Each year as the summer season approaches, I find myself with a mix of emotions. On one hand, I’m excited to see my children grow up. I’m reflective about the changing of season and new energy. The summer season offers an easier schedule without early mornings and the obligations of the school year. On the other hand, summer often comes with a sense of dread. WHAT are we going to do all day?!
Since I’m a work-from-home Mom, and my husband is a college professor, we don’t have to rely on summer camps for childcare, but we do have to face the fact that we need a plan. If not, our days get gobbled up with too much screen time, no structure, and pent up energy. I don’t know about your kiddos, but if we have too much unstructured time, our children slide backwards on everything they’ve learned and it makes the return to school in the Fall more challenging. Plus, I want to my children to thrive and while we are not extremely strict on screen time, we do set boundaries on how much ‘Cookie Swirl C’ and Netflix cartoons they consume.
So, what’s a conscious, proactive parent to do? You want to provide the best environment for your littles, but there are financial and schedule realities you have to acknowledge. I want to share what we’ve come up with, how we actually stick to it, and how to make it work for you.
As my son is still preschool aged, he is home most of the time, so we adapted his daily schedule to suit both children. It isn’t perfect, of course, but it does work for us as a general guideline. It doesn’t require a ton of pre-planning, it’s very low cost, and there’s room for flexibility. Here’s our basic daily schedule for Summer:
7-9 am: Wake Up, Breakfast, 30 mins of screen time or reading
- If your children wake up later than that, first of all congratulations! But you can of course adjust this as you need to. If you don’t like rigid timelines, look at this schedule as blocks of time during your day.
9am – Noon: Morning Activity
- Here are some ways we use this time:
- Splash park (many cities have free splash parks that are open to the public. My daughter is 7, but she still really enjoys it.)
- Public library (check your library’s calendar for story times and special summer programs. Added bonus: if your child is a reader, the library often offers free prizes for completing a certain number of books. Last year my kids read enough to get free tickets to Six Flags!)
- The Mall (this might sound silly, but the local shopping mall often offers a lot of fun and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. One of our local malls has an indoor turtle pond, the Disney store lets you come in and watch a movie and play with the display toys for free, and we splurge a few times a month for lunch at the food court).
- Indoor play places (these are low-cost fun and you stay out of the heat. The indoor play place in my city is $10 for an entire day of playing, and they let you bring in your own food and drinks)
- The playground
- Local parks (Especially in the earlier part of the day before it’s too hot)
- Nature Center or Wildlife Refuge (if you go to a nature center or refuge, there’s often a small entrance fee but a lot more to discover and educational activities. You can also make this a special day trip).
- Art Museums (there are several in our city that do not charge an entrance fee. Many local art museums offer activities or areas for children. My children love to look at art – you might be surprised!)
- The Pearachute App – for a low monthly charge, you can attend drop-in classes. It’s much more cost effective than tuition for ongoing classes or camps. Most of the classes will allow you to attend 2-3 times a month, so if there is something your children really enjoy, you can keep it consistent. If your children enjoy a variety of activities and don’t want to commit to the same thing over and over, this app is a great solution also. Added Bonus: this app also offers classes for parents that are included in the monthly charge.
12-1 pm: Lunch
1-2: Learning Time (yep. We make our children do educational things during the Summer)
- Here are a few books and resources we love for this part of our day that are affordable and fun:
2-3 pm: Screen Time or Free Play (This is usually the part of the day that our children need some down time)
3-4 pm: Creativity (we keep this super simple with things like free coloring on paper, painting, playing with Play-Doh, etc.)
4-4:30 pm: Chores/Daily “Straighten Up”
- My 7-year old daughter is responsible for:
- Gathering all of the trash bags and taking them to the large bin outside
- Putting her laundry in the big hamper for laundry time
- Putting her laundry away once it’s clean and folded
- Making her bed
- Cleaning her room (putting toys away, stacking books, all stuffed animals on the bed, shoes back in the closet)
- My 4-year old son is responsible for:
- Helping with the trash.
- Helping put away the clean dishes.
- Putting his dirty laundry in the big hamper
- Putting his laundry away once it’s clean and folded (he still needs a little help with this but it’s still one of his chores)
- Feeding the dog
- Every day they both straighten up any toys or supplies we’ve used and help restore tidiness in the house. We call it “quick clean up.”
4:30 – 6 pm: Free Play
- This is usually my husband’s domain because he’s so engaged and playful. This is usually my time of the day to get dinner ready and catch up on emails or any phone calls I missed.
- This is when our children have the basic backyard, unstructured play time.
6:00 – Dinner
7:00 – Bathtime
8-8:30 pm – Reading and Bedtime Routine
This is just the schedule that works for us, and is intended as a guideline only. As always, adapt and adjust it as needed for your family. Does your family have a summer schedule, or do you just go with the flow? Do you try to maintain learning time or is it your chance to take it easy? I love hearing how families choose their routines and priorities, and believe we can all learn from each other. Drop your favorite tips in the comments. And be sure to check back for more tips! I’m launching a FREE blog series to help you have a sane and fun summer with your family.