Skip to Main Content
Family taking photo on the beach

Get a Jump On Summer: 7 Tips for Parents

We all look forward to summertime. For kids, it’s a well-deserved break from school and time to relax, recharge and enjoy nice weather with friends and family. 

As parents, we want to cheer them on as they celebrate, but summer also presents challenges. Losing routines and structure, and struggling to balance work, household and family needs can take a toll on moms and dads. Some parents feel pressure to give kids a memorable summer experience or just make sure kids are entertained during their time off. 

Every summer is different, especially since more parents are working from home, and every family is different. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how to approach summer, but these tips can help make those three months smooth and successful. 

Tips for Parents to Help Make Summer Smooth and Successful

1. Start Planning Early 

Before summer starts, sit down with your kids and your partner and talk about how summer should look. Find out what your children are interested in and make goals for the summer that are simple, reasonable and achievable. The key is working together. Think of it more like a partnership for 12 weeks. 

2. Establish Routines 

Don’t schedule every minute of the day. Instead, keep routines predictable but flexible, emphasizing structure and stability. Morning and evening routines are important to ensure children aren’t going to bed extremely late or sleeping in until 1 pm. Other things to consider: 

  • Consistent meal times and set times for other activities, such as reading.
  • Age-appropriate chores. Don’t just give chores to fill time. It creates a power struggle when you tell children, “you have plenty of time.” Instead, emphasize chores that help them learn life skills.
  • Schedule the “preferred” or fun activity after the “non-preferred” activity so children are motivated to get things done.
  • Use a visual aid such as a chart. Especially for younger kids, checking things off on the chart  is a motivator. You can also consider adding a reward for completed tasks.

Rather than striving for a strict schedule, have clear expectations and be consistent to maintain a livable structure. 

3. Plan for Activities

Summer presents plenty of opportunities for structured and unstructured activities. It’s an opportunity to learn outside of school and engage in pro-social interactions with peers their age. 

Be careful not to overschedule the summer. Look at what sparks your child’s interest, whether it’s sports, outdoor activities, art or music. 

  • Research local events, camps, churches, community activities– explore the opportunities!
  • Choose time-limited activities, such as a week at a time. You don’t want to commit to a 6-week program, just to discover they hate it – and you’ve already paid for it. 
  • If camps or activities are expensive, look for scholarships.
  • Classes get filled in early so stay ahead of the deadlines. 

It’s also important to make sure children have the ability to pursue hobbies independently, so stock up on art supplies or other things they might be interested in. 

4. Get Outdoors

With so many digital options, our children can easily become indoor people. But there’s significant physical and emotional benefits of being outside. Make time to be outside as a family. Play games or go to the park or pool. Also encourage age-appropriate independent time outside, on their own or with friends. 

5. Limit Screen Time

Phones are a lifeline for kids, so make sure to balance screen time with other experiences. Start by having a discussion with kids about screen time and agree on a limit for summer. 

This is age-dependent and should have some flexibility along with clear expectations. 

Consider screen-free times such as during meals or family time and enforce no phones at bedtime. 

6. Incorporate Family Time

Plan some regular and creative family activities. Explore common interests, such as cooking, board games, sports or other activities. You don’t have to go on a lavish vacation. Plan a staycation and spend some quality time together. 

7. Prioritize Self-Care

It is very important to take time for yourself, including some alone time. Get your partner involved in summer planning so you each have time to yourselves. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenetic pace of summer, but it can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Remind yourself it’s okay to have “you time.” You’ll come back 100% and fully engaged. 


This summer break, give yourself a break. Forget about perfection. Instead, strive for predictability, consistency and flexibility. Incorporate those three things into your days and you’ll have a great family summer. 

Monica Arora, MD
Monica Arora, MD

Monica Arora, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatry provider at CHI Health.

Related Articles

Reducing Harm: Practical Strategies for Substance Use

JUL 03, 2024

Being realistic about people who use substances and how they can be helped is the goal of the emerging concept of harm reduction. This is an evidence-based approach to equipping people with life-saving information and tools which can save lives.

Read More

Beyond Fireworks: Breaking the Silence Around PTSD

JUN 27, 2024

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder vary widely and can affect all ages. PTSD is often misunderstood and stigmatized, preventing people from getting help.

Read More

Redefining Recovery for Substance Use Disorder

JUN 26, 2024

Recovery from substance use disorder is different for each individual. Recovery professionals ask simple questions to shift how care is structured in order to address challenges.

Read More