7 Tips to Make Summer Break GREAT with Kids (+GIVEAWAY!)

It’s the last week of school here. Excitement’s in the air. School’s a joke at this point. The kids can’t seem to get to bed before 9 p.m., and we’re all ready to sleep in past 6:30! Behind the excitement, though, is the always-present issue for me:

What the heck are we going to DO for 3 months?! And, more importantly, how will I keep from losing my mind in the process?

Can you relate? Then read on. Here’s what we’ve found to make summer more fun and less overwhelming, even with a family of 6.

1. Have a goal for the family. Make it specific, measurable, reasonable, and time-bound. Read a certain number of books together (may I recommend the Chronicles of Narnia series? My kids LOVE those!) Or decide to visit one new park a week. Or learn how to cook Indian food together. Or visit local seniors in a retirement community each week. Make it official with a family meeting and write it down. Hang the goal on your fridge or wall as a reminder of your common interests as a family.

2. Make space for yours, mine and ours. Ask the family, “What do you need each day, each week, each month of vacation to have a great break?” You may need time to read your new book or have a walk. Hubby might want to finish a project or play soccer with friends. The kids will likely have dozens of ideas, anything from video games or baking to time at the mall or playing with friends. With pen and paper in hand, make a plan for how each person in the family will get to relax in their favorite ways. Of course, longer activities or scheduled events will mix and mingle in, so plan ahead for those and work for a balance of “yours, mine and ours.”

3. Plan ahead for balanced meals. There are plenty of seasonal fruits, veggies, and healthy meal options this time of year, so enjoy them! And be sure to keep everyone’s diet balanced with enough protein to keep the family well-fueled and the post-beach meltdowns to a minimum. Just as in the point above, our family sits down and plans for each person to have one of their favorite meals each week of the break. We have even designated a day of the week for each person.

4. Establish a rhythm in your schedule. Everyone does better with routine. I know that keeping sleep schedules consistent is a life-saver for my kids who have special needs. We shift the schedule so we can enjoy those late night cookouts and sleep-in summer mornings, but we plan for the sleeping-in to end at about the same time each day. We also keep a basic daily routine printed on the kitchen pantry, with daily responsibilities finishing by breakfast or bedtime and meals happening around the same time each day. There’s lots of flexibility between meals, but the consistent elements help the kids enjoy, rather than be in time-out for, all the spontaneous summer fun.

5. Take a daily break from the togetherness. Decide on a good time each day when everyone will do their own thing. If the family’s not used to that, start small (15 minutes the first day, adding 10 each day until it’s a full hour for kids older than 4 who don’t nap anymore). We play a calm CD that’s the length of the “quiet time” and my kids know it’s not time to get up and argue play again until it ends. There really is such a thing as too much fun (especially for kids with introverted personalities or sensory/mood challenges), so part of our job during school breaks is to meter it out in such a way that it can stay fun as much as possible.

6. Realize that you’ll lose it at least once. We’re not perfect, so prepare a toolkit of gracious words, encouraging verses, and things that fill your emotional tank quickly. For me, that includes cards people have sent after talks I’ve given, favorite scriptures like Ephesians 3:20-21 and Psalm 62:5-8, and a list of my values written in the first person (eg “I listen before I get mad because I value patience” and “I look for the humor in tough moments because I value humor”). Put your toolkit someplace you can see or get to it easily these next few months, and decide to forgive yourself when the steam starts coming out your ears.

7. Enjoy the change of pace. Remember that someday, you’ll want to have been intentional about this vacation (even though right now, if you have little ones, you’re probably just hopping from nap to nap!) Don’t let it pass too quickly. Be present each day, even on the tough ones where everyone melts down. Ever since I got my two older daughters as foster kids I decided that no matter how bad a day it is, I will be present in it because it will never come again. It’s not an easy perspective to keep, but it has allowed for many wonderful memories in our family.

A friend and parent coach, Susan Heid has created not just 7 ways, but a WHOLE SUMMER OF IDEAS for fun, learning, and adventure with your kids. She’s giving away a FREE copy of her Summer Survival Calendar for my readers! Thanks, Susan!

Simply leave a comment on this post or at Moms Together, sharing something you DREAD or something you LOOK FORWARD TO this summer! Winners will be announced on Moms Together at 10 p.m. PST, June 7th.

In Joy,

Share the love. . .Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookEmail this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this page


  1. says

    Thanks to everyone for your great comments and ideas today! Congratulations to the winner of Confident Mom's Summer Survival Calendar – Lisa Gates from the Moms Together facebook community. Yay!

    And if anyone would like to buy copies of the calendar, just click the button for it in the sidebar on my site. Have a great week!

  2. says

    Loving all these tips and ideas from the 3-weeks-into-summer moms that have been doing this since May. Praying with you, Kirsten, for stable childcare. We had our sitter quit yesterday, and it's so stressful! God has already provided though, and it's pretty amazing what He's put together. Praying for the same if anything happens with your childcare situation!

  3. says

    I am so excited about a longer stretch of downtime for the entire family-the lazy days of summer πŸ™‚ Our fingers are crossed that when I do have to work the summer childcare arrangements are a success.

  4. Andrea Stanley says

    I look forward to not having to rush out the door so early in the morning during the summer. But I truly love summer vacation, I miss my kids while they are at school. They get to be all mine this summer YAY!! I look forward to planning some fun things to do this summer!

  5. says

    School in New Mexico has been out since May 24th so we've already started our summer :). Our goal for this summer is to teach our 5yr old how to read before he starts Kinder in August. The “I'm bored” phase hasn't hit yet. Fingers crossed…

  6. says

    Looking forward to not having to get the kids out the door in the morning, it will reduce the stress..yay!!

    Can't wait to just enjoy the little things, crafts, swimming, BBQ….I love SUMMER!!

  7. says

    We're looking forward to spending more time outside and being at the pool. Our house is small, so in the summer we love having the additional room.

  8. says

    Love the tips! We are on a year round schedule which makes the summer break just the right length. By the time school starts again it's getting too hot to do much of anything and the whining starts up! Then in Oct when the weather is PERFECT we get another 3 week break…Love it!

  9. says

    What I DREAD – Keeping my 9-year-old occupied and helping him learn self-control. He's not even a week into summer yet and bucking the system. πŸ˜‰

    What I LOOK FORWARD TO – The kids and I are taking a trip to NY to visit family and old friends this July. They need to see the people, and I need the break from everyday life. Daddy will stay behind to work, but he'll join us for a weekend before we travel back to him. I'm looking forward to the help my mom and sister bring, giving me a little breather.

  10. says

    I look forward to vacation, a more relaxed schedule, and having my little girl home from school. It's also nice that she is here more to play with her little brother too. I am not looking forward to keeping her busy the way that kindergarden did. Thanks for your great post today and some great ideas for the family. Blessings πŸ™‚

  11. says

    we're looking forward to spending lots of time at the lake! picnics and BBQs, sprinklers and parks!
    i am dreading TWO birthdays in July! yikes!

  12. Joanna says

    I am looking forward to my husband being at home a little bit more. Working as a middle school teacher and also working a second job keeps him away from home many full days during the school year. I enjoy the times he can experience life with us during the summer!

  13. says

    I'm looking forward to doing lots of projects with my kids. We've got a TravelMate touring all the national parks and sending us postcards, and we're going to be painting and playing in the pool, too. We love making things together!