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For Families

Tips to Help Your Child Transition to a Summer Schedule

Hannah Larson

Licensed Professional Counselor

Last modified 13 May 2024

Published 13 May 2024

Summer is an exciting time for your child. Kids love the freedom summer brings. As a parent, you may wonder how you will fill your child’s summer days. How can you allow your child to enjoy the freedom of summer while maintaining your sanity? 

Here is a list of tips to keep summer fun for everyone. 

Celebrate

A mom who works for Cadey shared with our team how she would take her boys to Target on the last day of school, and they would stock up on summer activities. For example, they would buy water balloons, beach towels, sunscreen, and outdoor activities, etc. This trip would mark the start of summer for her family. It was a way their family celebrated a successful school year and marked the beginning of a new chapter. 

Think about how you can celebrate the start of summer for your family. 

Make a summer intention 

Take some time to visualize how you would like to spend your time as a family this summer. Life can pass us by, and we can lose track of time. 

Take some time to think about how you want to connect and spend time with your kids this summer. 

Create three goals for the summer months. 

Maybe you want to go on a fun vacation this summer, have movie nights, special date nights with your kids, and the like. 

Keep a routine, even if it is a new routine 

Kids thrive on structure and routine. Create a structure for the week and weekend with your kids. This schedule may vary weekly depending on summer camps and play dates. 

Ideas for creating structure in an unstructured time 

  • Consistent wake-up time and bedtime 
  • Bedtime routine before bed 
  • Have a daily visual schedule on a whiteboard
  • Daily chore 
  • Screen-free time everyday 
  • 15 minutes of reading every day 

Keep wake times and bedtimes consistent 

Sleep is the number one predictor of positive mental health. Lack of sleep and a varied sleep schedule can lead to an increase in behavior problems and mental health challenges. For example, 25 to 50 percent of those with ADHD diagnoses have significant sleep disturbance that exacerbates their symptoms [1]. Sleep is important. 

Our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm, and varying bedtime by over an hour can be difficult on your child’s body (and yours). 

When creating a new summer schedule, try to keep your child’s bedtime and wake time within an hour of the school year’s wake and sleep time. 

Have 2 hours a day of screen-free family time 

Generation Z is the most anxious and stressed generation of any generation. Rates of anxiety increased by over 100 percent between the millennial generation and Generation Z. The number one reason cited for this is social media. Another contributing factor is the switch in  Generation Z from a play-based childhood to a screen-based childhood [2]. 

To protect your child’s mental health, adopt two hours of screen-free time as an entire family. We recognize this is hard. We are so used to having our phones near. We recommend that the whole family model for your children the importance of screen-free time. 

As a family, if you practice screen-free time, you may notice a deeper connection with your children. We are often unaware of how frequently our children may be trying to get our attention, but our attention is directed to our phones to check the weather, text someone back, order food, etc. 

Screen-free time allows your child and teens to build other skills, such as creativity and relationship-building. 

One way to make this easier could be to have an hour of screen-free time in the morning and an hour at night. Have a designated location where all family members put their phones and devices during this time. 

Encourage your child to read for 15 minutes every day 

Practice helps your child keep the skills they gained during the school year. Have your child read for 15 minutes every day. If this is a challenge for your child, have them read before they can earn screen time or an activity of greater enjoyment. 

Another activity you can add to increase your child’s reading fluency is an app like Starfall

Expand dietary preferences 

Summer can be a great time to try new foods. A tip for expanding your child’s food choices is to have your child try one very small bite of something novel. For example, put 1 tiny piece of roasted broccoli on your child’s plate. 

Let your child know the only expectation is that they try that one small piece. If that is all they want to eat of that food choice for the evening, let them know you are glad they tried it.

Try cooking food in different ways to see if that expands your child’s preference. For example, maybe your child doesn’t like steamed broccoli but loves air-fried broccoli. 

Have conversations with your child about snack and meal times 

If your children are home during the day in the summer, have designated times for snacks and meals. This schedule will prevent your child from snacking their way through the summer. 

For school-aged children, talk with them about their experiences at school for snacks and lunches. Are there aspects that they enjoyed? What did they not like? Try to incorporate your child’s preferences into your summer schedule. Maybe your child didn’t eat much breakfast on school mornings because it felt too early, and you can delay breakfast time in the summer. 

Enjoy the season 

Being out of school allows for a certain freedom not available to your child during the school months. Enjoy the ease of summer break with your child. That said, you’re not alone if you have greater parenting challenges during the summer months. The changes in schedules and transitions between activities can be hard. Request Cadey as a benefit from your employer to access more tips and tricks to make the summer months easier for you and your child. 

References

[1] Cassoff J, Wiebe ST, Gruber R. Sleep patterns and the risk for ADHD: a review. Nat Sci Sleep. 2012 May 29;4:73-80. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S31269. PMID: 23620680; PMCID: PMC3630973.

[2] Haidt, J. (2024). The anxious generation: how the great rewiring of childhood is causing an epidemic of mental illness . Penguin Press.