If you’re like me, you’re feeling a bit anxious about summer fast approaching. After all, doesn’t it seem like we finally mastered the school year routine? And now it’s May, and there are eleventy billion end-of-year things to do. The first week home for the summer will be blissfully relaxing, but as the novelty of summer wears off, the bickering and complaining will start. With a summer block schedule for kids, it won’t last long!
How do I put my child on a summer schedule?
Use a block schedule that allows for flexibility around activities that often change, with a more rigid structure for sleep, meals and snacks.
Summer is a time that needs to be mostly flexible. After all, you may have vacations, summer camps, seasonal church activities, and short term lesson series that affect your family’s schedule on a weekly basis. It’s also NOT school, and should feel a bit more free and exciting than a structured school experience.
However, when it comes to sleeping, matters of discipline, hygiene, and food and water intake, kids thrive on order. For these times of day, it’s best to be more rigid to control the number of emotional meltdowns throughout the day.
Here are some things to consider about your summer schedule.
Plan sleep schedules and rest times first.
During the summer when the days are longer, it might make sense to adjust bedtimes and wake times. Will kids go to bed an hour later? Hopefully, my own kids won’t continue waking each day at 6:30 am! This is more likely to happen if I gradually push bedtime back.
Every day in the summer and on weekends all year long, I have a mandatory Read & Rest. Kids who have outgrown naps are welcome to quietly play in their rooms or read, but they may not come out for 90 minutes. Our kids don’t push back too much on Read & Rest, because they’ve learned to appreciate the alone time with their books and favorite stuffies.
To make Read & Rest a success, I rely on the Hatch machine. My three-year-old knows that he’s not allowed to leave his bedroom until his “clock turns red,” and my six year old knows that Read & Rest doesn’t end until big brother gets up.
Read & Rest fosters independence, ensures that everyone is resting enough, and keeps Mama sane.
Three cheers for Hatch!
PS: The Hatch machine is a miracle worker in our home. It also keeps my middle boy in bed until 7:30 on the weekends, serves as a sound machine, will become an alarm clock as he ages, and can be customized countless ways for the kiddo. I sort of want one for myself.
Be very structured about meal times and snacks.
It sounds silly, but predictable meals and snacks really help with behavior. Some kids, like my middle child, just really freak out when sleep and meals get off schedule.
Therefore, snacking and meals are another thing about our summer lives that runs on a strict schedule. Breakfast is served as soon as everyone is up. We don’t necessarily all eat breakfast together, depending on who is sleeping in.
Lunch is served promptly at noon. Because my small people are tiny elderly people, they demand a 5:30 pm dinner by acting like fools as soon as 5:00 pm rolls around. I quit fighting it, and serve dinner around that time daily.
We have snack time at 10:30 am and 3:30 pm, and little by little, they’ve stopped asking for snacks at odds times of day. Mama doesn’t play around with eating times, because otherwise, I’d never leave the kitchen. This also ensures they are more likely to eat meals that are put in front of them, because they know there are no other eating opportunities for a couple of hours.
Put dressing, hygiene, chores and exercise into more flexible blocks of time.
These are activities that happen every day, but I include them in the block schedule. For our family, it doesn’t make sense to try and run summer days with military precision. These things happen every day, but we fit them into larger blocks of time.
Encourage kids to share their summer vision with you.
Have a planning meeting with your kids one day in May, and jot down all their summer dreams onto paper. Separate them into indoor and outdoor activities. Fill in the gaps to give yourself plenty of options.
During the summer, we visit grandparents or plan a mini vacation, schedule camps for our oldest, and make sure that the little kids each get to try something new, too. Summer is the perfect time to take lessons and learn something new.
I try to have most of these on the calendar and planned out by the end of May because it makes me less anxious about the downtime that’s coming our way.
For older kids who really appreciate structure and can read, it really helps to have a calendar available for them to see. I have my calendar on my phone, but this summer, I plan to give my oldest a fun paper calendar so she can look forward to the special activities and trips we have planned.
Check out my post with 75 activities for bored kids if you’re looking for more fun things to do!
Don’t forget to think about your own summer goals and self care.
This summer, I’m hoping to start exercising more, so I need to allocate time for that. I also love to work on this blog but struggle to concentrate once the kids wake up. These are things that need to factor into my block schedule.
Think through life skills your kids need to learn.
Finally, I like summer time to be an opportunity for learning new life skills. For example, maybe one child needs to learn to tie her shoes or swim, and another needs to toilet train. Summer is a great time to do it!
Put your block schedule on paper.
Now that you’ve done the work and figured out how your average summer day will work, put your summer block schedule for kids paper somewhere very visible. However, the benefit of block scheduling is that it’s easy to memorize. After a week or so, kids will easily predict what type of activities will happen next, even if they don’t know exactly what the day holds.
How do you create a summer block schedule for kids?
First, put vacations, camps, ballgames and more on your calendar. If there are activities like practices that will happen regularly, hold those things in mind as you consider the creation of your block schedule.
Second, put down on paper things that must happen on a strict timetable each day, like meals, snacks, bed times, and quiet times.
Third, allocate larger blocks of time that allow for flexibility within a predictable framework. Consider your local weather when you create blocks for outside play.
Fourth, consider what time of day you’re at your own best before blocking off time for Mama tasks.
Last, choose specific times that you’d like to deviate from the routine. For example, once a week, I’ll let my oldest stay up late to watch a movie in my bed with me.
See the Sample Block Schedule below for inspiration!
Sample Summer Block Schedule for Kids
Here’s our family’s block schedule. We have three kids, ages 6, 3, and 15 months. Our oldest will be doing some summer camps that happen in the morning hours.
Mama self-care time. Go for a run before I lose motivation. Shower, dress, and make coffee.
7:30 – 9:30 am
Get kids dressed right away, kids make their own beds, eat breakfast, and have t.v. time. Mama has blogging time while kids watch a bit of cartoons.
9:30 – 11:00 am
Outside exercise time before it gets too hot. Backyard play with toys, ride bikes, or go for a walk together. Snack delivered outside at 10:30. While kids play in the backyard, Mama preps* a craft, game or learning activity. We often play with the sprinkler, put the water hose on our slides, or water the plants.
*I have the most success prepping learning activities when I plan these activities only once per week, at the same time that I plan meals. When I plan my meals on the weekend, I add ingredients to my grocery pick-up list, and also order any supplies needed for crafting and learning.
11:00 – 11:45
Mama helps with learning time: new craft, new life skill, game, etc. If we don’t have anything specific planned, this is when we use our favorite toys.
Looking for a fun, new craft that requires zero prep and few supplies? Check out Pencil Shaving Art for Kids!
12:00 – 2:30
Lunch, clean up, and Read & Rest.
2:30 – 4:00
Out of the house: errands, grocery pickup, afternoon snack time (often in the car), fun activities like swimming, library or museum. These activities are scheduled in advance using ideas from the kids summer fun brainstorming.
4:00 – 5:30
Free time, afternoon t.v. time, and kids help with chores while Mama preps dinner and does cleaning tasks.
5:30 – 8:30
Dinner, more free play, bath times, kitchen clean up, kids bed times (staggered)
8:30 – 10:30