As my kids were growing up, summer was always my happy place. Something about throwing that school schedule out the window was my favorite. It was just us and that summer stretched out in front of us. But as much as I loved that freedom, I also wanted my kids to be productive. I had a hard time if they were sitting around watching tv (still do). Summer is such an incredible time to learn and grow! So let’s talk about how to help kids be productive in the summertime.

Those kids look immensely excited about the productivity, don’t you think? HA! But I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing better than the glow of your child after a summer of productivity, even when it’s taken putting in some tough work.

Max glowing after hard work

When they put in the work to grow and “become” in the summer, they become more self-confident and sure of themselves. Which, of course, adds to all the other aspects of their lives.

8 ideas to help your kids be independently productive in the summer

Set up summertime expectations

Work together as a family to set up expectations. You may find that you and your kids may have wildly different ideas of what is going to happen this summer. Your spouse may have his own take as well. So it’s so important to get on the same page. Have a family meeting and talk all these expectations over so you can make decisions that work for all of you. I never did this, but I think it would be so fun to have a special candlelit dinner welcoming in summer surrounding this conversation.

Have your kids make their own schedules and goals

If your children are teenagers and have jobs, this is a no-brainer. They have to make their own schedules or they’ll get fired.

Grace working at Old Navy

But I think letting younger kids have ownership of their schedules in the summer is pretty awesome too. It’s such a great training ground for life. You as the parent may need to rein in their ideas a tad!

In our family we always set a precedent that all the “have-to-dos” had to be done before the “choose-to-dos.” This is a little example of the school-year “have-to-dos” on the left, and how it switches up a little in the summertime on the right:

Summer Goals

Summer goals are a great way to help keep kids productive.

Each summer our kids have come up with goals as to how they want to progress. We usually use the “five-facets” as our guide and make goals in all of these categories:

  • Mentally
  • Spiritually
  • Socially
  • Emotionally
  • Physically
Girls exercising together

We attach some sort of reward (monetary or quality time), as a “carrot” to help keep the motivation going.

I’m so grateful my parents worked with us to create our own unique goals in the summertime growing up for so many years, and that we’re passing them on to the next generation.

Help your kids figure out ways to earn money

Summer can be the best breeding ground for learning to earn money. Whether it’s a real-live job or coming up with something on their own, kids are so capable!

I’ve loved to see the innovative ideas these kids have come up with through the years, from lemonade stands:

Lucy and her friend earning money from a lemonade stand

To teaching gymnastics/dance classes:

The girls teaching a summer camp

To us employing them to do things we needed done:

Max pushing a wheelbarrow

I loved especially those dance/gym/babysitting days where the kids made up flyers and handed them out in the neighborhoods trying to recruit clients. So good for them!

My very wise sister Saren has put together a whole “do-it-yourself summer camp” that outlines so many ways to do this that you should check out!

Make sure kids are pitching in

Not only is it important for your sanity to have kids help keep the house in tact in the summer, but summer is the best wide-open training ground for job skills.

Elle, Grace and Claire cleaning the bathroom

I think sometimes we SO underestimate the things that kids can do to help! I love this picture of my cute little nephews working their hearts out to do the reunion dinner dishes:

A really great book that outlines various jobs kids can do at which ages is The Parenting Breakthrough. So good!

These are some of the things that helped us so much as we worked to get kids to pitch in:

  • Job jar (a jar filled up with jobs for when kids “need a little extra responsibility” 🙂 We added some pretty funny ideas along with the regular jobs to keep it fun.
  • Job chart with bubbles (another helpful way to help kids know expectations).
  • The Timer – helps to get everyone involved and working together.
  • “Clean 10” where before we leave the house, or any time for that matter, I yell out “Clean Ten!” The kids know exactly what to do, they scramble to pick up and put away ten things. It is really quite magical I have to say!
  • Make and clean up dinner together. Most summers our kids have had goals to take turns cooking for the family. In my book, there is nothing like having time to devote to being in the kitchen with kids.
Girls helping with clean-up in the kitchen

Put away technology

  • The best gift you can give yourself as a mother is to put away your phone. Especially in the summer. You only have 18 summers with those precious kids at home. Make the most of it!
  • It’s important to add something in when you take something out. So when we take out technology we always try to add in things. I think summer goals help add in good stuff. Reading is a huge thing to “add in” as well. Check out my favorite books for young readers if you want book ideas!

Provide opportunities for kids to look out for each other

Summer is such a great time to try to help kids nurture their sibling relationships. I love these ideas to help with that nurturing:

If you have multiple kids, assign them to be each other’s helpers. They can help each other stay on track with schedules as well as goals. In doing so, you are giving your children so many amazing gifts! You are teaching responsibility, fostering sibling relationships, teaching independence and nurturing. Of course, you’re also taking off part of your heavy burden.

Assigning Tutors and Tutees is another pretty spectacular idea from my parents. Growing up as the second oldest in a family of nine, I loved getting new sibling “tutee” assignments each month.

