You know how the summer schedule for kids goes right?
In the beginning, you’re all Mary Poppins coming up with fun and exciting ways to entertain the kids while keeping firm boundaries. By the end, you’ve got a serious eye twitch and back-to-school couldn’t come fast enough!
This summer will be the first one in a couple of years that my kids will be home with me full-time for three months. Since this ain’t my first rodeo (annnnd I’m guessing it’s not yours either since you’re here vs. winging it), I hatched a plan to keep us all sane and happy.
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My best tricks for a daily summer schedule for kids.
I’ll walk you through our summer morning and bedtime routines and then show you the overall daily schedule for the kids. Plus, I created a a summer routine printable template for you to grab at the end. Yay!
1. Morning routine ideas for kids.
First off, we are starting to help the kids stay in their rooms until a certain time each morning. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, then nothing robs your morning free-time like the kids poking you in the eye at 5 am.
We are grabbing one of these toddler alarm clocks for each of our kids this summer. Having them practice now is a great way to help them be ready to put this skill into action by the time school is done in late May or June.
And as always, our kids are proud owners of black out curtains. There is nothing worse than having kids see the first spec of light at 4:30 am and thinking it’s time to wake up for the day.
Our kids are allowed to play or read quietly in their rooms until the clock goes off at 7 am. This gives me a chance to get up each morning (when I’m feeling ambitious, I get up at 5 am) and do something just for me like exercise, read a book, have some coffee, and shower.
THEN…summer morning routine activities.
While the kids are waiting for breakfast, we start the day off with a “breakfast invitation.” This is a crazy simple activity that the kids can do, and it helps them easily transition into free play.
Using this one simple strategy, I’ve been able to save our screen-time until the afternoons and keep our mornings screen-free. When the kids are fresh and rested in the morning, they are so much better at sibling play.
My favorite places to follow to get simple activity ideas are Days With Grey, Busy Toddler and Hands On As We Grow on Instagram.
Here’s a general rundown of our morning routine:
- Kids wake up. Play in their room until 7 am when alarm clock lets them know it’s okay to come out.
- Get dressed. They pick their clothes out for the week on Sundays and put it in this handy file organizer. They have this clothing organizer on Amazon and they are cute, but the file organizer holds up way better over time. Our morning rule is they need to get dressed before breakfast, and it’s cut way down on the getting dressed battles.
- “Breakfast invitation” while waiting for breakfast.
- Eat breakfast, go into free-play when finished.
- After about an hour, we head out to do something fun!
2. Summer bedtime routines for kids.
During the school year, we tend to rock a really early bedtime for the kids. However, during the summertime, we will let the kids stay up until around 8 pm OR sometimes as late as 9 pm if we are getting together with friends and family.
The sun sets a lot later in the summer, so again…blackout curtains. Starting at about 7 pm, I’ll start closing all the blinds and drapes in the house to help the kids wind down.
This is typically when the kids start following their routine cards.
If the kids are taking a bath or a shower at night, I’ll use these unique and creative bath toys for toddlers (they work great for older kids too). Since we only use them during bath time, the kids easily transition into creative free-play.
We also spend a lot of time reading during the day. So if I find myself short on time during the bedtime routine, I will skip reading at night and play with them instead using SAY WHAT YOU SEE®.
This is a really simple technique where you describe what the child is doing, thinking, feeling and saying without questions, fixing or judgement. This can help nourish your child’s need to connect and cut way down on the bedtime battles (i.e. child keeps getting out of bed 357 times).
If you’re looking for bedtime books for kids, I love this books about kindness list and this kindergarten summer reading list.
Another quick thing that we do is use oils for sleep. Super easy and works!
Here’s a rundown of our bedtime routine.
- Close curtains to help kids wind down. Encourage kids to start following their routine cards.
- 2-3x per week the kids will take a bath or shower.
- Put on pajamas.
- Bedtime snack. My kids are on the lanky side and a bedtime snack definitely helps keep full tummies until the morning.
- Reading OR SAY WHAT YOU SEE® while they play to build connection.
- Roll-on essential oils up and down the spine. Set up diffuser with oils. The kids love to help with this.
- Brush teeth, potty, bedtime.
- Kids are allowed to read or play quietly with dim lights for 30 mins-ish. If they are still awake, I will let them know it’s time for lights out.
