Summer is a time when everything goes topsy-turvy. At first, there’s this glorious time period where everyone feels lazy and contented, pleased to be crashing down from a chaotic May. It doesn’t last long, though, and before you know it, everyone is cranky and rude and in need of a tiny bit of structure.
When the whole family will be spending extra time together, you need some summer rules to keep everyone sane.
5 Summer Rules that Work for Us
So without further adieu, here are the summer rules that are working for us. Our kids are 6, 3, and 1.
1. We stick to the block schedule – mostly!
Our six year old is very go with the flow, as long as she’s got books to read and craft supplies nearby. However, our middle friend is a MESS if he gets off some sort of a routine.
I do find that no matter the age of the kid, they all tend to behave better when they can vaguely expect what will happen on any given day. It cuts down on the relentless QUESTIONING, too. I experience this as a classroom teacher in the third and fourth grade, but even as a youth director working with teenagers. If your kids are acting like fools, consider some semblance of routine.
For example, thanks to our block schedule, the kids know they’ll have a couple of different t.v. times each day. They don’t have to ask me when, because they already know when it will happen. Read and Rest (our branding of nap and quiet time) is right after lunch. They’re not always asking me about snacks, because those are consistently at 10:30 and 3:30. We tend to get outside in the morning, run errands, and try out special activities around town. Late afternoon is always independent play time, cooking or a craft.
Block schedules are the perfect hybrid between free-for-all chaos and unrealistic rigidity. We don’t schedule down to the half hour; we often schedule in two or three hour chunks. This gives plenty of flexibility but keeps things relatively predictable.
To read more about our summer block schedule (and how to make your own), check out this post!
2. Kids are responsible for their own at-home entertainment.
I plan several fun activities each week. Those might include outings to try new play centers around town, walks in the neighborhood, and frequent trips to the different library branches.
But when we are at home, amongst all the crafting supplies, well-organized toys, dress-up clothes and more, I expect my kids to play together without me, both at home and in the backyard.
If you’ve got tons of toys and yet the kids “never have anything to do,” here are 75 boredom busters to help with that!
I do not feeling guilty about this AT ALL. Kids need to be creative, and boredom is healthy for their brains. As parents, if we’re always swooping in and playing with them, they never learn to just be chill and at peace with themselves.*
This is not neglect, because I’m still giving them lots of love throughout the day, and feeding them, and singing them bedtime songs and reading them stories. I take them on adventures. But I leave the ordinary play to them, because I think letting them learn and play and explore alone is empowering.
*I am not a therapist and I have zero legitimate training in this area. I still think I’m right, but it’s okay if you disagree with me.
3. Screen time is planned and scheduled instead of earned.
I totally understand why so many folks like the idea of having to earn screen time each day, particularly if kids being on screens has become a problem. That’s why I’m including a “summer rules before electronics” checklist printable below. A lot of you are looking for that!
I don’t do it that way. One of my rules is that screen time is just a regular part of the day that is planned and part of our block schedule. That’s because summer is also about me having a lovely time, and t.v. time allows me the opportunity to cook meals in peace, mow the yard, or whatever else needs to be done without little people interference. I don’t like for it to be an incentive, although I have been known to take it away as a consequence.
I also think that when screen time is something kids must earn each day, it becomes an even BIGGER deal in their minds.
4. The kitchen is only for cooking, eating and cleaning.
Y’all. I know I sound like a mean mama, but I don’t let kids play in the kitchen. Here’s why.
I started off having no particular rule about the kitchen. I had this warm, fuzzy ideal of the kitchen being a hub of love and togetherness, like you see on t.v.
But my kids are 6, 3, and 1. And they fight with each other pretty regularly. It’s nothing serious, of course. Just routine bickering. The kind experts think is actually good for siblings, but which sounds like nails on a chalkboard to Mama.
Throughout the day, I’d be working in the kitchen. Dishes, meal prep, sweeping and mopping…
You know how it goes.
And they were just UNDER FOOT fussing at each other all the time. It drove me crazy. When I’m trying to get something done, it’s just not helpful at all to have little doofuses squawking and griping at each other. I wanted to work in peace, with my podcasts on.
So I had to make a new rule, and I still need to reinforce it fairly often. The kitchen is just for cooking, eating, and cleaning. If you’re not doing one of those three things, please relocate.
Looking to spice up your family life around the dinner table? I think Universal Yums is great for that! Here’s why I think it’s perfect for families with little kids.
5. We clean up our messes (at least) once a day.
I cannot live with lots of clutter and mess, because it makes me feel irritable and overwhelmed.
Plus, there’s no harm in raising tidy children. One of mine is a toddler, so it’s too soon to tell. My middle boy is naturally a bit tidy, and doesn’t even mind cleaning up very much.
But my oldest, most creative child is a walking tornado. She lives in the clouds, oblivious to the disaster zone at her feet. No matter how often I remind her, she doesn’t pick up things when she finishes playing with them. She just moves onto the next thing. For her, it makes more sense to require one or more cleaning times per day, rather than expecting her to constantly put away after each game or activity.
I insist on a reset at least once a day. It often happens in the morning between breakfast and morning cartoons, because I can say things like, “We’ll have our tv time once we have tidied up rooms.” It also happens occasionally before afternoon tv time for the same reason.
Summer Rules Before Electronics Form
Lots of families like to have kids earn their electronics time each day by accomplishing a number of preferred activities first. These typically break down into three categories: morning routine tasks, chores, and brain+body boosters.
There are lots of these available for a fee on Etsy, but I’ve included a free one here for you!
This summer rules checklist is not editable in PDF form, but you can print it, slide it into a plastic sleeve, and give the kiddo an Expo marker to fill bubbles each day.
Scroll down for all THREE free printables!
Summer Rules Editable Checklist
This version of my summer rules PDF is an editable check list. I’ve included two copies: one you can just print and use. You can also borrow my ideas from this list. The best way to use lists like this is to put them in a plastic sleeve, and give your child an Expo marker. They can check things off every day. Then, they can just erase and start over with each new day!
The other can be edited on your computer after you download – that way YOU can choose the number of activities required, number of minutes of screen time, and even write your own activities. It’s free, so enjoy!