The longer I parent, the more I realize how strongly kids thrive within a regular routine. No wonder so many of us have building anxiety when the summer months hit. Though summertime is wonderful, sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with seemingly endless open days. I prefer to view summertime as a great big blank canvas, ripe with potential, ready to become a beautiful, vibrant masterpiece; or a story, just waiting to be written.
But let’s face it: with small kids, life happens, and sometimes you wake up and realize that the summer is half over and you haven’t done one tenth of the things you thought you would have accomplished by now. And for moms whose kiddos aren’t yet school age, or those who homeschool, having kids home all day, every day of the entire year can start to wear on a person. Every day starts to look the same. Get up. Feed kids. Wash, dry, fold, put laundry away. Do the dishes. Cook again. Put the kids to bed. Go to bed. Get up the next day. Repeat. And the days stretch on and on and on, one blending into another.
I first started to realize how much my kids rely on regular routines and rhythms when my seven-year-old started to consistently pray things like this at breakfast: “And God? PLEASE help us not to be BORED all day, since today is WEDNESDAY, and we have NOTHING planned,” followed by a looooong dramatic sigh. Ha! At that point in time we had implemented “Technology Tuesday” and “Friday Family Movie Night,” and she knew that Sunday was church day. These days were highlights of the week, and she started asking me to plan something (anything!) for the rest of the days of the week.
So I sat down with my kids, got some input and ideas from them, and sketched out a rough calendar for our week. Having a loose “schedule” for our days has contributed to my sanity, and theirs, during both the long winter months and the rainy summer days.
This is definitely something that changes with the seasons, but right now our week looks something like this:
M&M Monday: After breakfast, they tell me a Bible verse they have memorized and get an M&M for it. Know five verses? You get five M&Ms. Awesomeness. (And yes, a theme can be this simple. And my kids actually go to bed with less resistance on Sunday night just anticipating M&M Monday the next day.)
Technology Tuesday: After their chores are done and all their toys are put away, they can watch a show or play a computer game. FAVORITE day of my three-year-old’s week, right here. (Not-so) Coincidentally, we host a Bible study in our home on Tuesday nights, so not only do all the toys get picked up, I actually have 30-60 minutes of kids-plugged-in time to get any other last-minute prep work done! Win-win-win. This can also be a great tool if you are wanting to decrease kids’ screen time; when they know it only happens on a certain day, they stop asking all the other days of the week!
Wild about Books Wednesday: Sometimes we go to the library. Sometimes we just read a bunch of books together. Always we have a poetry tea party, which has become a highlight of our week! I get out fancy dishes, serve food with toothpicks instead of silverware, and we get out a special tablecloth. After they read a poem, they get to write the title and author on the tablecloth with a fabric pen. This has become such a fun tradition! And my reluctant reader forgets her reluctance this one time a week and reads more poems than anyone else.
Think about Others Thursday: The most recent addition to our themed days, this looks like baking cookies for friends, taking someone a meal or a coffee, or writing a letter to a friend or one of our sponsored children. I hope to expand this as they get older to include visiting nursing homes, serving at homeless shelters or food pantries, and doing more service projects in the community.
Friday Family Movie Night: We make homemade pizza and eat it on a big picnic blanket in the living room while watching a movie together. For awhile this winter when we were dealing with some pretty atrocious table manners during meals, my husband declared that Friday would also be “eat like an animal” night — no silverware, no rules. He told them they could slurp their drinks and lick food off their plates, anything goes… but only on Friday. The catch was, they had to earn this “messy” night by following the table rules the rest of the days of the week. And let me tell you, they looked forward to animal eating night all week long! We also often declare Friday to be “Field Trip Friday,” and make a point of getting out of the house and doing something extra special.
Saturday Morning: Mommy goes to Starbucks alone, kids clean their rooms and then play Wii with Daddy. (Hands-down MY favorite weekly tradition.)
Some other ideas we have tried in the past or saved for the future, if and when we want to switch things up: Puzzle Monday (my husband worked late on Mondays for a season, so to pass the hours from 4:00-6:00 we moved the table out of the kitchen, swept the floor, and did every single puzzle that we owned together), Pool Day, Play Date Day, Park and Picnic Day, Go out to Eat Day, Craft Day, PJ Day (love doing this in the wintertime, especially!), Pancake Day, Backwards Day (put on clothes backwards, eat leftovers for breakfast and make breakfast for dinner), Science Experiment Day, Lego Day, Dress-up Day, Play-dough Day…. You get the idea. Endless possibilities.
When I set out to come up with our weekly “plan” for the summer, I kept in mind some of my end-goals.
- I wanted to intentionally capitalize on our extra free time by reading more books that we don’t have time for in the school year (thus, “Wild About Books Wednesday” was born).
- I also wanted to build more others-mindedness into my kids (and myself!), so that led to our Thursday theme.
- I’m more of a homebody-type personality, so it’s good for me to plan activities that require us to get out of the house (such as Field Trip Friday).
Maybe you swing the opposite direction, and know your kids get tired from running all over town; if they would benefit from more downtime, plan some days revolving around the home. With a little creative branding, you can even make Laundry Day fun. (Sock fight, anyone?) Bring some color back into those mundane days!
We keep it flexible and often switch days around as needed if we have other stuff going on. But kids in general crave structure and love to know what’s going to happen next; and, implementing regularity decreases my stress of feeling pressure to continually plan something new or exciting. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or even something that requires leaving the house, so keep it simple.
Mostly it’s about expectations; when kids know what to expect next, they are more secure and content. And I love that these regular traditions are building within my kids a strong family culture. As they grow up and go out into the world, I want them to have lots of positive memories banked up of home and family and time together, and doing things regularly together provides a strong foundation for them to build upon.
Bonus: they’re effortlessly learning the days of the week, too. 😉