The summer months are here, and you may already be asking yourself about a schedule for this time of year. Is it best to create a schedule for the summer or go with the flow?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of setting a structure for the summer days.  

Structure Pros:

Good for hands-on families. If your kids depend on you for entertainment, structure can create boundaries for you. Yes, it is good to spend time playing with your children, but there is still work to do. And, it is good for your kids to learn how to entertain themselves once in a while. Having designated times for playing together and playing independently can help everyone stay happy while still providing much needed alone time.

Builds in transition for the day. One benefit of structure is that it creates natural transition points. During school, there are transitions built in — go to class, switch classes, eat lunch, recess, dismissal. It creates structure and keeps the day moving in a purposeful way. If there is no transition at home, the days will seem to drag on forever (to a child) or fly by quickly (for the adult) because you don’t have cues to tell you when to work on something new. This leads to binge-watching and epic video game marathons without even realizing it. An example of transition points at home can be eating breakfast, watching TV, go outside to play, eat lunch, read a book, watch a movie, complete chores, have outside time, play video games, eat dinner, take a bath, and watch TV.

Sets expectations. Structure takes the guesswork out of the day for the child. Children thrive on structure, even though they will tell you otherwise. There is no more constant yelling at the children to turn off the TV or to quit playing video games. There are times designated for this. Dave Ramsey often says that a budget isn’t telling you what you can’t buy, but telling you what you can buy at the appropriate times. A schedule is sort of like a budget, but for your time. You aren’t telling the kids they can’t do something; you are just building in appropriate time for them to do it.

Prevents reinventing the wheel. Summer days can be very long for children. This is especially true this summer when many activities, camps, and vacations are not happening. The schedule or structure will give you a formula to follow so you don’t have to think of ways to fill your day each day.

Non-structure Pros:

Better for working parents. Non-structure might be better for parents that work and aren’t home to police their children’s actions during the day. Setting up a schedule might set you up for frustration. You set this expectation that this is how the children will behave during the day, and it likely won’t happen if you aren’t there to make them follow it. A better approach may be to leave a short list of must-dos for them to have accomplished by the time you get home.

Good for independent families. If you have a more independent family where people tend to do their own thing during the day, a non-scheduled approach may be better. Your expectations of what each person should or will do is lower, so forcing a schedule may go against your goals for the summer of “do your own thing.”

Allows you time to destress. This was a very stressful end of the school year for most. Many parents had to help teach their children for the last 9 weeks of school. Maybe you want to do nothing this summer. No practicing math facts, no reading logs. You have that right! Relax, stay in bed late, and watch all the TV you want. If this is your idea of a perfect summer, then do it!

Gives kids freedom. You might be surprised at how the kids choose to spend their time if the structure is removed. At some point they will be bored of video games and come up with another way to entertain themselves. Will they create amazing art, explore outside, create a funny movie?

How will you handle your summer, with structure or not?