Summer Schedule + Structure: Theme Days to the Rescue!

Summer is here! Moms tend to love it or dread it. If you’re like me, I love certain things about it but kind of dread some things as well. As a mom of a child who thrives with routines (like many of us!), I’m going to try to take a different approach this summer, one that provides a bit more structure to our days while still being flexible.

Pinterest has a wealth of summer fun ideas and activities (see my summer Pinterest board here). And I want to share with you the things I’m going to implement to not only inject a little structure into our summer, but to keep things interesting and to prevent the dreaded, “I’m bored,” declarations!

Daily Schedule

First, I have sketched out a daily summer schedule for our house. (Full disclosure: I work from home and have someone to help out with my son during the day, but this schedule and following activities can be adapted for stay-at-home parents, working parents, shift-working parents, etc.) Here’s how our days will be at least loosely scheduled:

Up by 9:00 a.m. – Breakfast, feed dog, dressed, teeth brushed, screen time (if time allows)
(I tend to let my son sleep in during the summer if he will. If he’s up earlier, he’ll get some extra screen time or playing time.)

10:00 a.m. – Summer enrichment
(I wanted to avoid the word “homework,” so I went with “enrichment.” During this time we’ll work on math, writing, reading, etc. and the things that came home from school as suggestions for summer. This may also include games that have an educational aspect, too.)

10:30 a.m. – Play outside

11:30 a.m. – Read or color

12:00 p.m. – Pick up/lunch/screen time

1:00 p.m. – Theme activity of the day, then play (inside or outside)
(More on the theme activities below!)

4:00 p.m. – Read

4:30 p.m. – Pick up/play outside (screen time or board games if the weather isn’t cooperating)

6:00 p.m. – Supper

6:30 p.m. – Family evening activity

8:00 p.m. – Get ready for bed, quiet play

9:00 p.m. – Bedtime

It’s important to note that while I set this schedule up, my son and I talked through it to make sure it sounded OK to him, increasing the chances of his buy-in! I fully know there will be days when the schedule is abandoned, depending on what else we have going on. Weeks where he has swimming lessons or a day camp will obviously be different. We may alter the schedule to accommodate a specific Summer Reading Program activity. And there may be days where we are in the mood for something different.

If you work during the day, you can adapt your after work/evening schedule to include things you enjoy with your child, based on your priorities for what you want to accomplish this summer. In general, I am hoping that having an idea of what we’re doing will help both my son and me!

Theme Days

The second thing I’m implementing is a schedule of Theme Days. I chose them with flexibility in mind, as well as the latitude for interpretation. For the most part, I think these are pretty self-explanatory:

Summer schedule theme days

The sky’s the limit when thinking about theme days. I tend to like matching the day with a same-letter theme, but that’s just how my brain works! Here are some other options you could consider, including weekend days:

Move It Monday
Magic Monday

Take a Trip Tuesday
Time to Read Tuesday
Try It Tuesday

What’s Cooking Wednesday
Wander Somewhere Wednesday

Thoughtful Thursday
Trip Thursday
Try Something New Thursday

Friend-day Friday
Favorite Friday
Figure It Out Friday

Service Saturday

Surprise Sunday

I have compiled lists of potential activities for each theme day (see below), and I will stick them into our weekly calendar. Without further ado, here are things I’ve come up with. Use this as a springboard for giving your summer a little structure!

Make-It Monday

  • Paint Corridor Rocks
  • Make tie-dye shirts
  • Learn how to cook something
  • Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Michael’s kids’ craft activity
  • Make popsicles, homemade ice cream, or smoothies
  • Build a fort
  • Make a fruit castle – then eat it!
  • Draw sidewalk chalk games/activities (hopscotch, draw a twisting line and do a “balance beam,” draw a team picture where you take turns adding something to your chalk drawing, draw a sidewalk chalk road and city and play with cars on it, etc.)
  • Create an obstacle course
  • Make a Father’s Day card
  • Make musical instruments out of household items
  • Ongoing project: Take pictures of what you do this summer and make a photo album or scrapbook with your child at the end of the summer
  • Make homemade lemonade or frozen lemonade
  • Find a recipe and make something red, white, and blue for the 4th of July

Science & Technology Tuesday

  • Go to a dollar/discount movie
  • Go to the Kinze Innovation Center in Williamsburg
  • Make an invention out of Legos
  • Do some kitchen chemistry
  • Make a cardboard invention
  • Nature scavenger hunt or photo scavenger hunt
  • Play a math bean bag toss (put numbers on paper plates, toss bean bags, decide if you want your child to add or subtract the numbers the bean bags land on)
  • Find an experiment online that uses household items
  • Make solar s’mores outside using tinfoil
  • Learn the types of clouds, then lie on the ground and find pictures in the clouds
  • Figure out and/or practice your family emergency procedures
  • Fly kites
  • Make glow in the dark bubbles
  • Go to the Iowa Raptor Center

Water Wednesday

  • Go swimming at a pool or beach (You could plan a “tour of pools” around the area!)
  • Go to a splash pad (You could plan a “tour of splash pads” around the area, too!)
  • Make a sandcastle
  • Go fishing
  • Have some water play – measuring cups, buckets, squirt guns, sprinkler, etc.
  • Wash the car
  • Go to a water park
  • Play with water balloons
  • Go watch the Five Seasons Water Ski show in CR
  • Go canoeing
  • Have a bubble party
  • Learn how to skip rocks

Thinking Thursday

  • Go to the Iowa Children’s Museum
  • Go to the U of I Natural History Museum
  • Go to the Devonian Fossil Gorge
  • Go to the Herbert Hoover Museum
  • Attend a Summer Reading Program activity
  • Pick a topic and do two different activities on that topic (for example, read a book about Houdini and learn a magic trick; learn about fire safety and cut construction paper shapes to make a fire truck)
  • Play airplane (line up chairs as airplane seats, have a captain’s seat in the “cockpit” and see where your child’s imagination takes you…serve snacks, tell what you see out the window, talk about your “destination,” etc.)
  • Learn a new card game
  • Make paper boats and see if they sail
  • Learn about the history of your town or state
  • Go outside a look for constellations in the stars
  • Have a family board game night
  • Draw a giant crossword puzzle outside with sidewalk chalk
  • Work on telling time on a clock

Field Trip Friday

Hopefully sharing our summer schedule and activity ideas will help you put a little structure in your summer this year, too!

What activities do you have planned? We’d love to hear your ideas!


Sara is a NW Iowa native who moved across the state to become a Hawkeye! After her time at the U of I, she left for optometry school and residency before coming home to Iowa to start her “adult” life in Coralville. She was in clinical practice for 5 years before trying her hand at the research side of eye care, working on clinical trials in the pharma/biotech industry. Sara is a wife, mom to a 5-year-old boy, and step-mom to four teenagers! Because her son was born at 25 weeks and had a lengthy NICU stay, Sara is passionate about all things related to prematurity, especially parent support in the NICU. She loves connecting with fellow NICU moms, both online and in person. Sara also enjoys spending time with friends and extended family, reading, scrapbooking, organizing, knitting, travel, keeping up with tech trends, finding new wines to enjoy, honing her photography skills, and serving on the Family Advisory Council for UI Children’s Hospital. She’s a consultant for Jamberry Nails, too, which lets her dabble in her creative side.


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