Creating A Summer Schedule

Today is the first day of summer for my family.  School is out, the weather is great, and we are excited…so why did I end up in such a grumpy mood this morning?

Maybe it was because I stayed in bed too long, and by the time I got up, my two-year-old had dumped garbage all over the living room, my older children were itching to run around outside, and we no longer had the time to take that day trip we’d been planning.

Maybe, it was because I really wanted to exercise and take a shower, but I hadn’t anticipated that all of my children would want to whine and complain and sit right next to me while I tried to take on Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred (loved that workout, by the way…even WITH my little ones all around me).

Or, maybe I was grumpy because I hadn’t thought about all the laundry, cleaning, and organizing that needed to be done, and I hadn’t shared my summertime goals with my children.  They were under the impression that summer was going to be one non-stop party, and I was envisioning a beautiful month of de-junking and hanging out at home.  We needed a compromise.

Whatever it was that caused these summertime blues, I was determined to find a solution this morning, and I thought I’d share what we discovered.

(1) I took a few minutes to study creative summer plans my friends Suzanne and Saren have shared with me.  They are both incredible, and though I didn’t implement all of their great ideas, they inspired me to come up with a plan that would really work for my family.  Suzanne is one of those mothers who makes the most of every summer month. She schedules a weekly park day, a weekly swim day, a weekly field trip day, a monthly date night out, and a monthly Girls’ Night Out, and then she types up the whole thing and gives copies to all her friends so they can easily join in the fun.  Clever, right? Click here to view Suzanne’s summer schedule. And Saren has developed this whole “do-it-yourself” summer camp program moms can create for their own families. Click here to read Saren’s article about creating your own family learning adventures camp.

(2) We created a “Summer Bucket List.” I’ve never done this before, but I remembered that Allyson Reynolds put one together last year that looked like SO much fun (click HERE to read it), and I figured we could do the same thing!  I always get to the end of the summer and think, “How did the time pass so quickly?  I never even got together with so and so or made it to that museum we’ve been dying to see.”  Not this summer….  My children and I gathered around the whiteboard in the kitchen this morning and wrote out all the things we’d like to do.  Which friends do we want to invite over for play dates?  Which restaurants do we want to visit?  Which parks?  Which museums? Which stores? We’ve now got a great idea list to work from each day, and we are all incredibly excited.

(3) We put together a “Summer Family Routine List,” which includes all the things we need to be doing on a consistent basis–reading, tidying the house, wondering, practicing the piano, helping people who are sick, etc.  Now when my children wake up in the morning or come to me saying, “I’m bored,” I have a whole list of things ready for them to review for ideas. This is another idea that is explained more fully in Saren’s “do it yourself summer camp” article.

(4) We established a theme for each day of the week. Monday is “Laundry and Library Day,” Tuesday is “Field Trip Day,” Wednesday is “Friend Day,” Thursday is “Sports Day,” and Friday is “Beach Day.”  Of course this will be flexible, but having some sort of a system set up helps us to make sure we’re incorporating a variety of activities into our summer.

(5) We set up a quiet time schedule. My two-year-old takes a two-hour nap every day, and that’s when I either nap, work on this website, or do my desk work and phone calls.  I don’t want my older children watching TV for the whole two hours, so we set up a little rotation (they drew numbers out of a hat to decide where to start).

Rotation #1 = 30 minutes playing computer games

Rotation #2 = 30 minutes playing with toys quietly or playing in the backyard

Rotation #3 = 30 minutes reading or writing stories

Final 30 minutes = a television show that everyone agrees upon

They’re entering their final 30 minutes right now, so I will finish this up, but I wanted to record this because it’s made a huge difference for me.  Now that we have some sort of a plan in place, I’m not grumpy.  In fact, I’m feeling just as excited about the summer as my children.

QUESTION: What do you do to create some sort of order in your summer routine?

CHALLENGE: Hold a mini-family council and plan your Summer Bucket List, your Family Routine, and/or a theme for each day of the week.  Or, if you like things to be more unstructured, have a conversation with your children where you can align your summertime expectations.



  1. says

    Submitted on 6-30-2010 at 10:12am
    LOVE that idea! We’ll make one, too. That’s a great way to keep everyone away from the TV. I have this book on my bookshelf that I’ve been dying to read, as well. It’s something about Unplugged Play–I’ve got to get that out. Have a wonderful day!

  2. Chantelle says

    Submitted on 6-30-2010 at 10:04am
    April, thank you for the wonderful ideas!! We have just started our summer today and we are making an “I am BORED” jar. The kids are decorating it and we are going to brainstorm together all the activities they can do: play Monopoly, paint a picture, run through the sprinkler, play hide and seek etc. We will write each activity on a little piece of paper and then when I hear those dreaded words I can direct them to the jar where they can pick out a slip of paper and do the activity written there. I hope it works, but we are very excited about it!! Just thought I would share.

  3. April says

    Submitted on 6-29-2010 at 10:51pm
    I love all these ideas! It’s fun to think of ways to make “ordinary” life more exciting with such simple ideas. I need to go buy five buckets and let my children be in charge of filling them up to fit our theme. Great thoughts! Tomorrow is “Friend Day,” and a friend of ours who was recently diagnosed with cancer is having a birthday. I think I’m going to incorporate “being a friend” in with the activity of having friends over to play. Great things can happen with a little planning (and sometimes things won’t happen at all because plans change, but that’s okay!).

  4. Charelle says

    Submitted on 6-29-2010 at 03:03pm

    Your article prompted us to make a summer bucket list and get some plans for routines and schedules made this morning. It gives us something to look forward to and we’ll be sure to make the most of the summer if we have some plans made. Thanks for another practical and inspiring article!


  5. Brianna Monson says

    Submitted on 6-29-2010 at 09:25am
    Ok, so I have to just add a little more! I wrote this at the end of the school year and have now learned a thing or two! After explaining the above “bucket summer plans” with my kids we were very excited…each day they would pull out the different bucket and say “come on mom today is…”! Well, I have learned that it is okay to change the days up a bit. I was just getting a little drained because we went swimming on Monday and would also do our designated assignment but then again on Wednesday we had to go swimming since that was the designated item! Well, I quickly (after 1 week of this) sat down and had a talk with my kids about how we need to be flexible and if something comes up that would be better we could do that instead of what we had planned. I explained it is a schedule to remind us to do fun things this summer and not always the same things! They were still thrilled and it is working well for us! Good luck to everyone with their summer plans! :)

  6. Brianna Monson says

    Submitted on 6-29-2010 at 09:18am
    I also read on the website an idea posted about planning different activities each day of the week with the letter of the week. (Moving about Monday/Take a trip Tuesday/Wet Wednesday/anyThing goes Thursday/Friend Friday). We are just getting so excited for summer and doing school has been extra hard these past few weeks(we do an online public school at home) so I am going to incorporate this idea as soon as I have everything ready to go. I am adding to this idea a little to get everyone excited. I thought it would be fun to get 5 buckets to go along with each day of the week and fill them with items that go with the day. Here are my examples: movie monday bucket would have some movies, popcorn, drinks, snacks. Take a trip bucket would have items to take along in the car, small games or toys. I also want this to be a day to visit grandmas in town so I am putting craft supplies inside to make a little craft to take to the grandmas. Wet Wednesday bucket contains beach balls, water guns, water ballons, sunscreen, sunglasses. anyThing goes Thursday bucket can contain activity books, new story books, cooking supplies to have a cooking day with the kids, anyThing really goes for this bucket! Friend Friday bucket contains activities for the kids to do with their friends. So, to explain to my children our new “calendar” I will bring out the buckets to explain each days adventure. I have been having fun planning this and can’t wait to begin!

  7. Lisa says

    Submitted on 6-29-2010 at 08:33am
    April, I love this! I always do laundry on Monday so thankfully, that one is already in place. I just need to work on getting together as a family and setting up the rest of the schedule. Can’t wait to see what we come up with! Thanks for the idea!

  8. says

    I love all of these ideas. I haven’t done a schedule yet for this summer, but it really helped throughout the winter to have an outline to fall back on. Then I wouldn’t wake up and say, “What one earth am I going to do all day with these kids??” I still have little ones that nap so we focus on getting out and doing our activity of the day in the morning. Then they know that lunchtime/naptime follows. I love the “bored jar” idea for afternoon blues. We also review our week every Monday night together in our family “announcements.” Then we all know what’s coming and the kids can give some good input.

    • April Perry says

      I need a “bored jar”! What a great idea. I’m assigning that to my girls today. Thanks Janelle!

  9. Melanie Larsen says

    Just made our family’s summer schedule! We are so excited! Thanks for the tips and suggestions. I also think its great to find a couple of days to just schedule “Nothing.” We’ve blocked a few days off for this!

    • April Perry says

      I think “nothing” days are what make the best Summer memories for our children. They’re so good at being spontaneous (when I give them a chance!).

      Thanks for your comment, Melanie!

  10. sj says

    I love this article. My little ones are little, 3 and 1. This is very similar to how I set up our entire year schedule, since we are not in school yet. Very fun + meaningful. Many thanks.

    • April Perry says

      Thanks SJ! I wish I’d done things like this when my children were little. My days always felt so long. I hope you have a great summer!

  11. emily reid says

    Thank you April for those wonderful tips!
    I too try to make my summer a little planned and it makes our summer so much fun! One of those theme days I have tried before was cookie day. For 10 weeks we made one new cookie a week and then brought some to a neighbor to get to know them better, (we had just moved into a new home). I love cooking so it worked for us, but I loved trying a new cookie that I had put off trying for months! Also we met new friends!

    • April Perry says

      Emily, I think my children would LOVE to live at your house. Those cookies sound so fun! How do you keep from eating all the batter?

      I’ll talk with my girls about this–they might want to take over the cookie-making. Have a wonderful summer, and thanks for commenting!

