Summer of Purpose: Create a Fun, Flexible, Family Routine

By April 26, 2010Summer Planning

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Ah…lazy, summer days. Popsicles and plastic swimming pools. Friends and family. Bbq’s and summer camps.

Who doesn’t look forward to and dream of the first day of summer vacation?

Mothers of small children. That’s who.

Of course, that’s not a blanket statement. There are plenty of you wonderful, saintly moms who have infinite patience and revel in the thought of unscheduled, unplanned, unending days alone with their children.

I am not one of those. I thrive on schedules. I love to be creative and spontaneous when I have a foundation of a routine. Summer always throws me for a loop. Suddenly, my routine is gone. The kids’ routine is gone. And we all have different expectations for our days.

Make a Plan

I love routine. Within the confines of a routine I find the freedom to create.

And just as we create spaces in our house for different activities (dining room for family meals, kitchen table for art projects, living room for reading and games, backyard for running and playing) we need to create spaces in time for those very same things. It is important that during the summer we have a flexible routine for our days (particularly for those of us with small children).

As you plan your schedule, consider your own personal energy levels at different times of the day. For example, I tend to be a morning person and have the most energy early in the day. So, instead of watching morning cartoons as soon as breakfast is over, I’ll take my kids out to do fun stuff in the morning.

Here’s my flexible summer schedule:
7:30 am – Outing
After breakfast, go for a walk and then go out to the park, zoo, pool etc.

12:30 pm- Lunch
Pack a lunch or come home and eat. (Have lots of to-go food ready for spontaneous picnic trips to avoid fast food.)

1:30 pm – Quiet Time
This is the time when my youngest child can nap and my older two can read, rest or work on their goals. This is my time to rest and write.

3:00 pm – Afternoon free play.
When Quiet time is over the kids can play outside or do whatever they like. I might also have some possible craft ideas ready for them or they can help me make dinner. This is also the time when they can choose to watch a show or they can wait and ask for a movie night.

I usually hit a slump at about 2pm, which, handily falls right in the middle of Quiet Time.

The afternoon is pretty downhill. The kids can play together outside, watch shows or help me prepare dinner.

Sometimes The Simplest Actions Can Make The Biggest Difference

Wow, Kat. That’s pretty simplistic. You’re actually writing a post about this?

Yes, my schedule might seem pretty natural and normal to many of you, but it was actually a bit profound for me. Normally, we are slow to get going in the morning. We slowly eat breakfast, then we stay in our pj’s and watch cartoons. We get a late start for our outing, eat a late lunch, take a late nap (or miss it all together) and then by the time 3pm rolls around, I’m tired, the kids are bored and we’ve used up all our TV time.

By simply being a little more proactive in the morning, we can have a much more fun and relaxing time.

This Isn’t The 10 Commandments

Of course, none of this is written in stone, it’s simply a guideline to help our days flow smoothly. Occasionally, we’ll throw the whole schedule out the window and spend the entire day at the pool or the park. Maybe we’ll stay in our pj’s and watch movies and read books all day. Maybe we’ll have a playdate, go to the zoo, museum, pool, park or take a day trip to Austin or Dallas.

That’s the beauty of summer. It’s spontaneous and free. But having a routine to fall back on can keep us healthy, happy and sane.

What is your favorite summertime activity to do with your kids?

Leave a Comment



  • Avatar Shawn says:

    One of my favorite activities is to take the kids to feed the ducks. I agree- a routine is the difference between a happy day and a hard day…my baby has a fever of 101.7 so we are all stuck at home tomorrow. Guess I know what kind of day we’ll be having….

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Ugh…I hope your little one gets better soon!

      I loved feeding ducks when I was little. I never really see any around here. I might have to look into that. I’m sure my kids would love it.

  • Avatar jamee says:

    Ahhhhhhhhh………it is profound!!! I am with you- I do much better in the morning, but could spend the first hour and a half on the computer with the kids on the couch watching sprout.

    Thanks for the encouragement to make a plan. Now I’ll need to stick to the plan ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Avatar jamee says:

      PS – What kind of goals do your girls work on?

