Nothing makes kids happier than summer break. After all, it’s the end of routines and the beginning of endless possibilities. However, it can also force parents to fight endless battles against boredom, meltdowns, and the constant cry, “What should I do?”

I personally know how much my mom dreaded summer break. However, there is good news. It is possible to beat the summer heat with a well-planned summer schedule. In addition to providing structure and flexibility, it keeps the kids engaged and ensures you get some much-needed downtime.

With that said, here are some tips for creating a summer schedule that everyone can agree on:

Building the Foundation: Routine and Flexibility

Even though summer is a time to break free from the rigidity of the school year, some structure is still necessary. The key to establishing a routine is not to plan minute-by-minute, but rather to establish a consistent routine for the morning, evening, and mealtimes. As a result, children feel more secure, and there is less questioning of “what do we do now?”.

Collaboration is Key: Involving Your Children

By creating a schedule together, your child will feel more comfortable and less likely to resist. You can involve your kids in the following ways:

  • Brainstorming sessions. Together, brainstorm some activities they might enjoy. Whether you learn how to bake cookies, build a robot from recycled materials, or camp out in the backyard, there is something for everyone.
  • Weekly planning meetings. Set aside time every week to plan your upcoming days. Let your children choose the activities they wish to participate in and integrate them into the schedule.
  • Visualize it. Use charts or a whiteboard to create a visual schedule. By seeing the day’s flow, children can feel a sense of accomplishment and see how their day flows.

Schedule Like a Pro: Essential Elements

Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. In order for a summer schedule to be successful, these key elements need to be in place:

  • Morning magic. The day should begin with a consistent wake-up time, followed by breakfast, getting dressed, and a set amount of screen time (if permitted). This sets the tone for a productive day. Music lessons are better practiced in the morning–get piano or other instruments practiced early.
  • Brain power boost. Set aside time for “brain breaks.” This might include reading for pleasure, playing educational apps, or completing a short workbook assignment. If your child is young and has a short attention span, aim for 30-minute increments.
  • The great outdoors. Don’t forget to enjoy the sunshine! Every day, set aside time for outdoor play. Activities could range from organized sports to unstructured backyard adventures. Remember, fresh air and exercise are essential for physical and mental well-being.
  • Creative corner. Your child’s creativity can be nurtured with dedicated “maker time.” Arts and crafts, building projects, or even Lego creations all reinforce motor skills and stimulate imagination.
  • Chores can be fun (well, maybe not always). Consider assigning age-appropriate tasks and creating a chore chart with rewards to prevent them from becoming a summer nightmare. This will teach responsibility and valuable life skills.
  • There is no substitute for family time. Schedule time for family meals, board games, or movie nights. Your bond will be strengthened, and lasting memories will be created.
  • Downtime deserves a place in your schedule. Be careful not to overschedule! Allow your child to daydream, relax, and explore his or her interests without any restrictions. This is essential for recharging and preventing burnout.

Special Events and Summer Learning

There is more to summer than routines. Get the most out of the summer by planning a few special events throughout the break. For example, take a day trip to a museum, zoo, pool, or beach. Also, check out local festivals and cultural events. These outings enrich students’ experiences and create lasting memories.

Remember, learning should not stop at the end of the school year. You can prevent “summer slide” to prevent academic skills from slipping during summer break. Here are a few sneaky learning strategies:

  • A themed reading adventure. Consider mysteries, historical fiction, or biographies for your child’s summer reading list. You can reward your child for their progress with a small reward at the end of the reading chart.
  • Apps and games that provide educational content. Technology can enhance learning. As such, engage in fun, engaging math, reading, and science games and apps.
  • Experience is the best teacher. Your child can learn from everyday activities if you turn them into learning opportunities. For instance, give your child the time to research a local landmark before visiting or plan a baking session incorporating math (fractions!).

Special Considerations: Age Matters

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. To tailor your schedule to different age groups, follow these tips:

  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5). Give your children ample time to play and explore outside while keeping schedules simple and short.
  • Elementary schoolers (ages 6-10): Playtime should be a balanced mix of structured activities and creative activities. Weekly themes or projects can add a little fun to your lessons.
  • Teenagers (ages 11-18): Maintaining boundaries and clear expectations gives teens more autonomy in choosing their activities.

Making it Stick: Tips for Success

It is only the first step in creating the schedule that needs to be completed. In order to make it a summer staple, here are some tips:

  • Be realistic. Don’t overschedule your child’s days. Leave some room for spontaneity in your plans.
  • Create a visual representation of the plan. Use a whiteboard, chart paper, or printable template to create a visual schedule. Decorate it with stickers and drawings to make it appealing.
  • Place it where everyone can see it. Post the schedule in a central location where it can be easily accessed by everyone. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and reduce confusion. Even better, create a family calendar that everyone can access from their phones.
  • Be flexible. The best-laid plans don’t always work out. Adjustments may need to be made due to unexpected events or rainy days. Don’t be afraid to roll with the punches and remain flexible.
  • Embrace boredom. While it may be tempting to seek constant stimulation, boredom can catalyze creativity. Let children daydream and explore during their free time.
  • Positive reinforcement. Encourage your children to follow the schedule by acknowledging and celebrating their efforts. It doesn’t take much to motivate children to do well, just a sticker chart or a simple “good job!”.
  • Take care of yourself. Having a well-rested and happy parent makes it easier for them to deal with the demands of summer. So, schedule time for yourself to recharge and rejuvenate.

Keep in mind that the goal is to create a summer schedule that sparks curiosity, fosters memories, and fosters family bonds. Those carefree summer days can be transformed into an unforgettable adventure with a little planning, collaboration, and flexibility.


Why make a summer schedule?

The structure is good, but a summer schedule balances it with free time. This keeps kids from feeling bored and unproductive and ensures they get enough sleep and stay active.

How do I involve my child in creating the schedule?

  • Get their input. This summer, talk to your child about activities they’d like to participate in. However, you should consider their age, interests, and any learning goals they may have.
  • Brainstorm together. You may want to consider sports camps, art classes, swimming, or visiting relatives as possible activities.
  • Give them choices. During each time slot, let your child select from a few choices.
  • Choice within boundaries. Let them choose from a list of approved activities for different time slots.
  • Make it visual. Ensure they have access to a calendar, chart, or app to see their schedule and monitor their progress.

What should be included in a summer schedule?

  • Morning routine. Establish a consistent wake-up time, breakfast time, and getting-ready time.
  • Structured activities. Plan activities such as camps, sports, classes, or other commitments.
  • Learning time. Schedule time for reading, educational games, and skill practice.
  • Outdoor play. Schedule time for fresh air and physical activity each day to keep your child’s body active and fresh.
  • Chores. To maintain responsibility, assign appropriate chores for each child’s age.
  • Free time. You should allow your child to engage in unstructured play, relax, and pursue their interests.
  • Family time. As a family, plan mealtimes, outings, and game nights.

How much structure is necessary?

  • Balance is key. While structure can help avoid chaos, too much of it can stifle creativity.
  • Adapt to your child’s age. Structure is more important for younger children, while flexibility is more important for teens.
  • Leave room for spontaneity. Don’t be afraid to go on unplanned adventures and relax.

What about chores?

As the weather warms, it’s a great time to incorporate age-appropriate chores into your routine. The house will run smoothly, and responsibility will be taught.

How about screen time?

Within the schedule, set limits on screen time and designate specific times for it. It’s beneficial (at least for the kids) to have DAYS without screen time.

Image Credit: Juan Salamanca; Pexels