Family & Education

Summer Structure: Tips for Parents

BY Barbara Danza TIMEMay 3, 2022 PRINT

Summer is almost here. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are oh-so-welcome after a laborious school year. The first few days of sleeping in with no alarm, spending all day doing whatever you feel like, and eating ice cream for dinner provide a much-needed release for parents and kids alike from the daily grind.

However, as every experienced parent knows, a summer-long free-for-all, enticing as it may sound, can quickly lead to days on end of cranky, directionless, and generally unhappy kiddos (not to mention parents). Adding just the right amount of structure and rhythm to your summer days can make the difference between a season that’s frustrating to one that’s genuinely fun.

Here are six structural elements to consider for your family this summer.

Circadian Rhythms

While waking up and going to bed whenever one wants may be every child’s dream, the consequences of throwing off the body’s natural circadian rhythm over a period of time will wreak havoc on your summertime peace. Find the best bedtimes and wake times for your family and aim to stick to them as much as possible all summer. Of course, summer fun may lead to unexpected late nights and the need to sleep in here and there, but overall continually guide your family back to the regular sleep schedule as much as you can.

Screen Limits

If left unchecked, screen time habits can easily fall off the rails this time of year. The summer season should be one of less time staring at screens, not more. Don’t allow your children to waste their summer beholden to digital masters. Set strict limits on screens, encourage a ton of time outside in the fresh air, and embrace the beauty of “boredom.” It’s in boredom that creativity and ingenuity are born. Don’t cave on screens.


Your children are getting older. Summertime is a great time to increase the responsibility that rides on their shoulders. Allow your children the opportunity to contribute to the household this summer in new ways by taking responsibility for the work of the home. Perhaps they can take charge of garbage maintenance, set the table each night for dinner, sweep the porch each morning, or even cook a meal once a week for the family. Depending on their age and interests, household chores can be a great way to instill discipline and enhance basic life skills.

Healthy Snacks

Maybe it’s the increased sunshine and physical activity or the convenience of the kitchen, but kids in summer tend to want a lot of snacks. Sugar-heavy options and unhealthy processed foods can impact everyone’s mood and overall health. Stock your kitchen with clean, wholesome food options that are easily accessible. When it comes to drinks, water is the way to go.

Family Project

A long break in the summer can feel somewhat aimless. Give the season a focus by embarking on a family project. Challenge each other to read a certain number of books, set a goal for visiting every park in your county, redecorate your living room together, or take on a huge jigsaw puzzle. Set a goal and aim at it together as a family. This will make this particular summer memorable and meaningful.

Reading Time

As you establish the rhythm and flow of your days, consider instituting a reading hour, perhaps in the afternoon. The time just before dinner, when energy levels tend to dip and quiet time can seem especially precious, is a great time to declare the reading hour. Regular trips to the library over the summer along with new books here and there can make this time of day something everyone looks forward to and will also allow reading skills to continue to flourish. You might choose to spend some of this time reading aloud, listening to an audiobook as a family, or simply allowing everyone to enjoy reading independently.

Barbara Danza
Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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