
I just have to say that out loud for the moms like me who tend to get a little too…ambitious.
I’m curious, are you a summer scheduler or a go-with-the-flow mom? Tell me in the comments below!
Happy summer, everyone!
Want more ideas for making summer memorable for the whole family? Check out these posts: