Updated: May 24
One year ago, I was on the internet scrolling Pinterest and websites trying to figure out what would be the best schedule and approach to the summer now that I was newly home with my 3-year-old and 5-year-old. I scrolled for hours, reading lots of articles and blogs. I also talked with moms who’d done this before, for ideas. I was so determined to come up with a plan that felt easy, fun, and enjoyable!
Fortunately, I did and it worked pretty well. We had a great summer together! We had more fun as a family than we’d ever had before.
There were a few key elements to our summer schedule that made it a success:
(1) We didn’t turn on the TV in the mornings
(2) I started doing major toy rotation
(3) The learning activities we did were short and sweet
(4) We incorporated rest time in the afternoons
(5) We mostly stuck to a schedule, but every once in a while threw it out the window and stayed in our PJs all day!
I’ll take you through each of these tips, offering ideas, insights, and inspiration. Click here for ready made summer schedules that will set your family up for success. You can also access these at the bottom of this blog.
Tip 1: Try to Minimize Screen Time First Thing in the Morning
It’s tempting to let the school year schedule go out the window and let your kids stay up late, sleep in, and watch TV in the morning. While this does give you a break from the normal routine, which can be appealing, it isn’t great for kiddos.
Screen time in the morning has been found to affect children’s moods (think crankiness), which might be in part a result of children being grumpy about having to “stop” watching, when screen time is up.
Further, research shows that consistent morning screen time is related to language and learning difficulties. It seems repeated morning screen time makes children less able to focus and more drained cognitively. It sort of zaps their creative energy and thinking powers. I call it “TV Zombie Brain,” which I surely notice when my kiddos watch a good chunk of TV in the morning.
This is not to say that you can’t occasionally turn on the TV first thing in the morning. On Saturdays and Sundays, my kids each get one show in the morning. This gives me a chance to get my coffee and ease into the day, and they have something they look forward to during the week - TV time in the morning on the weekends!
If using screens on weekday mornings is the only option, consider choosing educational shows and spend time having a conversation about the show afterward.
Here are Some Great Examples of Educational Shows:
PBS Kids (find on Amazon Prime or PBS Kids website)
Super Why: Uses fairy tales and magical adventures to develop literacy skills
Peg & Cat: Young girl and her cat solve all kinds of fun math problems
Sid The Science Kid: Fun, exciting science explorations driven by a young child’s questions
Molly of Denali: Learn about cultural traditions and experiences of a 10 year-old Alaskan Native
Dinosaur Train: Learn all about dinosaurs through the adventures of a family of Pteranodons and their Tyrannosaurus Rex son
Number Blocks: Unifix cubes come to life and build children’s numeracy skills
Storybots: Creatures who take on the role of computer-parts to answer children’s pressing questions
Super Wings: Airplanes that transform into robots to solve problems and in doing so learn about places and people around the world
Hello Ninja: Two children transform into ninja’s and learn important life lessons while solving unique challenges
Here are Some Alternatives to Screen Time (that have worked well for us):
Having a different morning activity to do each day of the week that becomes a routine - something that creates engagement and excitement, other than the TV. The activity can be as simple as puzzles every Tuesday morning or dot markers on Thursday and baking muffins on Fridays.
Having a consistent routine for particular days of the week creates regularity, and kids love knowing what to expect. Here are some that we’ve used with success: