Healthy Summer Routines for the Whole Family
Let’s start by giving a huge shout-out to all you teachers and educators out there. Thank you for helping our future generations grow, learn, and become awesome humans. Now, it’s summertime, the kids are home, and we get to spend more time as a family, filling in the gaps between English, math, and science. This is no small endeavor. A healthy family is one of the toughest jobs of all! We’re talking about mental health, physical health, and emotional health, and there is only one thing that can help us balance all three, a really good routine.
You may be thinking, but it’s summer. This is the time to throw routine out the window, be spontaneous, and enjoy some freedom. You are so right! But build all of that into a routine. If you don’t, all that spontaneity and change is going to turn into tired, cranky, unhappy children and some stressed out adults. We may not realize it, but our kids need routine. They thrive on it, excel, and find emotional and mental comfort in knowing what to expect. It’s not much different for adults, even if we are better at controlling our temper tantrums… sometimes.
So the healthiest routine is routine itself.
Look at your days and nights when school is in session and then change things slowly and in small ways. If your children sleep from seven to seven, but summer has everyone staying up a bit later, try nine to nine. For those of us programmed to rise and shine, we might not sleep those extra hours in the morning. Some kids can handle this. Others are going to get cranky fast. Build in a nap time. If they refuse to nap, then create a regular space in the day for quiet, alone time. They may read, color, or have screen time if that’s part of your lifestyle, but avoid active technology like video games or high-energy, action-packed programs. The key is rest.
Try to stay close to your regular meal times. If dinner was always at five, make it six. This may still be early for your summer schedule, but you can bump it to seven after a week or so. The idea is to make changes gradually, so everyone has time to adjust to new routines. There will certainly be those days you can’t plan everything, and dinner just won’t happen before eight. That’s where healthy, high-protein snacks come in. Summertime is all about preparing for that impromptu activity or extended pool time.
Always have some tasty plant-based snacks in your bag or tucked in the car. Toss a variety pack of IWON puffs and stix in the trunk, and your whole family will always have quality nutrition in a snack they can’t get enough of. Trust us. This will save you many headaches when you get caught out and about enjoying the sun with family and friends. You can also keep bags of vegan granola, tins of nuts or seeds, or a couple boxes of protein crunchies cereal. Opt for vegetarian snacks to avoid spoilage in the heat. Animal products often do not do well without refrigeration or a ton of preservatives that we don’t want to fill our bodies with.
Once you have the two biggest parts of a daily routine set, sleep and food, now comes the fun part.
Sit down with your family and make a summer bucket list. Try to keep it simple and achievable. If you can do multiple family vacations, awesome. If not, create a list of things you would like to do each week like picnic Wednesdays, waterpark Mondays, cinema Saturdays, bike ride Tuesdays. Make use of the warmer weather, freer schedules, and longer days. Think about weekly visits to the park, daily dog walks, weekend lake time, camping and any other outdoor things that always sound fun, but you just never have the time.
You can keep things even simpler by having picnics in the backyard or serving dinner out on the patio. Waterparks and lakes may not be possible weekly, but Mondays with the sprinkler are doable and can get even more creative with mud pies and trash bag slip ‘n slides. Morning time may be a quiet affair for those who don’t like waking up, so curl up on the grass and read a book together. Find ways to incorporate summer into your routine rather than fighting to get a routine during the summer.
If homework was a hard fought battle, don’t lose your momentum. Set up a time each day for learning. This may be reading, playing educational games online, coloring worksheets, or settling in with a documentary that everyone can discuss at dinner. You can even choose the arts for summer learning. Take a family painting class; YouTube is fine. Or assault your ears and give them instruments to learn. You can have a summer family band that no one will ever hear or love but you.
Get everyone active by doing family dance routines or if you have a large enough family, take it outdoors and do weekend sports like tag football, frisbee golf, or baseball.
Don’t overcrowd your schedule! Routines are necessary, but they are not meant to orchestrate every minute of every day. They bring BALANCE to our time by ensuring we include the essentials. There are so many extra activities in summer, and you may want to do them all, but keep in mind your kid’s needs as well as your own. Down time and alone time are just as important as the annual summer fair.
Get online or in your community paper and find out what’s going on. Then choose one or two outings a week based on the mental, emotional, and physical capacity of everyone in the family. If the city baseball game is on Friday, then maybe wait to go to the farmer’s market till Wednesday. If the big family vacation is next week, then take it easy this week and the week after. Fill your time with things you love while still enjoying those languid summer days. Take it easy, keep it simple, and hold onto the things that matter most.