When you have kids, summer is a juggling act between having fun outdoors, pool time, sprinklers, 4th of July, neighborhood BBQs and creating memorable experiences and having exciting adventures… and being exhausted. Everything you’re trying to cram into Summer is totally exhausting because all that unstructured free time together can bring on sibling bickering, tantrums, and stints of boredom all while you’re trying to squeeze as much into the fleeting three months of summer break.
Whether you have kids at home because you’re a stay-at-home parent, a teacher with the summer off or working a 9-5 and evenings and weekends together with your kids, summertime begs you to fill the longer days with BBQs, plans with family and friends, trips, and experience the outdoors like no other season does. But honestly, the fun lasts for about two weeks and then the busyness of summer can start to weight on you unless you can structure your time and stretch out summer so you don’t burnout.
DESIGN A SUMMER ROUTINE FOR YOUR HOME
Summer is a fun time and gives you and the kids some freedom to lounge around the house more, wake up later, go to bed later and hang out in pajamas just a little bit longer than normal… But be wary, once you get too far away from your routine, that’s where behavior problems such as sibling fighting, whining, temper tantrums, and fussiness arise. Not only that, your house may become a dumping ground for toys, crafts, and pool towels and suites unless you stick with some sort of routine – even a relaxed one – that keeps everyone on track and has your kids helping pitch in around the house as well.
Do your kids have chores to do in the morning still? Have your kids make their beds, put away dirty laundry, put away folded laundry, pick up their toys, hang towels in the bathroom and help clean up toys in the backyard.
In the afternoons, add time for each child to play quietly by themselves or designated reading time so they are sitting down and resting.
CREATE WEEKLY SCHEDULES WITH ACTIVITIES
On Saturday or Sunday, plan out the next week so you have a schedule to keep you and the kids active. It may be a small trip to the library for storytime, the pool, the zoo, aquarium, a local splash pad, having a playdate at the park with friends, setting up a slip and slide or pool in the backyard, a bike ride or picnic for lunch, or taking a small trip to explore something new.
Take into account your nap or quiet time routines and see what you can fit in the morning or afternoon each day and develop a schedule that will work best for your family. For example, my daughter naps from 12 – 2:30pm every afternoon so mornings from 8:30am – 11:30am work best for us to get out of the house or one afternoon once she wakes up, we will head to the pool to cool off.
Here is a sample summer activity planner to download so you can see your week at a glance.
No idea on where to start for a routine with your toddler? See this sample routine to get an idea on how to structure your days.
BALANCE ACTIVITIES WITH UNSTRUCTURED PLAYTIME
While you’re busy creating a schedule with activities, don’t forget to schedule unstructured playtime. Kids need to be bored, they need to play in the backyard or at home quietly by themselves or with their siblings without being told what to do by adults – and parents need this time too!
If I am taking the kids somewhere or scheduling an activity in the morning, then oftentimes, I take the afternoon off and we stay at home to play. The kids may play in the sandbox or on the swing set in our backyard or we might go for a walk around the neighborhood, but don’t feel like you need to constantly entertain your kids. Unstructured play is just as important and beneficial as getting out and experiencing new things.
WATCH THE SUGAR INTAKE
When you think of summer what food comes to mind? Ice Cream trucks, Lemonade stands, popsicles, carnival food, hamburgers, hot dogs, milkshakes, smoothies… all of which are high in sugar.
Try to stick to natural sugars found in fruit and make your own popsicles or have a bowl of fresh watermelon instead of sugary options. While sugar is OK once in a while, feeding your kids sugar on a daily basis isn’t healthy for them and may contribute to difficult behaviors during the summer when you’re spending more time together.
Kids play long and hard in the summer – they’re outside more, they run and jump and swim and dive and wear themselves out. And while they’re always on the go, its super important to make sure they’re getting enough quality sleep so they can stay healthy during the summer months and not wearing their bodies down physically and taking its toll on their emotional health (notice a peak in tantrums and outbursts??)
Check out this sleep and nap chart to calculate how much sleep your children should be getting.
SCHEDULE BREAKS FOR YOURSELF
You can’t properly take care of your kids if you aren’t taking care of yourself. How many times have you heard this? Never during the year does this ring more true. In order to stay active, engaged and have fun with your kids, you need to schedule breaks for yourself during the day to just sit and be.
Find time for yourself before your kids wake up, during nap time/quiet time, and after they go to sleep. If scheduling time is hard or you need more than you’re already getting because of a packed week, maybe its time to hire a babysitter or trade watching the kids with your sister or a friend. Check into local camps or once or twice a week daycare/preschool options that may be a good fit for you and your kids.
What do you do to make the summers fun with your kids while not getting burnt out?