Summer vacation with kids is great, but it also comes with a fair amount of challenge! If you’re looking for a strategy for surviving (and thriving) this summer, developing a summer routine for your kids tops my list. Here’s why you should have one and how to make one that works for you!
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There is much about summer to look forward to — fun in the sun, more relaxed schedules, family vacations, and summer activities. But there can also be a fair amount of dread among parents.
As much as we love our kids, let’s not pretend there isn’t some challenge involved with having them all at home 24/7. There’s extra energy to channel, sibling squabbles to navigate, and snacks/meals to prepare. Not to mention hearing “I’m bored” a dozen (or more) times a day.
Helpful post: 50+ Indoor/Outdoor Independent Play Ideas for Kids
I have three kids, and you know what helps me enormously? Having a summer routine — a rhythm, if you will, to our days that gives it structure and order.
Not only does this save my sanity, but it’s better for the kids, too! (More on that below.)
If you’re looking for a strategy to rock this summer vacation with your kids, developing a summer routine tops my list.
Why Summer Routines Are Good For Kids
- Gives structure to the day
- Provides some predictability — kids know what’s coming next, reducing the unknown (which often leads to emotional anxiety)
- Fosters an organized and predictable home environment, which helps kids feel safe, secure, and looked after
- Produces a sense of stability
- Prevents everything from descending into chaos
- Reinforces family values and priorities
- Strengthens family relationships when built around family values
- Helps develop a sense of responsibility when it includes chores and household tasks
- Teaches healthy habits
- Builds trust between kids and parents
- Creates space for fun & family activities
Why I Prefer “Routines” to “Schedules”
I prefer the word “routines” to “schedules” because it connotes more flexibility.
It’s not about scheduling every hour but rather establishing some daily rhythms to create a more peaceful and secure home environment for our kids (and us!).
I also think routines give some healthy power to the kids. Rather than controlling our kids’ time and activities, routines offer choices within predictable boundaries and organized structure.
If that sounds like something you could use in your family, then let’s take the next step. Let’s talk about how to create a summer routine that works for you!
How to Develop a Summer Routine for Kids
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you develop your kids’ summer routine:
- Think daily and weekly — Your personal or family calendar may look different from day to day. If that’s the rule more than the exception, you may want to create both a daily and a weekly routine.
- Time-block — This is the best way to organize your day without falling into the trap of scheduling every minute. For a general routine, I recommend blocking in no less than one hour increments. (I’ll show you my time-blocked routine below.)
- Include the kids — The best way to get your kids to follow a routine is to involve them in the creating process. Ask for their input, give them choices, and offer them as much control over their day as you can (again, within healthy boundaries).
- Mix it up — Include a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, staying home and going out, and being alone and joining others.
- Make it visible — If you have kids preschool age or older, consider making a calendar or chart and posting it where everyone can see it. That will mitigate unclear expectations, questions, and unhappy surprises.
- Be realistic! — Don’t create an idealized routine or try to match what someone else is doing (I’m giving you my routine purely for ideas). Be realistic with your schedule, with your kids, and with yourself.
Now that we’ve hit on some general strategy, let’s start filling out the particulars!
Every parent/family is different, so certainly, our routines won’t all include the same things. But there are a few general activities I think you should definitely try to work into your daily routine.
Things to Work Into Your Summer Routine Every Day
In addition to the obvious necessities like meals and good hygiene habits, the following are things you should include somewhere in your summer routine every day:
- Devotional time (personal or family)
- Active time (play, exercise, sports, etc.)
- Time outside (when weather permits)
- Reading & writing (one of the best ways to fend off summer learning loss!)
- Time to pursue your child’s specific interests
- Family contributions/chores/responsibilities/etc.
And whenever possible, try to also include some of these:
- Life skills (can be woven in throughout the day)
- Family activities
- Social activities
- Service to others
- Math skills (can be incorporated into everyday life! I also highly recommend the Bedtime Math book series)
- Enrichment activities & opportunities
Things to Avoid in Your Routines
Not to be a downer, but here are a few things to avoid:
- Too much screen time — I say this as much for your benefit as your kids’! I’ve noticed how quickly my kids’ attitudes go south after too much screen time.
- Forcing a lot of “school” — Keeping their minds and skills sharp over the summer is awesome and will set them up well for the next school year. But it doesn’t have to be formal or forced. For more about how to strike that balance, read this post about summer learning loss.
- Too many activities — Summer should be a time of rest, relaxation, fun, and family bonding. Don’t overwhelm their schedules with one activity after another. Make sure you include a lot of space and margin!
My Summer Routine For My Kids
As I said, no two summer schedules will (or should) look the same. But if you’d like some inspiration, here’s my general time-blocked summer routine for my kids:
- Early Morning — get up, play and talk to Daddy before he leaves, get dressed, little TV time
- Breakfast [8-8:30ish]— eat, do devotions (theirs — I do mine much earlier), clean-up, brush teeth
- Play/Outside Time [8:30-10:00] — Get outside (weather permitting) before it gets too hot
- Family Contributions [10:00-11:00] — all work together to complete some household tasks, cook food, etc.
This is also when we do any educational activities I might have planned.
- Lunch [11:00-12:00] — fix lunch, eat (I often do chapter book read-alouds while they eat), clean-up
- Play [12:00-1:00] — play, pick-up, read books
- Rest Time [1:00-3:00] — naps and/or quiet/rest time
- Snack [3:00 (or whenever they wake up)-4:00] — snacks, play
- Screen Time [4:00-5:00] — games/TV while I make dinner
- Dinner [5:00/6:00 – ?]
- Evening [6:00ish – depends] — clean-up, Daddy time, evening activities
- Get ready for bed
That’s my kids’ general routine during the summer. (If you’re interested in mine, you can find it in this post about my daily/weekly schedule.)
Once you’ve made yours, share how it compares to mine in the comments below!
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- 15 Ways to Celebrate the End of the School Year
- 10 Summer Essentials for Moms & Kids
- How to Rock Your Next Family Vacation
- 10 Screen-Free Educational Activities
Share your thoughts!