How to Make This Summer Count

3 min read
Make the Summer Count

This content has been reviewed and updated on May 28th, 2024.

Summer vacation offers K–12 students a welcome break from school, giving them more time for friends and fun. However, the academic break can also present concerns, like the risk of the “summer slide,” in which kids lose the learning of the previous school year over the summer.

The lack of structure over the summer can be especially challenging for kids who struggle with executive functions, like goal setting, planning, and time management. Children living with neurodivergent conditions like ADHD may be especially prone to such executive function disorders.

Below are some summer routine ideas parents of K through 12 students use to help their kids thrive.

5 Tips to Create a Productive Summer Routine for Kids

1. Set Goals for the Summer

Brainstorm a long-term goal for your child to achieve by the summer’s end, something they can work on bit by bit. Don’t overwhelm them with too many objectives; instead, focus on one or two tangible goals.

Make sure these goals are age appropriate and related to things kids don’t get a chance to work on during the school year. A goal could be learning how to play a song on the piano, for example, or mastering a three-point shot in basketball. You can also set behavioral goals, such as putting shoes in the same place every day.

Help your child track their progress toward their goal. At the end of the summer, celebrate their achievement. For example, you might take a family trip to a nearby lake, beach, or amusement park.

2. Create Structure for the Days

School gives kids a routine, with set arrival times, breaks, and lunch hours, and the familiarity can be comforting for many students, especially those with ADHD. Try to maintain a sense of structure during the summer as well to create a greater sense of security and comfort at home. Choose a set wake-up and bedtime and eat meals at regular hours. Scheduling family chores and activities, like grilling for dinner on Wednesdays or doing laundry on Fridays, also provides structure and predictability.

Implement routines wherever possible. For example, a pre-bedtime routine could include brushing teeth and reading a story. Finally, day camps and sleep-away summer camps can be a good way for kids to get into a routine, as these usually have daily schedules the way school does and can help kids become more independent with their tasks.

3. Make Family Fun Part of the Routine

One of the benefits of summer is that you get to spend some more quality time with your kids. Make the most of it. Consider activities you can do as a family over the summer and incorporate them into the routines you create. For example, you might take walks every evening after dinner.

Again, it’s important to make sure anything you implement is age appropriate. Teenagers might enjoy family bike rides or athletic activities, for example, while younger kids might be more interested in family playtime or game nights.

4. Let the Kids Take the Lead

As you conceptualize your child’s summer routine, don’t do it all yourself. Whatever your child’s age, invite them to contribute to the process. Ask about their interests and use that information to set goals for their summer. For younger children, you may want to make suggestions to help guide their decision-making and keep them from getting overwhelmed.

It’s also a good idea to consult kids on the types of structured activities they might want to participate in, such as a sleep-away camp versus a day camp. Allowing them to call the shots is itself an exercise of their executive functions, encouraging skills like task prioritization, time management, and decision-making.

5. Prepare and Practice for Transitions

Transitions can be tough for kids, especially those struggling with executive functions. Whether it’s going to sleep-away camp or preparing to return to school, help children prepare for any changes. For example, if your child is going to camp, you might review the camp schedule with them and help them organize and pack their belongings. The same process is helpful when you prepare for a summer vacation and have to return home.

A few weeks before school starts up again, start the process of preparing them for the fall by learning about their teacher, shopping for new clothes and supplies, and enforcing regular bedtimes and wake-up times.

Casey Schmalacker

Casey Schmalacker, Vice President at New Frontiers, is a seasoned leader in marketing, sales, and business development. With a dual degree in Government and Law and Economics from Lafayette College, he has spent the past 10 years coaching students, adults, and organizations to improve executive functions, soft skills, and workplace performance. Casey’s approach is rooted in strategic development and a passion for personalized coaching, emphasizing a culture of continuous improvement.

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