      My favorite thing to do is go to the swimming pool. And I think this year we will really enjoy it with the big kids being so, well, big ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’ll need to go to Sam’s to buy suncreen-

    • Avatar Kat says:

      TOTALLY. I far too often spend the first 1.5 hours on the computer while my kids watch tv. That’s why I need this schedule so much.

      Are we twins?

    • Avatar Kat says:

      And also…I’ll go into more details about goals tomorrow. I’m taking each of my girls on a date Saturday to help them set some summer goals. They’ve said they want to learn the guitar and a couple other things, but we haven’t fully nailed them down yet.

  • Avatar Brianna says:

    Kat, I think this would be monumental for me also. Truly. Last summer, I so badly wanted to get a routine with my kids, but never really did. But now I’m inspired. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you.
    One of my favorite summertime activities with my kids is working in our vegetable garden. It’s really fun to work together with them and watch them take ownership of it. And getting excited with them about the vegetable that we get to see grow is so fun!!
    .-= Brianna´s last blog ..The Prayer of Vigilance =-.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Glad to be inspirational. ๐Ÿ™‚

      A garden! How fun. I’m sure it makes them enjoy eating veggies more – knowing that they helped them grow…

    • Avatar Brianna says:

      ha! I just noticed that I wrote that we watch “the vegetable” grow. ๐Ÿ™‚ As if we grow one vegetable all summer. And we watch it. You might be relieved to know that we actually grow several. And, yes, they actually really enjoy eating them out of the garden.

  • Avatar Renee says:

    Excellent post. I’m a very spontaneous person and do not like to have a regimented routine/schedule, but even I will admit that you do need a framework. This is pretty much the same “schedule” we adhere to every day (I don’t have kids in school yet) and when we are too lax about it, especially in the morning, I either feel rushed or like I’ve wasted the day by the evening.

    Thanks for all the good tools you’ve been supplying us with. I really LOVE your blog ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Aw…thanks Renee!

      Framework – that would be the word I was looking for the whole time I wrote this post. Schedule and routine sounded too rigid, but I couldn’t think of the perfect word.

      I’ll have to email you the next time I get stuck on a post. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • My little one is still at home with me all day every day (only 8 months), and having a routine has really helped me to be more productive and have more fun with him. I’m not a morning person, so we tend to take it slow. He usually plays happily while I have breakfast and coffee and plan my day. Then he has breakfast, nurses, and naps. During his nap I take a shower and do my daily chores. Then when he wakes up we take a walk, visit someone, run errands, have lunch, and play together. During his afternoon nap I can finish chores, rest, read, write, etc. Then we just wait for daddy to come home!
    .-= Kim @ Staying Home´s last blog ..Yard Sale Season =-.

  • Avatar Jenn says:

    Good food for thought! I’m going to think more about what our summer routine should look like… Our summer holidays here are July and August, so I have a bit to figure it out.
    We always make a summer calendar on a big piece of poster board and we’ll write down camp dates, visits from family and friends, and special outings. I try to plan theme days, like water day (sprinkler under the trampoline, water gun fights), or berry day ( berry picking and pie making) etc. Also we cut our cable in the summer so we brain storm as a family and have a huge list on the fridge of activities to do. Helps combat the “I’m boreds”.
    My favorite summer activities to do with my kids is taking them swimming to the lake or beach combing.
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..Olympic Trip =-.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      I love the idea of keeping a list of activities on the fridge. That’s genius.

      And I’m only completely jealous you get to go berry picking. How fun. I don’t think we have anything like that around here.

    • Avatar Sara M. says:

      I love the idea of a list of summer activities … I just made one. Now to put them on a calendar! I plan on taking them to the lakefront on Lake Michigan (we live in the Milwaukee metro area), and to lots of local museums that are free to county residents on certain days of the week. We also have a zoo pass for our local zoo (only a few minutes away) and a pass for another local museum. This is of course outside the time that 3 of my kids are involved with rec program activities.

