For many of us, the arrival of summer break means the welcome shift to less-structured days, more flexibility, and no required routine. Hooray! (Best of all, no more packing lunch boxes every morning!)
When summer arrives, we’re all on a no-school-honeymoon and it feels good. But honestly, how long before that turns into, “No schedule?! No Routine?!” And suddenly we’re all driving each other mad.
In my household, the answer is about three days.
When the honeymoon period ends…
A couple of summers ago, I set out to put a touch of structure back into our summers.
Growing up the child of a first grade teacher, summers looked a little different for me and my siblings. We had study time mandated each day. (My mom even made a sign for our front door to keep friends at bay until studies were completed! To my own children: Don’t worry…I’m not going that far!)
Somehow, she created a balance for us, and I still had fun-filled summers running the neighborhood with friends – enjoying the freedom that kids of the seventies and early eighties were fortunate enough to have! (And, Mom, I hold no grudge about that required study time!)
I don’t feel the need to schedule every minute of our summer or have formal lessons every day…but I’ve read about the summer slide and the importance of keeping your child’s brain engaged over the summer. If my loose outline for our days helps slow down the summer slide…fantastic. But in reality, my goal is much less lofty.
I just don’t want my kids glued to a screen all day, every day. And I don’t want to hear “I’m boooored!” by 9:30 every morning.
7 Simple Solutions
Kids should play, rest, and enjoy their break from school…but we also know that kids thrive on structure, and are less likely to get bored – or become totally obnoxious – when there’s a routine they can count on. Pinterest has some great Summer Screen Time rules and other resources along those lines.
Here are my simple strategies to keep a balance between structure, screen time, and free play this summer.
Physical Activity (minimum 30 mins) – This could be as simple as running around with buddies for my youngest, or going to a yoga class with me for my oldest. The point is just to do something active and good for your body. As the temps rise, try a local splash pad!
Reading (minimum 30 mins) – My kids always do this at bedtime, but in the summer, I try to make sure they are getting in some additional reading during the day. Luckily, my kids both love to read, so as long as we keep up with regular trips to the library so they have fresh reading materials, I get no pushback on this one. Check out this fantastic read-aloud book list for kids!
Quiet Reflection (minimum 20 mins) – This could be reading their bible, doing a page in their devotional, writing in a journal or spending quiet time in prayer or meditation.
Educational Activity – In summers past, I’ve bought one of those bridge workbooks for each of them. They’re loaded with worksheets that provide a refresher on the material they covered in the grade they just finished, along with some activities to challenge them a bit with the information they will be introduced to in their next grade. This summer, I think we’ll try coming up with our own educational activities such as doing some independent research on a topic they find interesting. The Frisco Public Library is a great place for research, classes, and educational workshops!
Something Helpful Around the House – I hate to admit it, but we have not been terribly consistent with assigning household chores. Having this in our summer structure is a way for me to make sure they are doing something each day to contribute to the household.
Ten Minutes Uninterrupted One-on-One Time With Mom – Like most families (at least I hope we’re not alone in this) we have our fair share of bickering between the kiddos. It often feels like they are pushing each other’s buttons to try to get more attention from me.
I read some time ago that making sure each child has some one on one time with a parent can help alleviate this a bit. If it’s part of the routine and the child knows they can count on that dedicated attention every day, they may not feel the need to act out to get the attention they crave. While this isn’t a cure-all at our house, when we do it consistently, I feel like I can see a difference. Plus, it’s just really nice to have some one-on-one time with each kid!
The kids know they need to check off each of these activities each day before they should even think about asking for tech or tv. And if they complain that they’re bored, they know they will be directed to the checklist!
In addition to these daily activities, we have one big space on our checklist for Serving Others. This is an area I need to improve on, but I’d like for us to do at least one activity each week to serve others.
Sometimes it might be in an official volunteer capacity somewhere (check out our list of volunteer opps for teenagers), but it doesn’t always have to be. We try to look for opportunities to brighten someone’s day like writing a letter to grandparents, baking cookies for a neighbor or taking chips and waters to the fire station.
Of course, we’re not perfect! And I’m far from rigid with this. There are many days we are busy with activities and camps and nothing from the checklist gets done. But I feel like this at least gives us some guidelines.
What does summer break look like at your house? Totally unstructured and free as a bird? Or is every minute planned and accounted for? We’d love to hear from you!