School is winding down for children across Oregon. While our kids eagerly anticipate long summer days with empty schedules, this is the perfect time to decide what the ideal summer break will look like for your family. Of course, that plan will look different in every home. Some families prefer to take each day as it comes, and others like to know what they are doing every hour of the day. If you want to create a summer schedule for your children, here are a few ideas to help get you started.

Find the Best Schedule for Your Family

Does your family thrive on structure or flexibility? This is a good question to consider as you plan for the summer. First, try to find a format that will fit your family best. For example, some people like to keep it simple and pick one project to focus on each day. Others plan a task or activity for each hour, and the entire day is mapped out in detail. Another option is to create a checklist of items for your child to complete throughout the day. We have tried more structured schedules in the past and have found that we prefer a daily checklist in our home. It gives us flexibility and allows my kids to decide when they complete items on their list. 

You might find that children in your family respond better to a different type of schedule. For example, one kid may crave the structure of a detailed plan, and another may prefer the day to be more open-ended. If that is the case, make a unique one for each child to help them the most. This can be especially true for different ages. For example, a schedule for younger children might be more general and include nap time or quiet time, while older children might focus on reading or school skills. 

Make a Plan Together

Children are always more likely to help when they are included in the planning process. Sit down together and talk about summer expectations for the whole family. List out the fun things you want to do together and the chores or projects that you want to complete as a family. Talk about the details, such as what time they want to wake up in the morning versus when you want them to be up. If you can give your kids even a little control over some of the schedule planning, they will feel more invested, and it may save headaches and complaints down the road.

Write it down

Once you have all of the schedule details sorted out, post it somewhere visible, like your fridge, to keep everyone on track. Then, if your kids get distracted from a task, you can point them back to the schedule. For younger children, you may want to include pictures to help them know what to do and when. Check out Pinterest if you are struggling to find a printable version that you like. You can find lots of free options there, such as this version which is a weekly schedule. 

Include the fun

Not every child is going to be excited about a summer schedule. To help inspire a little more excitement and cooperation, go back to your brainstorming session and look at the fun ideas that your family listed. What can you add to your schedule, either daily or weekly, to keep kids motivated and happy? Again, this does not have to be a big field trip or activity every day, which can be overwhelming; look at each day and see where you can add a moment of fun. Maybe try a new snack or take your lunch to the park for a picnic. Make a blanket fort in the front room and read stories together. It does not have to be complicated to be still fun and memorable.

Be Flexible 

The spontaneous moments, like trips to the park with friends and unplanned stops for a family treat, are the best parts of summer vacation. Those do not always fit into our preset schedules but are still important. Give yourself the flexibility to stray from your schedule once in a while. You could miss something fun and memorable if you do not. Also, you might get partway through the summer and realize, like we did, that an hour-by-hour schedule is too rigid. Reevaluate what is working and what is not, and switch to a better plan for you and your kids. The whole point is to have some guided structure to the summer while still making memories. 

Summer break can be a magic time for children as they stretch their legs and brains in new ways. The days will be full of sunshine, playing games, riding bikes, and playing with friends, but if you need a little more structure, a schedule will help balance the fun and the work. So work together on a plan, stay flexible, and have a great summer vacation with your kids. 

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