  • Avatar Kelly Cook says:

    My 4 year old son LOVES the water! I took him t his first swim lessons 2 summers ago and we had to do the mommy & baby class first. While the other kids were practicing blowing bubbles in the water, my fish was diving down to the touch the bottom of the pool. Had he been better at following directions they would have moved him to the level one class, but alas, he still likes to do it his way. We have a creek in our backyard and plan to make good use of it this summer!
    I’ve enjoyed this series and have a mental list of all the things I want us to do this summer. Not so sure we’ll actually have a daily plan, but I will list all the things I want to do, how often, and then pencil them into my planner. I’ve been looking forward to not having preschool two mornings a week so that our mornings are free to enjoy any way we choose. We have chickens, goats, baby chicks, and a rabbit (along with 3 cats and an old, deaf dog) that we care for in the morning, so haveng freedom for that will be a welcome time in our plan.
    Thanks for a great site!
    .-= Kelly Cook´s last blog ..Udder Amazement =-.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      You completely lost me at ” We have a creek in our backyard” …seriously?! How awesome is that?!

      It sounds like your son will have a summer most boys dream of…a creek, animals, room to run. So cool.

    • Avatar Kelly Cook says:

      Yeah, we had to move the goats elsewhere in January because of flooding though. It is very nice to have flowing, but when the summer gets REALLY hot, the water is stagnant and kinda yucky, so we need to make good use of it now!
      .-= Kelly Cook´s last blog ..Udder Amazement =-.

  • Avatar Laura says:

    You bet. This is a fabulous post. Totally worthwhile. I find myself in the exact same situation most days. If I put the computer AWAY and have a fun outing planning, the whole day goes sooooo much smoother. They are actually tired for naps and ya, I crash around 2pm too. =)

    I love your blog. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Undivided Attention =-.

  • Avatar Amanda says:

    I’m really thankful for this post. Being a new stay at home mom, it was hard to feel like I was accomplishing things with my day. I work so much better on a schedule and with things planned ahead of time. I’ve found my flow now, but have been thinking about the summer when my husband (a teacher) will be home. This has started my wheels turning and made me realize since my little girl is too small and my husband will be home all day, I should include him in the planning. Oh, and thanks SO much for the comment on my site. My husband made fun of me because it made me so excited! :o)
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Onions and other veggies… =-.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Ha! Sounds like something my husband would do…okay has done. I get really excited about comments too.

      What a blessing for you and your little girl that your husband gets to join in on the summer fun!

  • Avatar May says:

    I was WAY too ambitious last summer in my “planning”. I thought I could teach math (30 lessons) and astronomy (15 lessons) to the kiddos and have them participate in a summer swim team for the first time. Did I mention I was 6 months pregnant with baby #4. I was trying to cram in all I can before the baby arrived. Swim practices were outdoor 4x/week from 9-10am in the lovely HOUSTON 90s HUMID furnace!?! (I have no idea how much time is involved in a swim team/meet)!) Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time swim practice was over!! We managed to learned 4 planets, did some math and read a lot. Let just say having a baby at 40 is WAY different. =)

    This summer, we are back on the road for our annual trip to visit family in NC/NY. We will probably go for several weeks in July. In the meantime, the kiddos are joining the swim team again with lighter school work load. It will probably be: Swimming. Lunch. Nap/QT. Activity. There’s one week of Cub Scout Camp/SoccerCamp/Day Camp while I enjoy some “downtime” with the baby.

    We start our homeschool day with “bible time” and I will strive to continue that during the summer before rushing out the door each morning. Now you can ALL keep me accountable! = )

  • Avatar EngineerMom says:

    Found you through ๐Ÿ™‚

    Love the site.

    I only have one munchkin, and he’ll be two in June. What you described is pretty much every day for us! He’s up at 7:30, so I have to be up earlier in order to get a shower (hubby leaves for work at 7:45). We spend about an hour on making and eating breakfast, then out the door for some sort of outing every day except Monday. Monday is my stay home and clean day, as I am also a morning person! Quiet time is mandatory – I need the sanity refresher!

  • […] first posts in this series are here, here and here. Today we have a few more tips on setting summer goals with our […]

  • Avatar FiguringItOut says:

    This is perfect. Exactly what I was looking for to avoid (as much as possible) those days wasted in pjs in front of the tv at 2 in the afternoon. My boys are 2 1/2 and 5 and this will be my first time as a stay at home momma with them and during the summer at that. I do NOT want to waste our time together! This isn’t overly ambitious (as I have the tendency to be) and seems like a good starting point! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  • […] Summer of Purpose: Create a Fun, Flexible, Family Routine […]