Of course with all the family togetherness in the summer there is bound to be some fighting. Another awesome way to foster sibling relationships in the summer is to have a “repenting bench.” Such a great way for kids to take ownership of their arguments and work them out together.


Whether it’s working to together to beat the timer while cleaning the kitchen or learning a new skill, it’s always better to do it together!

I love when my kids’ summer goals have included helping each other out, whether teaching a younger sibling to read, working together on a project, etc.

One of my favorite years of summer goals was a year that our kids decided to work together for something rather than working alone. They had stars in their eyes about “Rockband,” and they worked their tails off to make sure they were all on track. Nothing better when kids are each other’s cheerleaders.

Max, Grace and Claire holding up their prized possession they earned together: Rockband

Remember to work in FUN.

Sometimes we forget first of all that work can be fun.

Claire and her cousin being productive working together

The “job jar” mentioned above helps in the making-work-fun category:

Claire excited about a job in the job jar

But we also forget, in all the scheduling and expectations hullabaloo, that summer is also the best time to SLOW DOWN.

In the slowing down, and even the boredom sometimes, kids get creative.

Grace and a friend in a "paint war"

How awesome to have some time not filled up with homework and studying to just relax a little.

Elle and friends in the summer

And connect with those kids of yours.

Yes, summertime is pretty awesome.

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  1. I grew up thinking that being productive was always morally superior to relaxation and leisure. And that enjoying tv was a vice to be avoided. I’m 40 now and that mentality has caught up with me—I’ve struggled quite a bit to feel a sense of worth when life circumstances don’t allow me to be productive (postpartum depression, illness, toddlers, etc.). And I’ve learned there is great beauty in enjoying tv. Even the non-educational content!

    Hard work is definitely a valuable principle. But I wanna shout out the value in all levels of productivity—not everyone has opportunities the strong and healthy have.

    1. I live alone & couldn’t cope without a telly & also social media.

      I don’t have any friends to do things with, so social media is my way of keeping in touch with other people.

      1. I’m so glad for social media for those purposes to stay in touch, Julie! It’s such a great tool that way! And I’m so glad you have things to keep you company.

        These comments make me realize I just spilled out every “productive” idea I have in one post, and I’m sorry about that! I concentrated more on the “getting things done” than on the “connection” which of course is so much more important. Thank you for pointing that out.


    2. Thank you for that shout-out Heather. You’re so right, there are so many different levels of productivity, and they are all good! Everyone is coming from such different vantage points, thank you so much for the reminder!

  2. Some people always need to be doing something. Others don’t. It is just part of how a person is born. I feel for the family with introvert kids who like to relax on vacation needing to have them do something all the time. Some kids do need routine and sameness. But I can’t imagine a family of 5 with all the kids needing the same things. When I see these posts they are both anxiety provoking, sad, pity and envious, impressive all at the same time. I mean you have things to look forward to like a family reunion, or maybe a summer class or camp or both. Summer break is 2-3 months long. Something to look forward to is fine. Every available moment between sleeps need not be occupied. I read your parents books. It seems like micromanaging and some people just don’t handle micromanagement well at all. Not all these categories need to be perfected by graduation. How on earth can you sincerely tell how another person is doing spiritually? Kids generally are closer to God already than adults. Is it about conforming and saying all the right things religiously?

    1. So agreed that kids are closer to God than adults. I’m just so thankful my parents nudged me to cherish and foster my relationship with God. It has changed my life for the better. It’s always a tricky balance to know how to help kids nurture their spiritual lives. Such a personal thing. I’m always working (and praying) to have guidance to figure that out.

      Also, you’re right that you don’t have to have every minute scheduled. I’m sorry if this post came across that I think you do. I think maybe Dave and I both happen to be pretty action oriented, but there are so many good ways to live life!

  3. I know these ideas are good but I also think it’s important for children to have days in the school holidays where they have nothing planned & can have a lie-in & also get bored sometimes.

    1. It really is so important to train ourselves to slow down and enjoy the moment. I love that my brother Jonah (and also my dad) are so good at going what we call “the speed of going slow.” I am trying to learn that, because my personality is automatically thinking how many things can i fit into five minutes. Ha! So I appreciate these reminders from readers.

      Maybe I need to go clarify in the post that these are just lots of ideas to take or leave whatever works for you.

  4. The “how-to summer camp” link didn’t work. I’m a grandma, but like to do a GrandCamp and always like more ideas!

  5. I read “The Parenting Breakthrough” when my first child was a toddler. I love that book! My older two boys have read it over and over, and I hope it gives them ideas for their own children someday.

    Your post gets me excited and motivated. We homeschool year-round, but summer is a little lighter and there’s room for relaxing as well as room for learning life skills. Every summer my mother would say “I need to teach you how to cook!” and it never happened. I would have loved to learn to cook, and I needed time with her. I get our children involved in cooking by asking for help during dinner time, but that’s still one thing I’m going to work on this summer. I want them to know how to meal plan, and make meals start to finish.

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