Summer Parenting: 5 Tips for Maintaining Rhythms and Routines

You can set up a structure that promotes harmony without sacrificing any of the freedom.
Summer Parenting: 5 Tips for Maintaining Rhythms and Routines
Summer vacation needs both structure and relaxation.(Igor Link/Shutterstock)
Barbara Danza

Ah, summer! Rest, relaxation, fun, freedom. It’s the best!

As parents, though, have you noticed that after those first few days of decompressing, catching up on sleep, and savoring the freedom at hand, things tend to break down a little at home?

If that savoring period goes a bit too long, life can get wacky. Wake-up times get later and later, pushing bedtimes to unspeakable hours. Cleaning up seems to slow or completely halt, family members eat at strange times, and the well-oiled machine that was once your family life now seems disorganized, unruly, and chaotic.

Sound familiar?

While keeping life light and breezy all summer long is a perfectly wonderful strategy, adding just enough structure for your family to thrive during the season can make the entire experience more rewarding and far less stressful.

Here are a few tips for establishing enjoyable rhythms and routines this summer for your family.

Allow for a Transition

For the first few days after school is completed, allow the space for your children to wake up not when the alarm blares, but when their bodies naturally rise. Allow for quiet, creativity, free play, and freedom in general, during those first few days.
The only standard that you might want to establish at the very start of summer is your set of rules around screen time. You want your children out in the sunshine and fresh air, making things with their hands, using their very own minds to come up with ideas, and playing with their friends and family members in person. Figure out how to minimize screen use as much as humanly possible this summer, and stick to the standard you clearly communicated right out of the gate.

Put Some Stakes in the Ground

Whether your calendar is filled with camp, sports, activities, and more, or you’re winging it completely, scheduling some big events to look forward to over the summer can help to define the season you’re in and give everyone some things to look forward to.
These can be vacations or weekend getaways, deadlines for goals or projects you’re aiming to complete, birthday or holiday celebrations with friends and family, day trips or events you plan to attend, and so on. Post the big events on your calendar for the whole family to see and anticipate. These will likely be some of the defining moments of the summer.

Establish a Weekly Rhythm

Intentionally define some days by recurring events. For example, try a new park every Monday, or hit the library every Wednesday. Of course, if you like tacos, you might eat those on Tuesday. You get the idea. Post your weekly schedule for your children to see, and notice how that regularity and predictability add peace and rhythm to your summer.
If you decide to skip something and just swim all day, that’s completely fine. It is summer, after all. However, having a fun roadmap to guide you will come in very handy when you’re feeling otherwise aimless.

Maintain Morning and Evening Routines

Creating automatic routines that occur at the two bookends of the day can be very comforting to children and help to keep the home humming. Include daily tasks such as cleaning up, personal hygiene, chores, reading, exercising, and anything else that’s important for your family to do daily.
If they’re old enough, encouraging your children to manage a checklist of their morning and evening routines can be empowering to them.

Return to Daily Touchstones

Having a predictable rhythm to each day can be very comforting to children and adults.

Perhaps you listen to soft music after dinner, or you read a book before bedtime, or you take a morning walk, or you pick up the house after dinner. Consistently presenting these familiar anchors or touchstones in the day helps everyone know what’s coming next and where we are in the day. These tend to become lasting memories of home and family for years to come.

Freedom is one of the best qualities of summer. While it may seem counterintuitive, injecting just enough structure and rhythm into your family’s days and weeks will enhance your sense of freedom and allow you to make the most of this wonderful season together. Happy summer!

Barbara Danza is a contributing editor covering family and lifestyle topics. Her articles focus on homeschooling, family travel, entrepreneurship, and personal development. She contributes children’s book reviews to the weekly booklist and is the editor of “Just For Kids,” the newspaper’s print-only page for children. Her website is