A Summer Routine That’ll Keep Kids Occupied & Mom Sane
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
It’s hot here in Virginia. 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.
Since Ray is still relatively small, there are pros and cons to spontaneity. The obvious pros are he get to do different things, stay up later, get up later, go on vacations, and just enjoy the season.
The cons are he doesn't actually function well without routine. He get fussy after a few days of erratic bedtimes. He starts to behave badly and whine more when they don’t know what’s next. Basically…kids 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.
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 he's sleeping later too, sounds good!
Instead of putting kids in their rooms for independent play (which I swear by) 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 a few 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. Ray sleeps until 7 usually and is allowed to come out at 7:30 a.m.
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 or shades.
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.
3. Add in daily rituals
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. Make a summer bucket list. Or 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. 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. 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
We embrace summer wholeheartedly, but also take sometime adjusting. Kids 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. Ray loves having free days and unexpected outings and family time.
Who doesn’t? But if he misses his alone play for a few days in a row it is obvious his their behavior. Kids 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, 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.
My 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. – Ray stays in room until this time, breakfast is out.
8:00 a.m. – This is a big free time block. Ray does chores (using chore cards and/or a commission system I got from Dave Ramses 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 him from being under my feet begging for food all morning.
12:00 p.m. – Lunch. I aim for a noon lunch when possible. Always have, always will.
1:00 p.m. – Independent play or nap during this time.
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 Ray was 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