How to Balance Summer Fun and Routine for Kids

You can have a fun summer even if your kids have a daily schedule. A daily schedule and routine maintain structure and order. Find out how to have this structure and still be able to have fun this summer.

Kids running in open field. They are all wearing bright shirts.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Life gets super busy, and a break sounded super nice. So we did it. We started summer with no schedule or routine plan at all.

Each day would be “winged.” It would be so nice! We would be able to relax and just roll with life! After a very busy spring (as spring always is for us), we would live it up with little to no structure!


As you might imagine, a family who typically is very structured doesn’t land well on a long-term plan of “winging” things. We don’t even “wing” vacations, why would I think the full summer would be a good idea?!? Winging things can be great for a time. A short time. Maybe that means a day for you. Maybe a week. But at some point, we all need direction. I had grumpiness and bickering among the ranks, which really isn’t an everyday thing at our house.

When we picture a quintessential summer, we often imagine lazy days without a care in the world. Structure sounds stuffy and like it removes all fun, but there can still be fun and even relaxation with structure and routine!

There is a way to have flexibility built into your schedule and still have a schedule. There is a way to relax and still have order in life. You don’t have to wing every step in order to chill.

You have to know yourself and play to your strengths. I am not good at being spontaneous. It just isn’t a talent of mine! People often ooh and ahh over my ability to organize, but a huge driving factor for my organizational efforts is that I am not spontaneous. Approaching summer “spontaneously” meant nothing got done because I totally blank when faced with life without a plan. My strength in life is planning ahead and I thrive with routine and structure. If I want to thrive as a mom, I need to plan ahead. Even if that planning means planning spontaneity.

I learned my lesson that summer. I learned to have a plan and to play for some fun, spontaneity, and relaxation. We never “winged” a summer again.

Having Fun While Still Having Structure

So how can you have a fun summer while still having structure and routine?

1-Plan In Relaxation Time

Just because you have a routine doesn’t mean you can’t relax. Schedule relaxing into the plan. Make it part of the routine. Here are some ideas for how to plan for relaxation:

  • Take the first week and stay in pajamas all day every day and do whatever seems fun.
  • Have every morning or afternoon of the summer totally unplanned.
  • Take one entire day each week and make it unplanned and spontaneous.

Think about it and figure out what works for you. Something we love to do in summer that is fully planned but also fully relaxing is Sustained Silent Reading. Basically, everyone reads to themselves at the same time.

2-Keep The Planned Routine Flexible

In summer planning, I like to keep things more in “routine” than in “schedule” mode when I can. I plan more of an order to the day with a general idea of when we should be starting things than planning exact times.

This has been more true as my children have aged. When I had a nursing baby, things were much more structured. I had to feed the baby at certain times, so I needed my toddlers and young children to be structured. But you can make the time between feedings more flexible even with a baby on a schedule.

So you can say, “Between breakfast and lunch each day, I want us to get chores done, get ready for the day, have outside play time, and have learning time.” One day, we might spend more time outside and less time on learning time, while another day might have a lot more time spent on the learning time.

Have anchor points in the days (meals make great anchor points), but don’t worry about planning exact time slots for everything else.

This is very similar to a block schedule. A block schedule is a great way to structure your day for older kids and for times when you want your days more flexible.

>>>Read: Why Daily Block Schedules are Great for Your Older Kids

3-Plan in Spontaneity

I know. It sounds like that can’t work. “Plan” spontaneity??? But it can work! Plan days or events that you spring on your kids for fun surprises. Those can be days you throw the normal routine out the window and go for the surprise. Maybe you will have a day at the splash pad or local pool. If you have young ones who still depend on naps, do half days or just a couple of hours instead of full days. These days or events will help break up the monotony and throw some excitement into the weeks.

You could also plan to have a fun activity every Friday where you do something out of your normal daily routine. Go to the park, the zoo, the pool, or the movies. Have a movie night at home (or do an outdoor movie at home). Go get ice cream or snow cones.


4-Keep a Master List of Fun and Relaxing Activities

This could be considered a bucket list. What are the things you want to get done this summer? Where would you like to go, what would you like to do, what would you like to see? Make the list and refer to it every so often to get ideas for fun and relaxing things to do.

5-Have Some One-on-One Dates

I am big on parent/child dates. If you have a baby at home, it can be harder to get out of the house as much, which can leave summer feeling rigid and no fun. If you have one-on-one dates, one parent can take an older child out to do something fun while the other stays back with the baby to keep the baby on the routine she needs.

On that note, keep in mind that children do not need as grand of activities as we think they do to enjoy something. A backyard water party can be fun and spontaneous to a child. Storytime in the shade of your tree can be a fun mix-up to your regular old couch. Think outside the box, but keep it simple

6-Invite Friends Over

Let your kids invite friends over to play for the day or for the afternoon. Having friends over is always fun for the kids and offers an opportunity to break up the days and to bring some unplanned time into their weeks.

7-Do a Summer Camp or Class

Signing up for a summer camp or a summer class is a good way to add in some variation to your days while still having structure to your days. Summer camps and classes are also good opportunities to explore interests on a short-term basis to see if your child might like to have more time with the experience. Swimming lessons are another great summer activity.


You can have the best of both worlds this summer. You can have time for relaxing, lazy days, and days of major fun while still having a routine as part of your day-to-day living. It is simple to do, with a little planning.

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This post first appeared on this blog in April 2017

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