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Structure Summer Days to Keep Away the "I'm Bored" Blues

Tired of hearing "I'm bored?" or fighting over electronics time?

By Jennifer Hill, Publisher of Macaroni Kid Fremont, Calif. June 29, 2022

Who is over kids wanting to spend their time with electronics, playing video games, or watching TV?

I know my hand is up. I totally get needing a few days to veg out and relax after the school year ends, but how can we keep it from taking over summer break?

I've found a solution that has worked wonders for my family! This summer we added some structure and routine to our 9- and 10-year-olds days so they know exactly what is expected of them before they have screen time and they don't need to constantly ask me what they should do next. Here's what works for us!

Write Down the Big Things

At the beginning of summer, we sit down with blank calendar pages and add our planned events. These include scheduled camps, appointments, and other things we already have locked down.

Write Down Our Wishlist (Bucket List)

Then we make a list of things we'd like to do -- parents included. These might include a visit to the beach, watch fireworks, go camping, make s'mores, plan a playdate with an old friend, etc. We keep this list handy and try to add as many of them as possible to our summer calendar.

Plan Daily Schedule, Tasks, and Routines

Next, we talk about a daily plan for the days we will be at home. Each day's calendar not only includes daily tasks and chores for them to complete, but also includes built-in expectations for what we call "mental engagement" and outside active time.

That means that the kids know they are expected to make time for reading and writing each day, playing outside for a minimum amount of time each day, and "making something," which is a project they can choose on their own.

We put the daily schedule in writing and hang it in a prominent place. Only after they complete set tasks -- in our family, it includes reaching a minimum of 30-45 minutes of reading time -- are they allotted a set amount of screen time.

Here is how that looks for my 9- and 10-year-old:

Morning

  • Make breakfast, clean up from breakfast, and wash any dishes
  • Personal hygiene (get dressed, brush and floss, comb hair)
  • Daily tasks and chores (Daily: feed the cat, bring laundry to the laundry room, clean rooms. Other assigned chores: do the laundry, take out garbage, etc.)
  • Morning reading for at least 30-45 minutes (if they only do 30, then screen time later is limited to 30 also)
  • Play outside for at least 30 minutes
  • Make something (craft, bake/cook, build with blocks or LEGO®)
  • 30-45 minutes of screen time allowed before lunch based on morning reading time

Afternoon

  • Make lunch, clean up from lunch, and wash any dishes
  • Afternoon reading for at least 30-45 minutes
  • Make something
  • Play outside for at least 30 minutes

Evening

  • Dinner with family, clean up from dinner, and help with dishes
  • Play outside for at least 30 minutes after dinner
  • Shower, brush teeth, and be ready for bed
  • Write in their journal (They both have one and as long as they are writing, I'm not really concerned with content, but some recent topics have been about books they're reading, about their day, and things to tell their older brother or penpal.)
  • Screen time allowed after completely ready for bed, at parent's discretion

This has worked so well for us! I work from home and need my kids to know what is expected of them without me staying on top of them. I've found that giving them written-out, clear expectations has allowed them to become quite independent, which is pretty awesome and a total win-win for both them and me.

We've all found that having a daily plan for our days at home makes every day so much easier. Not only do chores get done with little argument, but they've also been learning how to cook and read recipes and they spend their days finding fun ways to entertain themselves -- rather than just lounging around on their electronics.

In the time it took me to write this article, my 10-year-old made homemade pudding and washed the dishes, while her brother built a village with blocks. No electronics, no arguments, and I got work done, all because of clearly established expectations! I hope it works for you too!