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Helping Your Child Maintain Routine and Structure During the Summer Months

May 12, 2024

Summer break from school is soon approaching, and the students' behaviors are a testament to this transition! Year after year, I observed students beg teachers to hold their classes outside; they asked for longer recess times; they rushed through their homework to enjoy the longer daylight and play outside with friends. 

While many families welcome the relaxed conditions that summer may bring, others are concerned about how the lack of structure, routine, and daily instruction may affect their children when they must transition back to school in the fall. The effects of summer break on student learning are well-researched. A study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology found that children who experience consistent routines during the summer months tend to have better academic outcomes and exhibit fewer behavioral problems compared to those who experience more erratic schedules. Another study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology showed that children who maintain regular sleep schedules and engage in structured activities during the summer months demonstrate improved cognitive performance and are better prepared for the transition back to school in the fall.

Not every child or adolescent needs a structured summer schedule. Some children, however, take longer to return to good habits when school resumes. If your teenager, for example, has gotten used to sleeping until noon every day of the summer, they may find it difficult to wake up at 6:30 a.m. at the onset of school. Your third grader may have forgotten how to perform an emerging math skill learned during the last quarter of the former school year and become worried about their preparation when beginning grade four.

Take into consideration the following strategies. While not a comprehensive list, it offers some things to consider in the upcoming months or weeks.

The following are recommendations for different developmental stages:

Preschool and Early Elementary (Ages 3-7):

Create a visual summer schedule: Use a colorful calendar or visual schedule to outline daily activities and routines. Include a mix of structured activities (such as reading time, arts and crafts, and outdoor play) and free time for exploration and creativity.

Set consistent bedtime and wake-up times: While it's tempting to relax bedtime routines during the summer, maintaining consistent sleep schedules is essential for young children's well-being and behavior. Stick to regular bedtime and wake-up times to ensure they get enough rest. Avoid deviating too far from what the child is accustomed to on school nights.

Plan themed learning weeks: Keep learning fun and engaging by planning themed weeks around topics like animals, nature, or the ocean. Explore books, videos, crafts, and activities related to each theme to spark curiosity and learning. Ideas are plentiful if you search online. Children may wish to help determine the week's theme, motivating them to participate with greater interest.

Upper Elementary and Middle School (Ages 8-13):

Encourage summer reading: Create a summer reading list with your child and set aside time each day for independent reading. Visit the library together to choose books based on their interests and consider joining a summer reading program for added motivation. The library often has a themed reading program where students get rewarded for reading a certain number or type of books.

Establish a daily routine: Help your child create a daily schedule that includes designated times for academic activities, chores, physical activity, and free time. Encourage them to take ownership of their schedule and set goals for the summer. You can reinforce their "buy-in" by providing them with earned family time activities or privileges.

Explore educational apps and resources: Introduce your child to educational apps, websites, and online courses that align with their interests and learning goals. Many online platforms offer interactive lessons and activities in subjects like math, science, coding, and language arts. However, I suggest setting clear limits and boundaries for time spent using technology, especially social media apps.

High School and Beyond (Ages 14+):

Set summer learning goals: Sit down with your teenager to discuss their academic and personal goals for the summer. Whether it's preparing for standardized tests, exploring career interests, or learning a new skill, guide them to create a plan to achieve their objectives. During the summer, parents can stress the importance of goal setting as a life skill.

Encourage volunteer or internship opportunities: Summer is a great time for teenagers to gain real-world experience through volunteer work, internships, or part-time jobs. Assist your child explore opportunities that align with their interests and career aspirations. For younger teens, babysitting, helping with yard work, pet sitting, or working as camp staff are all reasonable options and build responsibility.

Foster independence and time management skills: Give your teenager more autonomy over their schedule and encourage them to manage their time effectively. Teach them strategies for prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and staying organized. Discuss how to keep lists or maintain a calendar on their phone or on paper. Crossing out items on a "to-do" list can be very satisfying!


By implementing these strategies, parents can help their children maintain routines, structure, and learning during the summer months while having plenty of time for relaxation and fun. With a balanced approach, children can enjoy a fulfilling summer while staying somewhat on track for the onset of the upcoming school year. While parents should be the ultimate decision-makers, allow children and adolescents to share in establishing routines and choosing areas of interest. Cogmotion Learning can help parents and children build daily routines that allow for personal growth and skill advancement.


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