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6 ways we do a chill-but-orderly summer with kids

Summer’s peaking over the horizon. I’d say I’m about 70 percent happy about this, 30 percent wondering how I’ll get things done (while also not roasting alive here in central Texas).

For the first summer in years, our family is neither moving nor traveling a long distance (as far as we know now). This is a big deal for our nomadic clan, and we’re actually looking forward to it.

I love a simple summer schedule at home—letting kids sleep in, as though their bodies actually need plenty of sleep, working long one day to take the next day completely off to lounge by water with a novel while they splash, grilling dinner outside four times a week… there’s a lot to love about summer.

inner tube

But, still. It can wane. Here’s a few things we do to keep summer from turning into merely a countdown for the next school year.

1. We keep to a chill routine.

I’m not letter-of-the-law here, but my kids have better attitudes if we stick to an orderly-ish day (even if they initially complain).

They don’t get screen time until they do their checklist:

  • Be active outside
  • Play with stuff and/or create something
  • Complete a chore list
  • Learn something (we do summer school lite, mostly math and writing enrichment)
  • Read for at least an hour
  • Have lunch

It takes a few weeks to build this habit, but eventually they don’t ask for screen time because they know I’ll ask, “Have you done your list?”

2. We read… a lot.

Actually, we read all the time anyway, so basically, we just keep this up in the summer. I make a just-for-fun summer reading list for our older two (this year’s coming to you soon!), and library trips are a weekly staple.

I’ll also continue working daily with our emerging reader (we use this), we’ll have evening family story time, as always, and we’ll have audiobooks and stories continually available, both in the car and at home.

We check out digital audiobooks from our library, but we’re also huge fans of Around the World Stories. Every week there’s a new story about a kid from somewhere in the world, and they do a fabulous job infusing cultural education through fun storytelling.

They also have additional discussion questions, history facts, basic words from the local language, recipes and activities to build on the week’s story, and links and videos for more deep-diving.

around the world stories
from one of the stories about Portugal

We truly love them—my kids are 12, 9, and 6, and they’re all avid listeners.

Around the World Stories wants to give you a chance to try them out: head here, and either use the code SIMPLE for a month of free stories, or SIMPLE20 for $20 off a full story pack. Seriously, take advantage of their generosity!

3. The kids are apprentices…sorta.

Since Kyle and I both work from home, family and work life naturally bleed into each other during the summer. Yes, we both still need solitary time to get stuff done, but instead of fighting against the extra time with our kids, we just go with it.

finn helping with the house

Kyle’s working on our fixer-upper full-time right now, so the kids will roll up their sleeves and learn basic carpentry skills as he works. We’ve already been doing this, actually, and it’s fun to see what the kids have picked up.

My older two have varying interests in what I do, so I’ll have them help with things behind the scenes: basic Photoshop editing, organizing spreadsheets, researching ideas, and even coding.

These are all just good life skills. We’d be remiss not to have them learn while they’re still in our nest.

4. They go to camp.

Our older two look forward to camp all year, and it gives them something to anticipate. It’s only a week, and both camps are a short drive from our house, but for them it might as well be Paris, they love it so much.

Summer camp was a formative experience for both Kyle and myself growing up, and we love giving our kids the same experience.

We’ll find a day camp for our youngest this summer, so he has something to anticipate, without the potential homesickness for a barely-7-year-old.

5. We’ll do day and weekend trips.

Every couple weeks, we’ll go explore something local—a museum, a small town, a new restaurant, a new-to-us watering hole. We may even stay a weekend somewhere a few hours’ from us, just for a change of scenery.

comal river
Photo source

It breaks up the summer monotony, and it gives us something to look forward to without much wait time in between.

With all our epic summer road trips the past few years, plus a big trip just this past spring, we’re looking forward to a more staycation-y summer.

6. We’re cool with boredom.

This might be the most important thing here… I just don’t sweat it when the kids complain of boredom. They know I’ll give them a chore when they say they’re bored, so that’s taken care of.

But even if they are—I say that’s a good thing. That’s when creativity comes to life. Kids are resilient, and they’ll come up with something. My job as a parent isn’t to be their cruise ship director.

Free play is one of the best parts of childhood, and I don’t want to rob them of that.


So, this is our general modus operandi during the summer months. Yep, we’ll be eager to return to a school routine by the fall, but I don’t want to wish it too soon.

The lazy days of summer are almost here.

(Thanks to Around the World Stories for sponsoring this post, a mom-and-pop shop we love anyway. Thanks for supporting brands that support The Art of Simple!)

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. Laurie

    I love reading your books & reading here. We have 5 children & 1 bonus daughter for some of the summer. We too love traveling, set summer goals, & have a completion list before devices can come out. I enjoy reading your ideas!

  2. Chyrll

    Thanks for this post! Purchased the Around the World bonus pack for my grands!! What fun this will be!!

  3. Tracy

    I am with you on the 70/30 split of excitement for all things end of school to be OVER and summer to begin. My husband and I live the mushy life of home and work being in the same place and I too am wondering how I am going to get it all done and carve out time for fun. I feel like I need to be really planful with my days to be able to relax and have fun. Is that an oxymoron? Or is that how we entrefamilies just get it done.

  4. AlysonRR

    If they’re in your area, your kids might enjoy CyberDojo, a volunteer-run group for kids to learn programming.

  5. Julie

    Thanks, Tsh! You, yet again, have me prepping for a fun, relaxing summer. We have always had an audiobook as a mid-day quiet time. But this is the first summer I have a reader (7.5 yo). Do you have them set a timer while reading? Or how did you have them gauge daily reading? I’m thinking we will continue audiobooks, but I am hoping to start a solid habit of personal reading time.

  6. Rebecca

    Great tips! Need to think of ways to tweak for my younger crowd. Thanks!

  7. Laura Sue Shaw

    Great ideas! I’m going to keep these in mind for when my son is older – he’s 4 months old now! I am trying to start a habit of reading, we read several books every day. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Bonnie H.

    I wish I had a chance to do more of #3 with my kids. They aren’t that great at fixing things. Their cousin who liked to fix stuff is now doing quite well as a carpenter.

  9. Elisa Gray

    My boys are all grown up, but a favorite family story is when Jacob (my older) had a friend over. They were playing in the boys’ bedroom and I overheard the friend say, “Jacob, let’s ask your mother for something to do.” To which my son replied in a horrified tone, “NOOOOOOOOO!” As far as I know, my boys were never bored because they never complained about it to me. Well, maybe once. Then they got a chore. You go girl!

  10. Annelise

    This sounds an awful lot like our summers! Love your “before tech time” list. Perfect for my twelve year olds but I’ll need to find a way to modify it for my 17 and fifteen year olds! 🙂

  11. Kelly Sage

    Our summer looks very similar. Less is more, family time, a lot of free time and pool time. We love our busier schedule, but these summer days are pretty blissful!

  12. Kendra Vita

    I absolutely love your “before screens” list. I’ve been trying to brainstorm a summer rhythm that will not make me feel like a drill sergeant or the worst mom in the world. (I lean towards relaxed parenting and often feel like the latter when my kid’s eyes are glazed over) This list strikes the perfect balance! I’m totally owning this. Thank you!

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