3. Quick daily schedule.
I know some stay-at-home moms love more structured times for a schedule rather than a general summer routine. So on days that we aren’t traveling, here is a loose example of times I follow:
- 7:00 am – kids wake up, get dressed, come down stairs, start breakfast invitation / activity
- 7:30 am – breakfast.
- 8:00 am – free-play. Check out open-ended toys if your kids need help.
- 9:00 am – head outside to the park, pool or adventure of the day.
- 11:00 am – back home, make lunch.
- 11:30 am – lunch.
- 12:00 pm – read to the kids + 10 mins of silent reading time on their own. Sometimes I will read for as long as an hour! But 30 mins is the goal, and sometimes that’s all we do.
- 12:40 pm – independent play in their rooms. They do this for about 20 minutes while they wait for screen-time.
- 1:00 pm – screen-time. During the school year, we limit scree-time to only the weekends. During the summer, I do 1 hour of screen-time per day. The kids each have their own Amazon free time account on their kid’s kindle. This allows you to limit everything to your child’s age and time allowed. It literally stops working after the time is up. If your child breaks it, Amazon will replace it. Another thing I love is that it allows the kids to decide if they want to play a game, read a book or watch a cartoon.
- 2:00 pm – snack.
- 2:30 pm – run errands, do an outdoor activity, meet up with friends, head to the park, etc.
- 4:00 pm – chores and prep dinner. The kids have a little job bag they pick from and do 2-3 jobs each day. We use these chore cards for kids (No charts! Yay!) They also pick up the toys around this time and we avoid the bedtime toy battle altogether. Check out setting limits for your strong willed child for more on this. If dinner prep has simple things the kids can do, they help cook the food alongside me. I’ll also put out veggies to stave off the hangry howls.
- 5:30 pm – family dinner at the table. If you having trouble keeping your kids at the dinner table, check out these conversation starters here.
- 6:00 pm – clean up dinner – the kids help, then kids free-play
- 6:45 / 7:00 pm – bath time (possibly), pajamas, bedtime snack, reading or play with the kids.
- 8:00 pm – bedtime. Kids are allowed to play in their room quietly. Our only rule is that they need to stay in their rooms.
- 8:30 pm – lights out.
4. Printable template.
These are the printable schedule cards for kids we use during both the school year and the summer. It also comes with an editable template so you can make your own custom routine for the kids.
The nice part about the cards is you can change up your routines based on the day (vs. a one sheet PDF). I will move the cards around depending on the day to help the kids know exactly what they need to do before bedtime and in the morning time.
A final word on free play – if you’re struggling to keep your kids busy during free play, do a quick check to make sure you have enough open-ended toys for kids. I’m a firm believer in toy minimalism, but not having enough open-ended toys can crush creative play. It’s made a world of difference in our home!
Here’s to enjoying summer with the kids and avoiding the eye-twitch come August!
Ready to make summer routines easy?
We’ve put together a fast and easy workshop to walk you through it step-by-step. Create summer rhythms that balance fun with real life responsibilities so you can make memories with your kids.
Plus, get ALL our summer rhythms printables, routine cards, chore cards and MORE!
LEARN MORE ABOUT SUMMER RHYTHMS HERE
OR if you’re just looking for our routine cards, you can see how we use them here!
Print this free printable!
This post comes with a free printable to give you an easy step-by-step guide to raise independent kids. Plus, remember what independent skills are age-appropriate for your kids!
Here’s a sneak peek…
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join my weekly parenting newsletter!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Use it as a quick reference to keep parenting simple!
Want more on parenting?
- 5 Sample Daily Toddler Schedules from REAL Moms
- The Secret Way to Raise Independent Kids Who Play
- How to Use Role Reversal Games With Preschoolers to End Power Struggles
- The Most Overlooked Reason Why Kids Won’t Listen
- A Quick & Easy Toddler Bedtime Routine That Works Like a Charm
I've created a free email series just for you! If you are struggling with finding a routine, rhythm or schedule, this email series will help you find one that will work for YOUR family. Yes, really. I've seen my sample routines work time and time again for parents. I know it can work for you too.
This free email series will help you:
- Free sample routines for your child
- Best morning routine tips and tricks your kids will actually follow
- All-time favorite parenting hacks for getting more cooperation at bedtime
- Step-by-step guide for using a printable daily schedule with kids
Hello and thank you for your great posts! I’m new to following you and look forward to implementing a lot of your suggestions!
2 questions on this Summer routine, please: First, how do you suggest setting a wake up time for 3 boys that share a room? The youngest (almost 3) typically wakes up earliest and I worry he’ll wake the others up if he plays in the room.
