Get Ready for Summer: Create a Fun, Flexible Routine

By May 23, 2011Get Inspired

(As summer draws closer and as I prepare for my trip, I thought this week would be a good time to revisit my “Summer of Purpose” series. I hope you enjoy it!)

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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 Rebecca says:

    “I love routine. Within the confines of a routine I find the freedom to create.”
    Yup, that is me all over! Now that my children are middle elementary through highschool aged, “mornings are for mom”, and I expect them to keep themselves busy and help me for about an hour. We take off right after lunch for swimming, hiking, a trip to the library, etc.
    Hang in there…the little days don’t last forever 🙂

    • Avatar Kat says:

      It’s always encouraging to hear from someone in the next season of parenting. Makes me cherish my crazy days all the more. Thanks!

  • I think you are brilliant to set out a plan, as casual as it may be.

    Just as you said, if you don’t do that, you find the day wasted, frustration mounting and, before you know it, summer is over and you never did all those fun things you thought you might do!

    Good call!

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Thanks Amy! I think it’s so ironic that a truly relaxing, peaceful and fun summer requires….work. If you call planning – work. It’s certainly key, though isn’t it?

  • Beautiful routine and wise words. OK time to go scribble down my own. 🙂

  • I always enjoyed laid back field trips with my kids, especially with another family. It was great fun to see something different and learn about it and spend time with another family.

  • Avatar Courtney says:

    Kat – This sounds exactly like the days at my house! If we don’t get out in the morning, then the day is pretty much downhill from there.

  • Avatar Shannon Alexander says:

    I love hearing that a schedule can be so simple and that you don’t have to have every minute planned. That is my biggest problem when I try to create a schedule. I try to put too much into the day and then nothing works out. I might have to copy a good portion of your schedule. I hope you don’t mind!

  • This is not simplistic AT ALL. Today was the first day of my first summer as a stay-at-home mom. So to say I needed this? UNDERSTATEMENT.

    P.S. I’m praying for you and your upcoming trip!

  • Avatar Ginny says:

    You nailed it on the head, we do need some type of routine in our lives, and it doesn’t have to rigid, you can still be spontaneous. With little ones it’s so much better for them and yourself if nap time is given, that’s one thing I do strive for everyday. Nap time is my time, I think I need it as bad as the kids, I read, craft or visit with a friend during that time and I’m energized and ready to be mommy when they wake!

  • Avatar Kim says:

    Thanks for sharing your schedule! I have been thinking that I need to come up with a routine for summer. The afternoons are the hardest for us. I try to get my 4 yo to have quiet time while my 2 yo naps because I really need a break at that time of day, but my 4 yo is very resistant to it and it always seems to become a power struggle.

  • Avatar ellen says:

    hi, kat! i love this! i’ve found that my day gets easily off course when i’m not intentional with my expectations. all of the sudden, its 10 am and we’re bouncing off the walls and i’m out of ideas.

    i really love learning from others, so i’m wondering where you fit house work and daily routine type stuff into a summer day.

  • Avatar Claire says:

    I totally agree with your approach. My son is only three, and I’ve done something similar since he was about 18-months old. Mornings are for outings (whether the outing is an errand or something fun), afternoons are for naps followed by indoor or outdoor play, etc. Having a flexible routine gives me the structure I need to stay focused, and he also likes the predictability.

  • Avatar Amy says:

    Life just seems to go more smoothly when you take the time to schedule things, doesn’t it? 🙂 Otherwise you (ok, I) have big ideas and never seem to accomplish all that much.
    Question: When do you (and the kids) do chores? As a teacher with part of each summer at home I struggle with finding a good rhythm to the day and week when it comes to general housework and chores.

  • Avatar Haley says:

    Thanks for your sharing schedule.I think that we should design a detailed paln now