Summer Rules for Kids for a Saner Household

My simple summer rules for kids and for a saner household are the bare bones of parenting.  I thought I’d share them now, before summer starts, because they work.

Summer is almost here.  I can tell without even looking on the calendar because this morning, my Pinterest feed was jammed with pins about getting ready for summer.  It’s as if every mom in the country woke up this morning with the same thing in mind.

My kids claim they would be perfectly content to spend every bit of their summer watching cartoons, playing video games, redecorating my home in Legos and dirty clothes, and eating junk food on the couch.

My kids are wrong.  They don’t know what’s best for them.  Thankfully, I do.  That’s my job as mom.

They want mind rotting sloth.

My summer plans for the kids include a generous helping of what I think of as “mind rotting sloth” for the boys.  It’s probably not as bad as it sounds.

my kids want mind rotting sloth all summer.It’s all the time spent staring at cartoons that advertise collectable somethings (cards, plastic figures, whatever).

It’s all the time spent playing with all the collectible somethings.

And yes, it includes some junk food.

I believe that my kids NEED some time that it totally unscheduled and unproductive. They need time to just hang out and be relaxed and be kids.

They need time to get bored.

The challenge is that while my kids are being kids and learning to be bored, I feel like I’m in danger of losing my sanity.

EDITED: If you want more thoughts on the idea of boredom, check out the post titled NO REALLY, MY KIDS NEED TO BE BORED.

my kids need to be bored

I have some basic summer rules for kids that keep my sanity.

  1.  No shoes, no shirt, no service.  I won’t let my kids eat breakfast until they are fully dressed.  They don’t have to put their shoes on, but they do have to put their shoes where they belong.  What I didn’t expect was that this would apply to me as well.  My kids don’t understand the difference between yoga pants and pj’s.

  2.  No chores, no chips.  It’s a short way of explaining that there will be no junk food (no chips, no chocolate chip cookies) until some basic housekeeping chores are done.  We’re talking about the bare minimum requirements for civilized society – make your bed, brush your teeth, feed the cat.

(When I expanded this rule to include their favorite summer breakfast treats, it made a huge difference.  We don’t allow sugar cereals or pop tarts during the school year.  During the summer, I’ll buy a VERY limited quantity.)

  1.  Buy your own junk.  My kids get a generous summer allowance.  They can always earn more by doing difficult chores like cleaning the litter box or weeding my gardens.  I expect them to use that money to buy their own Legos and video games during the summer.  Beyond that, if they want to go to McDonald’s, they have to buy their own kid’s meal.  I even expect them to buy MY lunch at McDonald’s.  I wouldn’t be there without them.

simple summer rules for kids

Is that all I have planned for summer?

No, of course not.  Like everyone else, we’ve planned a vacation, some vacation bible school, weekly outings and playdates, and day trips to places unknown.

I have some mischief up my sleeve.  I’m sure at least once this summer I’ll pack the cooler full of ice and water balloons.  We’ll craft swords out of cardboard tubes again.   There will be magical moments.

But I’ll be honest.  By August 1st, it will be too hot to move.  Here in Houston, the temperatures will be hovering near 100 by 10am and it will be HUMID.  Sometime over the summer, the outside will resemble a steam sauna from sun up to sun down.  It won’t even have the decency to cool off at night.

we hibernate in summer

And at that point, things will deteriorate to a few weeks of blur where we hibernate in the air conditioned house and hide from the heat.  At that point, my three simple summer rules are my life line.  They are what will help me hold on until the first day of school.

What are your bottom line rules? The ones that help you keep some kind of sanity over the summer?

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. Oh I love your rules! I might have to adopt some of these. No junk food till after chores! Love that one! We have such a crazy schedule during the school year with sports that its nice to have the completely unscheduled time of summer. They have friends over, we hang by the pool…and I can work on the laptop outside. Sometimes we go somewhere, but mostly they’re content to hang out here with friends or go to friends houses. I love summer!
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    • I love your idea of summer! That reminds me I need to buy a comfy blogging chair for the back porch.

      My goal every summer is to get the kids so bored and relaxed and unscheduled that they are actually looking forward to school.

  2. Sarah Mueller says:

    I never thought about creating rules – what a great idea! Since we homeschool and school during a good bit of the summer, it just looks a bit like the rest of the year, just with more fun and free time thrown in. I need to make a bucket list for summer.

    • I need to make a bucket list and an "I'm bored" list for summer. Modifying the rules for summer helps us all feel like it's a real vacation without letting things totally fall apart. It just works for us.

  3. Love this! A new Linking Party begins THIS Saturday over at and we would love if you would link this up there on Sat! Thanks! Here's the link:

  4. Crystal Sanders Blount says:

    Love this! What do you think is a good summer allowance for 5, 8 & 14? Any ideas?

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