Want to have more freedom during your day this summer without sacrificing the order and predictability a routine brings? Here are some ideas for a summer schedule for kids.
“Aaah, summer – that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.” – D. Hammond
It’s hot here already. Really hot. And when it gets hot everything changes for me. I want to be outside. I want to go swimming. I want to plant things, mow things, and hit the beach. And SO DO THE KIDS!
Since all my children are still small, there are pros and cons to spontaneity. If I’m honest, there are usually more cons to it. The obvious pros are they get to do different things, stay up later, get up later, go on vacations, and just enjoy the season. The cons are they don’t actually function well without routine. They get fussy after a few days of late bedtime. They start to behave badly and whine more when they don’t know what’s next.
Basically… they thrive on routine.
So in an effort to make the most of summer, loosen the reigns, and still maintain the benefits of routine you just have to be a tad more purposeful. Here are some ways to do that.
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1. Find a rhythm.
Go for a week or so and see what changes you’re naturally making. I found we were wanting to swim every day and eat dinner later. So I noticed what we tended to do and began tweaking our routine. Instead of putting kids in their rooms for independent play time closer to lunch, I moved it earlier in the morning so we could swim right up until lunch.
Instead of eating dinner at 5:00 pm, I instituted a snack and we moved it until 5:45 or so. While it’s a change from prior months, I’ve tried to make the changes the “new norm.”
2. Change sleep times, but don’t sleep less.
Kids don’t want to go to sleep in the dark. I get that. However, if they start staying up later but still get up at the same time you’re going to have cranky kids on your hands. If their sleep routine was 7 pm – 7 am and has changed to 8 pm – 8 am, then that’s awesome! But if it’s changed to 8 pm – 7 am and no set naps because you’re out and about… after a few days or weeks this will result in over-tiredness.
If your kids can swing it then this may not be an issue, but if your kids are used to consistent naps and bedtimes you’ll want to be sure your routine changes still accommodate adequate sleep. And get black out curtains or shades.
3. Add in seasonal fun.
I am a summer girl at heart! That means I have tons of things lined up in my head and up my sleeve best done in summer months. Days at the park, beach, and pool can become a new norm in your routine. Your new weekly outings may be the public pool instead of the library or outside play time instead of screen time.
4. Be gradual.
My kids have embraced summer wholeheartedly, but they are also having a bit of a time adjusting. They got physical exercise throughout the winter and spring, but nothing like they do now. It actually means I need to put them to bed earlier because by the evening they are beyond wiped out. A few days of this I was in heaven and they were not coping. Older kids will take it in stride, but toddlers and preschoolers don’t cope well without down time.
5. Don’t drop alone time.
If you drop most scheduled things in your day, one thing I’d encourage you to work in is independent play time. My kids love having free days and unexpected outings and family time. Who doesn’t? But if they miss their alone play for a few days in a row it is obvious in their behavior. They hate sharing, fight more, and get possessive over toys. By keeping that alone time in their day they behave more settled and actually get along better.
6. Space it out.
If you’re got exciting days and weeks ahead with fun things planned for your kids, try to space out the tiring days. Elementary aged children and up will be fine, but toddlers and preschoolers won’t cope well with multiple days in a row of out of the ordinary excitement. Four late bedtimes in a row. Three days of no naps. Two days of all day outside. It sounds fun, but the effects will accumulate until you have unhappy campers.
It doesn’t mean don’t do fun things – let’s not be silly – but to consider your kids when you plan big events.
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