The Four-Part Plan to Save Summer Sanity

Congratulations! You white-knuckled your way through May with all of the final projects, celebrations, and awards days. Welcome to summer! Summer promises a hot sun, lazy mornings–and kids who bore easily and fuss often. Our sanity is seriously at risk!

A solid plan and clear expectations help to maintain our sanity during the long summer days. Establishing boundaries around time and activities early in the summer can curb some of those screen time conflicts and “I’m bored,” comments.

Deuteronomy 6:5 is a great place to start: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (NIV). Jesus echoed this standard for life in Matthew 22:37 and 39. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . Love your neighbor as yourself” (NIV).

Using these passages as my guide, I create a four-part summer infrastructure to help maintain my summer sanity. This not only keeps the peace, it helps me remain intentional with this time I have with my kids in the summer months.

We have a motto at our house: Have to’s before want to’s. This motto is important during the summer, as well as the school year. I give the kids four “have to’s” each day: heart, head, health, and help. They have the liberty to choose how they pursue each one. At the beginning of the summer, we spend a little time brainstorming ways they can fulfill these four parts each day. Once the “have to’s” are complete, they can move on to their “want to’s.”


Just as Jesus started His day with his Father (Mark 1:35), I want to encourage my kids to do the same. During the school year, the mornings are fast and furious. Summer is a great time to teach the practice of quiet time. I ask each child to spend some time connecting their heart to the Father. We came up with a few ways to make this happen:

Reading from the Bible, a kids’ devotional book, or Bible storybook.


Watch biblically-based programs on an app like JellyTelly

Write an encouraging note to a friend or family member

Worship with the karaoke machine

Work on scripture memory


Our school sent home a dozen emails warning of the dangers of the “summer slide.” From the last day of school to the start of the new year, kids lose two grade levels of math skills. Math brings out the worst in all of my people, so I do not want any regression this summer! The same principle holds true for reading. We have a choice: progress or regress. Our ideas for progress:

Summer reading program at our library (this also gives us a fun activity each week)

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

Creative writing using Scholastic story starters or Journal Buddies for writing prompts if needed.

Good, old fashioned flash cards to keep those math facts sharp.

Games involving language and math skills such as Yahtzee, Scrabble/Scrabble Junior, Rumicube, and Scattergories

Fun science experiments

Mom-approved documentaries


If left to themselves, my kids would love to spend the day on the couch with Disney and Minecraft. If your kids play on a summer sports team, they will get plenty of movement during practices and games. For my non-sports kids, I am more intentional about including physical activity in each day.  We have a few favorites:

Walk the dog


Riding bikes

Wii Fit

Kid classes at the YMCA

PBS Zoomgames and Mommy Poppins offer great lists of physical activities and games


Helping out at home is a way to love your neighbor (with mom being the “neighbor” in this scenario). We do better with assigned chores and a checklist or chart. You may already have a list of chores for your kids to do each day. If not, here are some helpful resources:

Focus on the Family’s age-appropriate chores with downloadable chore charts

How To Create a Chore Chart That Works by Ruth Soukup

Enlist the kids to help with a family meal, a perfect opportunity to teach life skills.

Ask your kids what skills they want to learn and teach them. Older kids are capable of mowing the yard, supervised babysitting, and cooking meals.

The key to making this work for our family is communication and consistency. I clearly communicate my expectations at the beginning of the summer. The boundaries help them know what to expect each day. The freedom to choose within those boundaries gives them ownership of their summer days. Once they finish their “have to’s,” I try to let them have plenty of guilt-free free time. It’s always fun to see them go back to their list of heart, head, health, and help to fill their free time.

What fun and intentional ideas can you add to the lists?