Second, when do you have time to get housecleaning and YOUR chores done? It seems like you’re busy with them most of the day so I’m curious how you stay on top of laundry/cleaning!
Thanks so much!
Hey Emily! With 3 boys sharing a room there are a couple of different ways you can approach this. I do have friends that room share kids and the kids do play quietly enough not to disturb the others – one thing that’s helped tremendously with this is using a fan or box fan in the room for white noise. That way, small noises aren’t enough to wake the other kids. Another option would be to allow kids as they wake to go to another room in the house to play quietly. I’m not sure how big your home is! None of this is an exact science, so my best suggestion is to try different things and see what works best for you!
I clean and do my chores almost always when the kids are right there with me! I’m a firm believer that it’s important for kids to see the work that goes into maintaining the household. While the kids do play independently, I clean whether they are occupied or not 🙂 I welcome them to help me. I use only plant-based non-toxic cleaners from YL, making it easy for them to grab a spray bottle, vacuum, carry laundry upstairs, help load the washer, etc. I encourage them to help me prep food for meals. Any aged child can help cut bananas with a butter knife. I always find something for them to do. Stools help the kids reach. When they are doing screen-time, independent play or are in bed for the night, I use that time to recharge for ME. As a wise mother once told me, you cannot pour from an empty cup.
THANK YOU, LAUREN! I’m saving the link to my desktop because this is the most helpful summer routine post I’ve ever read. 🙂 Would you be able to share a photo of how you put the clothing in the desk organizer? And a few examples of what you use for nighttime snacks?
Hi Carrie Anne! And yes, I don’t think I can add a photo here in the comments, but I will put a shirt, shorts, underwear in each slot. Well the kids pick it out and shove it in there. It really depends if it’s important that the kids’ clothes are not wrinkled. In the summer, for play clothes, it doesn’t really matter for us. So I’ll let the kids just shove them in there. Nothing fancy, but it works! Each slot has a different day’s worth of clothes. Nighttime snacks – larabars, fruit, wholewheat toast with butter and honey, popcorn, yogurt, peanut butter, and some nights ice cream — it really depends how well the kids did with nutrition during the day. Many ice creams have just as much sugar as a granola bar or yogurt. We also offer the kids whole milk – it’s one of the only times of day they get milk. We mostly just do water during the day, but before bed, I want the kids to feel satiated throughout the night.
Thank you so much for all this great advice. Two things. I am curious what ages did you start to allow the quiet time in bed, I have a two year old we are still rocking and sing songs to sleep. I want to start giving him the tools to put himself down. I read about your timer technique and think that may just be the next step for us. We use a timer now to end play outside and come in so he will be familiar. Second do you have any articles on vacations? We have a 4 month old and two year old. Both grandparents have cottages but with sleep schedules and night night routines the crowded lake houses don’t seem conducive for successful sleep (especially if we’re still helping our 2 year fall asleep and have a newborn who wakes up in the night). Would love to hear your advice on sleep routines outside of the house for vacation. Thank you so much.
Hi! I can’t believe this actually works 🙂 We are new at the structured life, well I’ve been trying and failing for years.
I have a 12 and 7 ur old. Do you think 8:30 is to early for the 12 yr old? Parenting is so hard!!
I don’t think it’s too early if you’re referring to bedtime. They don’t have to sleep, but rather, be in their rooms reading, playing or any quiet hobby / activity they prefer 🙂
Hi Lauren. I’, sure you’ve addressed this somewhere else and I haven’t read it but when do you work on your blog, etc. Is there a set time that you work from home? I’m trying to start a business online and I want to be able to be there for the little one but also work. How does this work for you?
I would work during independent play and screentime combined. I would also consider working before they wake up and after they are up in their rooms in the evening. Another thing I do is hire a mother’s helper – a preteen in the neighborhood to play with my kids while I work at home).
Omg I read all of your stuff….but this one is truly amazing!!!!!!! The only link I saw for the printable summer schedule took me to the printable cards. Is that correct? Thanks!!!!
Rachel! Yes, we use the printable routine cards to create a visual summer routine for the kids. We also have Summer Rhythms Workshop now too, which includes tons of printables (routine cards too) and 3 workshops to help you jumpstart your summer routines! You can find summer rhythms here: https://themilitarywifeandmom.clickfunnels.com/summer-rhythms-f