If you are prepared, you have nothing to fear. So, instead of dreading the next three months, plan an amazing family summer schedule, so you can soak in the time you have with your kids at home.
I have five children and I get easily over-stimulated, so without some structure I am not the best mom I can be. This summer I am trying to minimize regrets, so here are the things that I am doing to make my family summer schedule bomb!
- Create a daily schedule that has time blocks, but also has flexibility in what you put into those time blocks. I have a block of time from 9:30am-12pm that is set apart for what I am calling “adventure of the day”. These adventures will be decided by the list we create, as you can read about in the third bullet. Set nap times and quiet times are going to be what keep me and my children sane this summer, so that is a non-negotiable time block each day, even if it has to be moved around for a certain activity or trip. Again, there is flexibility, but my children are much better with routine. Studies say that children that have routines have a “sense of predictability, stability and…security. In toddlers, routines are believed to foster smooth transitions and be related to the development of independence, trust, and security” (as cited in Jordan, 2003). There are other benefits, but these are enough to motivate me.
- Below is a free download for a summer daily block schedule and a summer checklist. I kept them black and white for your convenience.
- Have each child share what they want to learn this summer. This idea of getting their learning goals comes from Ralphie at Simply on Purpose. A common pattern in suggestions among parenting experts is to let children help plan their summer. It is tempting to fill in the time with things that we (the parents) tolerate well or prefer, but children will be far more engaged and invested if we do things they choose.
- Consider the things that need to get done for your children’s health and wellness each day. I schedule in their morning and night routines and some educational experiences like reading, writing and arithmetic. I plan a 30 minute to 1 hour block for them to work on morning mind-joggers, write/draw in a journal and read alone or listen to a book I read. They work so hard all school year and it doesn’t take a lot of time each day to keep their minds and good habits sharp.
- Plan for certain chores to get done each day. Since my oldest daughter is 11 now, I am really starting to think about the essential skills I want her to have when she leaves my home. I want her to know how to keep her room clean, do dishes, laundry, cook and generally keep herself organized and clean. These skills are learned by practicing right now. I want each of my children to get into doing these essentials, and more, each day.
- Remember the big picture goals. Sometimes I see summer as a list of dates to fill, but it is so much more. Summer is an opportunity to connect with my children, teach them important lessons and create memories they will carry for a lifetime. My overall goal this summer is to be present and happy with each of my children. I too often see my time taken by work, media and other lesser ambitions. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I want to avoid regret at summer’s end.
- Get outside. I am a homebody and it irritates my kids. I want to make a big effort to spend more time outside with them. Winter was so long this year that I am actually looking forward to being outside more than usual. The benefits of outside play include cooperative play with other children, creative use of natural tools like sticks, pine cones, rocks, etc. in their role playing and better overall social-emotional regulation (Orchard, 2017). Let them explore and discover!
- Eat well. Choosing meals for my family is probably going to be my biggest scheduling challenge. I have a lot of picky eaters right now and as I make positive changes in my diet, I am finding that they are eating less. They do not try the things that I make, so I need to set boundaries and provide them with nourishment.
- Low doses of screens. My older girls could easily watch TV for half the day if I let them. One of my daughters feels like she will die of boredom if she doesn’t get to watch TV and this summer I am excited to save space for her to be bored. I recently watched a video where a family therapist explained that when kids are bored, they are on the brink of coming up with something super creative to do. I have seen this phenomenon many times with my girls, but it takes will-power as a parent to ignore the whining and complaining long enough for them to find something new to do.
- Independence. It is called summer break because it is meant to be a break from the rigors of school and activities. Don’t over-schedule your child’s summer or they won’t get the satisfaction of playing until the sun goes down or feeling the joy of sleeping in. I know allowing independence can be hard for working parents. Try to allow your child some autonomy in their summer so they feel like they got a break.
- Factor in traveling, if any. This summer we go on a big two-week trip to Nevada and Utah, so I will consider this and account for the potential changes in schedule and the extra planning and preparation that will be needed. Plan day trips if you are not traveling across or out of country. Go to new places to create variety and interest for the whole family. If the place is connected to something your child wants to learn, you get extra points!
I hope these ideas and resources help you plan an epic family summer schedule. May you make memories to cherish forever!
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Jordan, Sara Sytsma, “Further validation of the Child Routines Inventory (CRI): relationship to parenting practices, maternal distress, and child externalizing behavior” (2003). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 3308. https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gradschool_dissertations/3308
Orchard, G. M. (2017). Social-Emotional Benefits of Outdoor Play (thesis).