Tips and Tricks for Creating Independent Structure Over the Summer

summer activitiesIt’s been an incredibly stressful time, and it’s important that we help our kids thrive during the summer months  – maybe above all else, it is important that during this time we do what we can to support our kids in feeling happy, safe, and secure. Without many summer programs able to run and camps either canceled or highly restricted, engaging our kids in some structured activity at home may be more important than ever. Creating a plan for some independent structure, making it age and stage appropriate, and knowing where to look for resources can help us avoid boredom! Here are a few tips and tricks for July and August.

Have a plan

Boredom can be the biggest enemy of kids during this time, as well as parents! Boredom can lead to some challenging behaviours, and compound feelings of stress in an already pretty stressful time! By making a plan ahead of time, and including our kids in the conversation, we can simultaneously ease stress and provide happy memories during the summer months.

  • Engage kids in conversations around how they want to spend their time – make them a part of the process.
  • Reserve a bit of time on the weekend to get set for the week ahead.
  • Consistency and predictability can be helpful – it can help times feel less chaotic and more opportunistic.
  • Be honest about your WHY – clear communication around any structure implementation can help kids more comfortably navigate the changes.
  • Try to consider age and stage in your decision-making – independent structure looks very different for a 6-year-old and a 13-year-old.

Providing different types of activities and structure can keep things fun and safe for everyone.

Elementary-aged kids

If you have elementary-aged kids at home, try starting with a few options for activities. By giving a few options instead of asking an open-ended question like “What do you want to do today?”, it can help remove stress from the process while still giving kids some say in how they spend their time. Try to focus on the fun, even if you’re doing “mundane” activities – a lot of joy can be found in creating games out of chores or less preferred activities, and ultimately help with the success of independently structured time. When in doubt, try to ask yourself what you would have wanted to do at that age. What would have brought you joy in a day?

Middle School-aged kids

Middle schoolers inherently have more complex needs to consider when planning for the summer months. Try to build in some time for friendships – it’s a challenge to be away from friends during this time but it’s particularly hard on middle schoolers. Incorporating more opportunities for leadership and responsibility can help kids this age and give them more autonomy over their structured time. Is there a household project they could help with? An interest in cooking they’d like to explore? These can be great ways to brainstorm ideas with your kids. We have an opportunity to encourage independence in a more controlled environment, while creating some positive life-long habits.

Inside Time

Unfortunately, weather can significantly impact how successful structured time can be. If the weather keeps you indoors this summer, here are some things you can do:

  • Try to limit screen time when possible. Try designing your own video game or cartoon instead.
  • Build a fort (and clean it up!).
  • Create a BOKStacle course.

  • Cook or try new food. Here is an example.
  • Play a board game or cards.
  • Read a book or play an audiobook.
  • Try journaling or creative writing.
  • Start a challenge – maybe it focusses on mindfulness, or at-home fitness (check out BOKS monthly calendars).
  • Give back to your community – making things like donation bags or gathering supplies for a local food bank can do good and help foster a deeper sense of community.

Outside Time

We recommend going outside as often as possible. Please make sure you’re adhering to physical distancing guidelines while outside your home to keep yourselves and others healthy. Here are some ideas for time outside:

  • Get your sprinkler out. Run through it as many times as you can.
  • Blow up your kiddy pool – water wings and goggles encouraged.
  • Grow a garden.
  • Take the dog outside to play or go for a walk.
  • Camp in your backyard – set up a tent and roll out your sleeping bags.
  • Make a picnic.
  • Create a new sport with whatever gear you have on hand.
  • Star in a play – create your own set, characters, and story. Put on a show for your family.

We want to help

Summer fun packBOKS will be offering content throughout the summer to support families across the country and continue to get kids active! All Facebook Live class recordings will be available on YouTube, and access to the April, May, and June Fitness Calendars will be available for download. The Summer Fun Pack is also free and available for download – it includes tons of amazing lessons, activities, and crafts to keep kids engaged over the summer months!

It’s important to remember through all of this, that finding balance is key. Try to supervise as best as possible, give kids opportunities to have a voice, and try to find a sweet spot between effort and ease. We need to remind ourselves that we may not be able to achieve EVERYTHING, but we can still make it a positive summer experience for our children.



Regional Coordinator-Western Canada