Finding Balance in Summer Schedules

by Brenda Yoder, MA

Balance in summer scedulesRecently I wrote about whether parents at home with kids during summer vacation should establish a schedule.  The key to this question lies in finding balance in summer schedules.  Kids need both structured and unstructured activities.

Why the structure of a schedule is helpful:

  • Structure and self-discipline doesn’t come naturally for some kids. Depending on a child’s birth order, personality make-up and learning style, structure is a skill needed to be learned in unstructured environments.  The school-day schedule may seem like torture for certain kids.  But unstructured kids need to know that self-governing routines are part of life, part of the work-place and are important to learn.  For these kids, some type of schedule reinforces life skills needed for success.
  • Structure and schedules can help during times where other things in life are chaotic.  In times of uncertainty, illness, grief, moving, divorce, or other losses, routine and familiarity is therapeutic for kids. When natural occurrences or adult choices affect a child’s life with change, stability in other areas bring stability and certainty for a child.  During these times, schedules might be particularly helpful.

Why the structure of a schedule may not be helpful:

  • With increasing demands of high-stakes testing in public schools, schoolwork and schedules can be highly stressful for elementary children.  More children are experiencing anxiety at younger ages. For naturally high-performing kids and kids who are stressed during the school-year, unstructured vacation time can be a learning process and therapeutic.  Some kids need to be taught how to just have fun and be more carefree.
  • Kids need free play-time but are getting less.  As an educational professional, my colleagues and I are observing that children do not know what to do with unstructured time. They are becoming so accustomed to being entertained or busy that they are losing the skills of creativity, contentment, problem-solving, common-sense, and self-motivation.  This is frightening and becoming an epidemic.  It spans across socio-economic lines.  Many kids don’t know what to do with themselves if activities aren’t planned for them.  They complain of being bored or they don’t know how to utilize “free playtime” compared to past generations. It’s concerning.
  • Unstructured time teaches kids to get along with other. Kids will fight with siblings. The process of learning to get along with siblings is a life-skill that benefits children in personal and work relationships. Structured schedules for the purpose of “keeping the kids busy” so they won’t fight robs children of opportunities to grow in peer relationships either with siblings or peers they play with. Some of the best bonds my children have build with each other have been through activities and games they played together during summer vacations.
  • Kids still need time to just be kids.  If you think about it, adults work for fifty-sixty years of their life earning an income.  Though kids aren’t working for pay during their summer vacations, a rigid schedule lacking opportunities for kids to explore childhood, to be creative, and to just “be” is robbing them of things natural and good for their development.  Childhood is different than adulthood for the simple reason “kids are meant to be kids” regardless of advanced in technology or changes in society. It needs to be fostered and protected.

The key component in all of this is finding balance in summer schedules for kids.  How do you find balance in summer schedules?  We’d love to hear!