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Parenting

4 simple ways to maintain a routine during summer break

Yes, your kids need to do more than watch TV

(1) A boy clutches a green alarm clock while in a deep sleep. (2) A mother serves a waffle to her child. (3) A child draws on pavement with chalk. (4) A child runs on a beach at sunset with their dad. Credit: Getty Images / Zhenikeyev / shironosov / martin-dm / AleksandarNakic

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Who doesn’t love summer break? Book bags give way to beach bags, lunch boxes are replaced with picnic baskets, and long hours in the classroom are transformed into long hours in the sunshine.

That’s not to say that summer doesn’t have a few drawbacks. Bedtimes are often drawn out later and later, leading to later and later mornings, leading to later and later starts to the day. Before you know it, it’s 2:00 PM, nobody is dressed, nobody is showered, and you can’t remember the last time anyone brushed their teeth.
Sound familiar? If so, it’s time to establish a routine, stat.

Why are routines important?

Simply put, children thrive on routine, and kids often experience negative emotions when they don’t follow a consistent routine. A predictable routine creates feelings of security and safety for a child. Routines help to regulate our lives and prevent them from becoming either too stagnant, or too disorganized. It’s comforting to know that our basic needs, such as sleeping and eating, are planned for—and met—in a thoughtful and regular manner. Routines are a good reminder that somebody cares about us.

How to establish a routine

1. Make a to-do list

A young child reads chores written on a to-do list while their parent watches.
Credit: Getty Images / PeopleImages

Add consistency to your child's schedule with a to-do list.

Some families may find it helpful to keep a visual checklist of every day “to do's." Lists can be simple and contain self-care tasks such as “get dressed,” “brush teeth,” “make the bed,” and “comb hair."

It can also be helpful to add other creative and cognitive activities, such as “20 minutes of reading,” “build, draw, paint, or make something,” and “play outside."

There are a number of applications available to help organize daily routines. One of our favorites is Kids ToDo List. This app allows families to create lists using provided visuals, or by adding their own images. Kids can easily manipulate visuals and then mark off their completed tasks. Other features include timers as well as options for uploading verbal instructions.

If you prefer to go the old-fashioned route, we’re partial to the customizable summer checklists available on Etsy.

2. Stay active

(Left) A child peeks behind a stack of books in a library. (Center) A group of 4 young swimmers hang onto the wall of a pool. (Right) A family places a blanket in a park for a picnic on a sunny day.
Credit: Getty Images / Image Source / kali9 / Wavebreakmedia

Motivate them to get up with something to do every day.

Motivation to get out of bed and get ready for the day can be low if there is nothing on the calendar. Many communities provide special programs throughout the summer months. Reading programs, art programs, and summer day camps may all be available to help fill those long afternoons.

If there are no formally organized programs within your community, create your own recreational routines. Hit the library every Monday, go swimming on Tuesdays, and have a picnic in the park on Wednesdays. Having even one activity planned daily can be reason enough to get up and get going.

As a bonus activity, have kids chronicle their summer adventures in the My Summer Journal. Designed to be used daily, kids can keep track of three full months of activities, as well as fun facts about what was happening during each day.

For an even more creative spin, Summer Summer provides prompts for writing, scrapbooking, and drawing.

3. Make a summertime bucket list

(Left) A family roasts marshmallows for s’mores over a fire.(Center) A child blows a bubble with gum. (Right) A young child draws with chalk on a sidewalk.
Credit: Getty Images / RyanJLane / chuckcollier / Imgorthand

Create a summer bucket list of simple but fun activities.

Maybe you aren’t the swimming-pool-every-Tuesday, type. That’s OK ! There are plenty of ways to keep busy in your own backyard.

Consider creating a summer bucket list. It’s as easy as brainstorming a number of simple and engaging activities that your family can do together. Activities such as a paper airplane competition, drawing a self-portrait with sidewalk chalk, or seeing who can blow the biggest bubble before it pops are all fun and inexpensive activities that you can plan throughout the summer months.

Other activities to add to your bucket list might include playing a game of flashlight tag, learning how to hula hoop, or making s’mores around the fire pit. Pro-tip: Hershey’s makes a s’mores kit for easy indoor or outdoor s’mores.

Plan to do at least one thing on your bucket list every day. These go-to activities will keep your family off the couch, and engaged in a routine, all summer long.

4. Be firm about bedtime

A father reads a bedtime story to his daughter.
Credit: Getty Images / PeopleImages

Ensure your kiddo gets a full night of sleep.

While it can be tempting to let kids stay awake later to enjoy the long summer days, a major part of a healthy routine is receiving adequate sleep. Much of a child’s brain development occurs during the time in which they are sleeping, and this has a direct effect on a child's ability to learn and their ability to manage their emotions.

Make it easier for kids to fall asleep—even if it’s still light out—by investing in some blackout shades and a sound machine. A good night’s sleep will enable them to wake up well-rested and ready to take on another summer day of activities.

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