Inside: 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 since we’re in Florida. 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. 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 erratic bedtimes. 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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A Summer Schedule For Toddlers And Preschoolers
Here are some thoughts on having a chaos-free summer.
1. Find a new 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.
Dinner at 6 instead of 5?
Bedtime at 8 instead of 7?
As long as they’re sleeping later too, sounds good!
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Instead of putting kids in their rooms for independent play time closer to lunch, you might move it earlier in the morning so you are free until lunch or afternoon.
You don’t have to do what you always did. You can make a new normal for the summer months.
- Just give it a week or two and see what you end up doing during the day, then use that to make a more structured routine. If you create a Pie In The Sky routine out of nowhere you won’t likely keep it.
- Choose a “okay to come out” morning time. My kids sleep until 7 usually and they are allowed to come out at 7:30 a.m. I use this clock and the older kids (ages 8, 7, and 5) know how to follow it. For my younger ones, many days they sleep until 7:30 and if not, I give them a drink and let them play in their rooms or crib until the desired time.
Read: Mom Morning Routines That Bring Sanity & Order
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 9 pm – 6 am and no set naps because you’re out and about… after a few days 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.
- If you move bedtime back for a week and notice the kids are not sleeping any later in the morning or making it up during naptime, weigh whether their behavior is negatively affected. You’ll know if it’s going to work for everyone.
- If the kids are going to bed later and later, yet not sleeping later in the morning, make sure they have the opportunity for a nap. A wind down routine will really help.
Read: Everything You Need To Know About Baby (And Toddler) Sleep
Get my cheat sheets and find your family’s groove. Chore, independent play, meal, nap, bedtime, and MORE routine ideas!
3. Add in daily rituals to your summer schedule
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.
Or you may be a home body and prefer to stay at home.
Either way, daily rituals make a big difference in your everyday summer schedule.
- Make a summer bucket list. Or do what Emily Ley does and keep track of the fun stuff you do on a whiteboard. That way it’s less pressure. Once a week (or however often you like) choose something from the list to do. Don’t make it Too Grand, just add normal fun stuff. (See my list here)
- Choose “days of the week” to do certain things. Monday is pool day. Tuesday is park day, etc. This will help set a rhythm to your week.
- Do “breakfast invitations” before breakfast to give the kids something to sink their teeth into each morning (see my friend Lauren’s post on this here).
- Embrace the season. Take evening walks, eat meals on the patio, or read books outside on a blanket. Choose a normal part of your daily routine and give it a summer spin.
4. Be gradual
My kids embrace summer wholeheartedly, but they also take some time adjusting.
They get physical exercise throughout the winter and spring, but nothing like they do in the summer.
Sun makes us more tired and so does continual exercise so if you’re having a very active or busy summer you may find that a total change in routine takes some adjusting.
Change meal times, bedtimes, or activity times gradually and see how your children react.
- Don’t expect to move into a new season or routine without some hiccups. There will be high emotions and adjustment periods.
- While it’s tempting to create a full routine – minute by minute – for what you want your days to look like…. this can be a recipe for disappointment. Instead, make a rough idea of what you’d like and see how the first week or two go. Then set things that are already working in stone.
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. This Quiet Time can be valuable.
My kids love having free days and unexpected outings and family time.
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.
All kids want some time alone when they don’t have to share.
- If your child has dropped a nap then rest time counts as alone time. And it doesn’t matter if one’s in your walk-in closet and the other is outside or wherever. It only matters they are alone, they don’t have to share, and it’s relatively quiet!
- Rotate the toys, put each child in a separate room in the house, and voila. You may, however, want to change when they have their own play.
- You may want to move it to afternoon if they’re physically active in the mornings. You can tweak it to best fit your own family’s schedule.
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 may 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, but to consider your kids when you plan big events.
Read: How To Dress Newborns Safely (Day & Night)
Our Normal Summer Schedule (For Toddlers, Preschoolers, & Elementary Aged Kids)
You’ll notice this is NOT a super detailed routine. In the summer I am notorious for spending much of our mornings outside or swimming so I am not doing a minute by minute routine.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t!
7:30 a.m. – Kids stay in room until this time, breakfast is out. Kids who can make their own breakfast do. Teach kids to follow their own routine here.
8:00 a.m. – This is a big free time block. The kids do chores (using chore cards and/or a commission system I got from Dave Ramsey’s book). There is outdoor play, we go to the park, go swimming, go to the beach, or run errands.
10:30 a.m. – Snack. If we’re home, I usually provide some type of snack (often a bit substantial) to keep the kids from being under my feet begging for good all morning.
12:00 p.m. – Lunch. I aim for a noon lunch when possible. Always have, always will.
1:00 p.m. – My kids who have grown out of naps have independent play during this time. Those still napping take naps. Some of my older ones end up napping as well.
3:00 p.m. – Snack. If we’re out I don’t stress about giving snacks nor do I pack them. But if we’re home, I do.
5:30 p.m. – We usually eat between 5:30 and 6. This is an old habit from when the kids were all very very young and it made it easier for bedtime. Often in the summer it’ll move back slightly, but never too late.
6:15 p.m. – Bedtime routine. This will be some version of bath, books, and bed.
7:30 ish to 8 p.m. – Bed
Have an Awesome Summer…
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These are great suggestions. It’s so hard to go from a regimented routine to a more relaxed one. I will definitely be using your advice!
Rachel Norman says
It IS hard, isn’t it?
I have an 18 month old, a 3 year old and a new 5 year old. My 5 year old daughter is very good at independent play and always has been. My 3 year old son isn’t very good- he will often just sit in his room instead of playing. Sometimes he will look at books but other times, he just waits for me to come back. Sigh. My real question is how do you help your 18 month old to learn it’s play time and not nap time if their independent time is done in their crib? Thanks!
Rachel Norman says
Jenni, it’s a tough age because they often fall asleep but I just keep at it until they get it. I will give a great toy or two (that perhaps he doesn’t normally play with) and just keep the time short until he gets it.
I really like this list. It’s hard for me to move from our regular schedule to doing something more flexible. This definitely helps, especially with making dinner time later.
One thing – in item 2, did you mean that kids don’t like going to sleep in the light, rather than the dark? I ask because of the room darkening suggestion at the end of the paragraph.
Thanks for all your tips! They surely have helped me.
Pooka Box says
These are all such fantastic suggestions. Summer can be a wonderful time but it does take thoughtful transition, and some of the things you mentioned (finding new routine, changing bedtimes but keeping sleep) are so critical to kid’s happiness (and yours!).
Melissa @ Our Happy Hive says
I really like the idea of alone time. My four year old has recently ended napping yet she is still exhausted some days. I think some alone time could help her recharge. We’ve also found that having a daily focus during the week is helpful to provide some structure, while not being overly scheduled. For example, Monday is visit a park day, Tuesday is have a friend over day, Wednesday we do a craft etc.
We’re you at my house last night? I am a teacher and transition into summer is the hardest thing for me. Summer used to mean lazy days but that doesn’t go with a 4, 2 and 5 month old. We actually talked about some of your suggestions last night! Thanks for the post!