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Do Your Kids Need a Summer Schedule?

What’s inside this article: The benefits of maintaining a summer schedule for your child during the school break, along with tips (and a free printable) to help you create an easy-to-follow, fun summer routine.

Summer break is often a time to unwind, spend more time outside, more quality time with the family. Bedtimes are later or non-existent. We wake up and go with the flow.

But also, children need routine. Routines help children feel safe and secure, build life skills and develop healthy habits. And it’s not just kids who need routines – our nervous systems thrive on predictability. 

So should you create a summer schedule for your kids?

On a cellular level, our bodies use past experiences to predict future ones.

Plus, the most common root cause of anxiety in children is uncertainty. 

Kids need to know what to expect. They need predictability and structure in their lives. 

So, as summer break approaches, creating a summer schedule can help prepare your child for the change while also maintaining some of the structures and routines they need?

Summer Schedule

Make Sure Kids Know What to Expect

When the school year ends, change is inevitable, but you can ensure a smooth transition when your child knows what to expect next.

Ensure your child knows what (if any) child care arrangements you have, any activities or summer camps they’re enrolled in, and make a general plan for the day/week. 

Children experience a range of emotions when encountering uncertainty – from boring to distressing so, knowing what to expect and planning ahead provides the predictability they need.

Plan Your Days & Use a Routine

I created a free printable summer bucket list for kids. Your children can either write or draw pictures in the spaces of all the things they hope to do over summer break. 

This printable is paired with a weekly summer planner. Use the planner (I recommend laminating it and using a dry erase marker) to share day-to-day activities, chores, notes, and reminders with your child. 

Hang the weekly summer schedule on your refrigerator or in a central area, so your child can look at it whenever they need to. 

You may also want to consider using a visual schedule. Visual schedules are easily understood, even by children who can’t yet read or who are nonverbal.

Summer Planner & Bucket List

Don’t Change Bedtime

Inconsistent sleep and wake times can disrupt our circadian rhythm. These disruptions can lead to chronic sleep problems that affect mental health, learning, cognitive development, and other functions in the body.

It’s easy to become slack with bedtime in the summer months when there’s no school, and your child doesn’t have to wake up early – but maintaining the same sleep and wake time, even as part of your summer schedule, is best for child development.

Encourage Your Child to Work on their Strengths & Interests

We learn from patterned, repetitive activity – that is how new pathways form in the brain, and the more we do something, the stronger it becomes. 

The things we spend our time doing, and even feeling, becomes natural to us and hardwired into our brains. 

So, since your child has some downtime over the break, encourage them to spend that time doing more of something they enjoy and that they’re good at doing.

They’ll build skills, feel happier, and develop more confidence. It’s a win-win-win. 

Before the end of the school year, brainstorm together and help them school a skill to work on this summer. The options are endless.

Art, music, sports, cooking, gardening, to name a few. 

Is your child a gamer? Maybe they’d enjoy taking on a coding class over the summer. 

Structure Their Environment

Where will your child be spending most of their time over summer break? You can provide predictability by structuring your child’s environment. 

Create predictable spaces and rituals within your home, such as:

  • A set calm-down space
  • A set place for toys, meals, downtime, etc.
  • 4-5 clear family rules that are displayed and everyone is expected to follow (For example, ours are: be gentle, be respectful, be honest, be considerate)
  • Themed days of the week, such as Taco Tuesday, Sunday Funday, family movie or game nights, etc.

Include Mental Stimulation in your Routine

Some learning loss is expected over summer vacation, so teachers usually spend the first couple of weeks reviewing previous learning. 

However, including even 20-30 minutes of mental stimulation in your child’s daily routine helps reduce that learning loss. 

Your child should spend this time each day doing activities like reading, writing in a journal, playing puzzle games or word games, etc. 


Bottomline

The bottom-line is, children simply do better with a routine, even if it’s different and less structured than their regular school routine.

Simply having a summer schedule helps with behavior challenges and lowers anxiety and worry in kids. It also makes things easier for the whole family.

Your children’s brains are still developing, especially the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for executive functions.

This matters, a lot. Because, this is where the ability to plan ahead and make predictions about the future take place.

Children aren’t able to do this accurately simply because their brains haven’t developed that skill yet. So, they depend on structure and routine.

Uncertainty leads to anxiety. A highly predictable routine helps children feel secure and know what to expect, and practice by making simple predictions.

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