  12. says

    This is a GREAT idea! My summer challenge is that I have boys ages 14 and 12 and a daughter aged 5, and it’s hard to find activities that they all enjoy. I’ll talk with them about “theme days”, and try to find things they will all enjoy doing!

  13. s says

    love all the ideas. I work from home, so any other mom’s in that situation? I used to get a young sitter as a mothers helper but my kids are old enough not to need a sitter but too young to be just set loose without some guidance. I am thinking of paying my olders to watch the youngest but still would love to hear other mom’s who work and still want the kids to have a fun summer. We do have some half day camp activities that one of the kids will do, but for the most part the kids don’t want to be in anything scheduled. Yet watching tv or having playdates all the time isn’t feasible.

    One thing we started last year, sort of like the bucket list, is we started a Summer Fun list and each child writes on the poster board all the things they want to do – with the understanding that we can’t do ALL of them. When they complain they haven’t done anything fun, I can point to the board where we’ve checked things off like “catch fireflies”, “camp out”, “drive in movies”.

  14. Ingrid says

    I am so glad to see that I’m not the only mom on the planet who structures summertime! We’d be lazy-bones with nothing to show for it if I didn’t. One year we made an “I’m bored” jar and the kids wrote fun and creative ideas on the slips of paper, and I wrote jobs and chores. The rule was that if anyone said the dreaded words (I’m bored) then they HAD to draw out a slip and DO the thing on the paper, no trading for another slip. Can you believe, since they knew there were chore slips in there, that not one kid said “I;m bored” the entire summer! Since today is the second day of summer vacation for us, and I’ve heard 2 kids say it already (one said it a lot of times), maybe we need the “I’m bored Jar, version 2011.”

    I also do a tradition with my kids called “Summer worksheets” on the last day of school (Worksheets on the last day of school?! Hear me out….) I make a batch of special cupcakes and we sit around the kitchen table where we eat our treats together and the kids fill out their worksheets that I have made. With 6 questions:
    1. A fun place to get a treat
    2. A fun date to have with mom
    3. A fun family activity
    4. Some books you want to read this summer
    5. How can I be a better mom?
    6. How can you help the family to have a successful summer?

    I use these ideas to plan from. The kids get their “mom date” when their “good behavior” jar is full of beans (beans earned by obeying the fist time, being a peacemaker, etc).

    Thanks for sharing all these great ideas, everyone!

    • April Perry says

      Ingrid, your ideas are wonderful! I’m going to interview my children with the questions you have included here. Thanks!

  15. chockaday says

    I just joined Power of Moms and this is the first article I’ve read..and I’m already inspired to organize our summer. THANKS!

  16. jbemben says

    My husband and I both work fulltime and my 11 yr old son is an “only”. I sign him up for a variety of interesting daycamps that he enjoys – art, music, photography, physics and lots of out-of-doors mud & frog type activities. Since there aren’t any neighbor kids to play with, when he gets home his default is to veg out in front of a screen – ALL NIGHT LONG if he had his way – whining that there is nothing to do. I’ve heard of theme days for stay at home moms before, but hadn’t thought of it for us until I read your article. I ran this idea by my family and this summer we decided to add theme nights – stuff that is fun and relaxing for all of us that we like to do. Mondays we do chores (that was already set) and on Wednesday we always see my sister/ his aunt. We’ve added Tuesday – creative night (painting, photography, museums, or some other new craft), Thursday – bonfires (in or out depending on the weather, sometimes cooking dinner on it), Friday – movie night (dvds or at the theatre), Saturday – new park day (camping, hitting the beach, rock collecting, fishing, picnicking, or geocaching), and on Sunday we’re going to have Sundaes. Just something fun each night that could take as little as 1/2 hour or as much as several hours depending on what we feel like doing. I assured him that we could do these fun things MORE often, but at least for sure we could look forward to it on these days. If he does have a far-away friend over, they can join in with no trouble. Maybe some other moms without a lot of time at night might try the same mini-themes idea for things their families like to do.

  17. Nikell Fleener says

    Love love love all your ideas. Seriously, this is brilliant and so are all the other comments folks have shared. Thank all you wonderful moms for helping other moms “survive”! Can’t wait to put some of these ideas to action.

  18. Maria says

    I am a longtime reader, first time commenter. What prompted me to post a comment was my relief at reading all the great ideas, I immediately started drafting my kids “must do daily” summer checklists, age appropriate of course, I have a 17 year old and an 11 years old. We are just starting our summer and it can be EXHAUSTING trying to keep everyone busy and off the computer and TV….you would NOT believe how happy my family (including my husband) were to see the summer checklists. They loved sitting together and writing a Summer Bucketlist of things we want to do together as a family, and Goals….it really helps that my husband and I have a home-based business so we can take time during the week to do things with the fam instead of waiting for w/e when its busier. I would just like to say THANK YOU on behalf of my family!!!!! You are so organized, I admire you so much. I am working my way there. Thanks for all your great advice. Keep up the good work!!!

    • April Perry says

      Congratulations, Maria! I’m so excited for your family, and I so appreciate your kind words. Sounds like you are doing a BEAUTIFUL job!


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