Summer Schedule, What's That?: The Importance of Routine and Structure for Developing Minds

Woo Hoo! It’s summer! We’ve arrived. We have survived the hustle and bustle of the school year and we all deserve a pat on that back for that! (Or a bottle of wine) Whether you have school aged children or not, summer feels different. The longer days bring a feeling of freedom that allow us to throw some of the typical daily burdens to the side. Knowing summer is such a  short season, we just want to savor it. Savor the lack of activities on the calendar, the nonessential early bedtimes and welcome the extra popsicles, ice cream, and treats (and the resulting 5lbs around my midline). It’s these small mind shifts that truly make the thought of summer feel magical. 

I daydream all spring about what this glorious freedom will feel like when summer hits. About the mornings that we will sleep in and how we will relish in an empty calendar. And then something happens. We are two weeks into summer. My kids aren’t sleeping in. The calendar is too empty. We have eaten all the popsicles and gone to bed entirely too late and some of the magic of my summer daydreams has morphed into somewhat of a nightmare. As a result, I end up yearning to return to some semblance of the schedule that for the previous 9 months I was wishing away, if for no other reason than to be able to tell my littles that there is something to do when they tell me they are bored (or hungry) for the umpteenth time.

"When a child can anticipate what is coming next in their day...excitement can be built around the adventures and treats that do take place, and every day has a general flow which allows it to be enjoyed."

Routine and schedule, as exhausting as it can be, holds value, even when vague. When a child can anticipate what is coming next in their day, then they don’t have to ask you (all the praise hands for less questions), there are less melt downs, excitement can be built around the adventures and treats that do take place, and everyday has a general flow which allows it to be enjoyed. Added bonus, no one is counting down until bedtime. Well…we may still countdown, but it won’t start at noon. 

Much research has been down over the years, but most recently, a study out of the University of Albany shows that children, from infants to teens, benefit from routines and schedules because it allows them to feel a sense of security and stability granting them safety and allowing them to trust. 

Summer doesn’t have to have the rigidity of the typical “school year,” but even with just a skeleton of a schedule in place, everyone in my home is happier and we can truly enjoy those semi-picturesque summer days that my mind fondly painted. 

So with a cleared calendar and no typical activities, what does this look like? How do we create schedule without feeling “too” scheduled? First, design a general flow for the day. Decide what you want your day to look like from the time their tiny toes hit the ground with a FULL battery until their precious little heads hit the pillow at night. From there, designate certain “at home” days where you can enjoy the long mornings in your PJs (reheating your coffee three times) and the mountains of toys your kids don’t always have the time to play with. From there, designate the days you are going to get out and about, even if you don’t know where you are going. If you don’t plan to leave, you won’t! Having a loose grip on what your days shake out will leave you feeling less frazzled and give your children the stability they crave but don’t know how to ask for.  Rather than viewing the schedule as a tool of strangulation, let’s view it as an opportunity to intentionally create meaning for our kids and sanity for ourselves.

Proposed Summer Schedule for Littles:

  • Wake-Up
  • Breakfast
  • Chores/ Get Ready
  • Morning Brain Activity (read a book, craft, card/board game)
  • Outing or Project at Home (Intentionally planned activity inside or outside the home)
  • Lunch
  • Rest Time (Naps or a just a quiet/calm activity)
  • Afternoon Activity (play outside, read, screen time)
  • Dinner
  • Family Time
  • Bath
  • Bed

Fill in the blanks with things that fill your family’s soul and enjoy the benefits of all that a schedule has to offer!

Jess Wardell
Jess Wardell is a 8 year veteran teacher in Cobb County. With a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and experience in both preschool and the elementary grades, Jess has a passion for helping children discover and cultivate their own innate love of learning. Her favorite job is being mom to her two girls, Norah and Emma. Drawing on her experiences within the classroom and her own home, Jess desires to help other families discover the joy of engaging in meaningful experiences that encourage both learning and creativity in simple and effortless ways.

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