Creating a Flexible Summer Schedule for Kids
Written by Noreen Greimann
What words come to mind when you think of summer?
Fun. Relaxing. Sitting by the pool. Eating Popsicles. Sleeping in.
Summer is only a few weeks away and my kids are counting down the days. We are all very excited. Though, I have to admit I’m also a bit worried.
For our family, this is the first summer we have all to ourselves. In previous years, I ran a summer camp program on our property and every week we welcomed a new group of children and explored a new theme. We always had a plan.
This year, our summer is wide open. And we have no plan.
While the excitement is high right now, reality is that one week into summer, the kids start to say they are bored, they start to argue more, the days are chaotic and I’m left wondering what happened to our relaxing summer.
Benefits of a Flexible Summer Schedule
Setting up a flexible summer schedule helps both parents and kids. Without it, it’s easy to become frazzled and overwhelmed because we constantly have to think about what to do next. As much as kids love their freedom, they can actually relax more and enjoy themselves more when they know what happens next.
We are not talking about a rigid schedule here. The goal is to create a flexible summer schedule that serves as a guide and that is just right for your family. A plan that takes into consideration every family members’ personal preferences.
How much structure do you and your kids need to be at your best? I know that I’m at my best with a bit more structure. I feel in control and it allows me to truly be in the moment and enjoy what we are doing.
And that is my main goal for creating a schedule for our summer in the first place. I don’t want these 3 months to fly by. I don’t want to look back and regret that we didn’t do enough or too much or not the right things.
So, focus on whatever level of structure will give you that feeling of a perfect summer at the end of it.
3 Steps to Creating a Summer Schedule for Kids
I’m great at making lists but I know that I can get easily carried away. I often try to do too many things and end up feeling disappointed when we don’t have time to do an activity that we were looking forward to.
You might feel the opposite way and have no idea what to do with your children all summer long. Or maybe you already have the Sophie & Max series but are not sure how to organize all the activities.
Whatever your feelings are, we are going to take it step by step and create a unique summer schedule that perfectly fits our family’s needs and desires.
Step 1: Collect Ideas on Your Master Activity List
Gather your family, take a piece of paper and then brainstorm everything you would like to do this summer. There are no wrong answers. Everybody contributes and everything goes on this master list.
Including the kids in this process is very important as it gives them ownership over the summer, which highly improves the chances of them actually wanting to do the things you will put on your schedule. We like to make our list during mealtimes as we are all already together and it often makes for great conversation.
I also recommend making a list of things your children are currently interested in (e.g. trains, animals, insects, weather, building). What do they ask questions about? What do they play with frequently?
Step 2: Create a Weekly and Daily Summer Schedule
Write down the days of the week on a piece of paper or use a weekly calendar page and then think about what main activity you would like to do each day. These assigned daily activities will stay fairly consistent over the summer and will allow your children to fall into a natural flow. At the same time, it’s okay to switch days around as needed.
Examples for main daily activities are
- going to the pool
- art & crafts
- going to the park
- water activities
- cooking and baking together
- and don’t forget weekly errands and chores. Add them to your schedule now and you won’t have to postpone a planned activity later because you realize you have to go grocery shopping.
In the past, our days were mostly shaped by our summer camp routines and I think we are going to keep a similar routine this year. Here is what I’m thinking so far:
Mondays – Story and Errand Day: We will start off our week with a story from the Sophie & Max series or another story that sets the stage for the week. Having the stories and a general theme will give us some focus so we are not starting every day from scratch or putting together random activities. The stories will inspire the rest of the activities for the week. And while we are running our errands (which includes the library), we can pick up any supplies we may need for the week.
Tuesday – Tinkering and Laundry Day: We will do a project related to the story and we use a wide variety of materials (wood, cardboard, sticks, rocks, yarn, paint, etc.)
Wednesday – Art Day: We will do another project related to the story and will likely focus on drawing, painting, journaling, play dough and clay as those are activities that my children are currently interested in.
Thursday – Pool Day: This will definitely be one of our flexible days as it needs to coincide with good weather.
Friday – Fun Day: I don’t plan on scheduling anything in particular for that day and we will likely use it to finish up projects we were working on or do something else we came up with during the week.
In addition to having a weekly schedule, I also recommend having a consistent daily schedule with built in flexibility. For example our daily schedule consists of breakfast, morning activity, lunch, quiet time, afternoon activity, dinner, evening family time. It’s simple and serves us well.
Step 3: Write out your monthly calendar
With a daily and weekly schedule in place, we can turn our attention to the whole month. On a monthly calendar, first write down vacations, day trips, swim lessons and other activities that you have already scheduled.
Next, write the main activity of the day below or above each day of the week. Let that be your guide but remember it’s okay to switch out days if necessary.
And now it’s time to fill in the daily boxes. I like to think of it as giving our ideas a home…a place where they can rest and be content. That way, they won’t nag us because they are afraid we will forget them.
Look at your master activity list and your child’s interests list and think about what activities would go well together.
Does your child like to build? – Read books about it, explore how your house was built, gather wood, cardboard, fabric and other materials and your child can build a home for a stuffed animal.
Does your child have a favorite animal? – Read a story about it and then create the animal with playdough, draw it, build a house for it out of blocks or cardboard, have a backyard picnic or birthday party for it.
The activities don’t need to be fancy Pinterest projects. The key is for the stories and activities to relate to each other as it allows children to become fully immersed.
Your Summer Schedule – Putting It All Together
Now, you might be thinking that all this sounds like quite a bit of work. I completely understand.
It would certainly be easier if you could just go with the flow. We spent all year planning our children’s lives and our lives. It gets exhausting and yes, we deserve a break.
But reality is that without a clear picture of what we want our summer to be like, it’s simply not going to happen. Even if we had a magic wand, we wouldn’t be able to make it a reality because we wouldn’t no exactly what to wish for.
Taking some time to plan now is the closest we can get to waving a magic wand. And it will definitely pay off in the long run. You and your kids will be rewarded with a wonderful summer to remember.
Now, it’s time to get started.
I am going to plan out our summer and will be sharing the process in a free Mini-Workshop. I invite you to join me and work right alongside me. After all, it’s always more fun to work together, right?
In this Mini-Workshop, we will work through the 3 Steps of Planning a Flexible Summer Schedule (plus one bonus step). We will dig a little deeper, I will share more examples and I am also going to give you some planning printables to make organizing everything much easier.
The workshop is not live and you will be able to work at your own time.
Sign up to join me and then keep an eye on your inbox for further details.