That long expanse of summer holiday fills some with joy and others with horror. For those of us with children who thrive on routine, the summer can be a difficult time. They find it hard to adjust to the differences and anticipate September transitions to new classes and new schools.

Enter the summer holiday schedule.


Using the summer holiday schedule

This is an easy-to-edit Word file that I update every year. It’s not complicated, just the dates from the end of one term to the beginning of the next, with an activity or two marked on for each day. a the moment that tends to be about as much detail as they want, though we also have a Twinkl visual timetable on hand for days when they need a bit more clarity about a simple day at home (‘But what are we doing after lunch?’).

I use them in the Christmas and Easter holidays too, because Joanna and Charlotte thrive on knowing what to expect. If I could add a meal plan for the entire holiday that would make them happier still.

Here’s ours for this summer (click for larger version).

How I fill the summer holiday schedule

This is Joanna’s first year at a residential summer camp (I’m not sure which of us is most excited about this prospect) so that was scheduled first (purple). Charlotte will be spending a few days with my parents so we can have some time off (pink). Then the SEN activity club the girls love – I booked as many slots as i could for that (yellow). Then because I’m talking part in the self-carecamp in Yorkshire at the end of the holidays, we’re turning that into a family holiday by hiring a cottage nearby, which fills out the last week (green). We’ve just renewed our national Trust membership and are determined to recoup the cost, so I scoured the magazine for local child-friendly activities (brown).

Being outdoors is great for Joanna and Charlotte, so, weather permitting, there are also a smattering of days where it simply says ‘park’ and ‘garden fort’. (Note: this is an excellent garden fort kit that keeps them occupied for ages, especially when combined with an old shower curtain for the roof. Highly recommended.)

The rest is filled in with things like a ‘jobs and rewards day’. This is code for ‘get them to tidy their rooms, do the hoovering and clean the bathroom, which is pleasingly endorsed by their OT, in return for a small supply of Freddos, new crayons and those awful magazines with plastic tat attached’. There’s also a pyjama day. This basically means ‘you can watch DVDs while I do all the laundry from the holiday and if you stay in your PJs it means you’re not creating any more for me to wash’.

Your own summer holiday schedule

Of course your family’s schedule will look different from ours. You may not have childcare. You may have exotic holidays. Maybe yours involves a lot more time at the beach, the swimming pool, or the ice cream shop. (We can but hope, hey?) But scheduling your holiday in advance takes a huge amount of stress out of the whole business. It gives children a sense of certainty about what to expect, and it helps parents not to flounder in the face of weeks of nothingness.

To make your own, I’ve produced a blank template. You’re welcome to download and edit it to suit your family’s needs. Some people do a text-only one like mine, others like to add clipart or their own drawings. Whatever works for you.


Download yours here:  HLM Blank summer holiday schedule 2017 (MS Word)

More tips

If your children struggle with the back-to-school transition, you might like to try a couple of things we do. First, schedule a school visit to the new classroom for the end of the holidays, to go and say hello and refamiliarise them with where everything is. We arrange this with the headteacher in July (so it’s not yet on our schedule above). Second, plan something fun for the first weekend of term, and include that too, so that it doesn’t look like the fun stops when school starts up again.

I’d love to hear how you get on with this summer schedule – or summer holiday planning in general! Leave me a comment or let’s talk on social media.

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Our daughters Joanna and Charlotte were adopted at 4 and 3 respectively. They’re now 8 and 6. Although my feelings about National Adoption Week are decidedly mixed (short version: I wish they put as much energy and cash into post-adoption support as they do into recruiting adoptive parents), in honour of the occasion I thought I’d ask our two what adoption means to them and what they’d say to prospective adopters. Here are their thoughts on the subject.

Me: What do you think about adoption?

Charlotte: Adoption is a good thing because if you have songs on your phone then you can dance to them. And you get lovely cuddles. And you get to make stuff and your lovely mummy and daddy help you make things. They can also help you read especially when you’re grumpy and they can help you calm down. They walk to school with you even when you don’t want them to.

Joanna: Adoption is good because you get a nice new mummy and daddy that look after you properly and you get to have fun with them and they help you learn lots of new things. And they give you proper cuddles because your old birth mum and dad didn’t give you proper hugs but this mum and dad give you nice hugs. It’s good having a new mum and dad because they love you properly and don’t hurt you. Your mummy and daddy can always help you stop arguing and fighting and solve problems with you.

Me: And what would you say to someone who was thinking about maybe adopting children?

Joanna: When you have adopted children they can sometimes be jabbery so please be warned! You can adopt a child if you want to because you can give them nice food even though you have lots of meetings. But they will like being with you and you will be a happy family. (That is a compound sentence.) And also you can help them with their homework and have a nice family cuddle and a nice family chat and watch films together.

So there you have it. (If you’re new to my blog and considering adoption, you might also like to check out some of my previous posts about the reality, including a typical day in the life, our experience of child-to-parent violence, and our relationship with our post-adoption support service.) It’s not always dancing and cuddles and happy families, and Joanna is not wrong about the number of meetings. But if I’d known all this, would I still have done it? Absolutely.


When we were preparing to meet our children, I remember ceremoniously swapping my compact handbag (which typically contained keys, wallet, phone, and maybe a lip balm and a book) for The Mum Bag, which was comparatively cavernous and contained everything from nappies to plasters to finger puppets via emergency chocolate (yes, that last one one was mainly for me).

As the girls have got older, the contents of my bag have changed a bit, and thankfully it’s no longer full of ziplock bags of pants, but the contents still fall in to the same categories:

  • entertainment/distraction,
  • calming/comforting, and
  • health/hygiene.

These tools are usually deployed at times of transition: coming out of school, waiting for doctors’ and dentists’ appointments, in the car to their grandparents’ house, that sort of thing. This is the time when they struggle most with their behaviour and I whip out one of my not-so-secret weapons to help them cope.


Entertainment and distraction
To entertain and distract I carry fidgety/chewy toys for Charlotte (1), an I-spy book for Joanna (3), and colouring and puzzle books for both of them (7 and 8). If they get bored they can get grumpy very quickly. I’m fine with letting them get a bit bored at home so they learn to entertain themselves, but that’s not always what I want in the doctor’s waiting room. The sensory stuff helps to stop Charlotte chewing/breaking other things she happens upon – also a plus when we’re out and about.

Calming and comforting
To calm and comfort them we have snacks (5), reward stickers (6) – for cheering them up when they didn’t win the game/get a house point/get to sit where they wanted at lunchtime, and bubbles (9) – these are incredibly useful for calming our children down from a meltdown, because they regulate their breathing and distract them from the strop, all at the same time. I have learned to love bubbles, and so there’s always a slightly soapy ziplock bag in my handbag.

Health and hygiene
Our two are permanently covered in mud/pen/snot/lunch so I carry wipes (2) to try to make them presentable, and I also have plasters, not usually for actual injuries but for Charlotte’s many scratches and cuts – imperceptible to the naked eye – that require my attention and TLC, usually when there’s something she doesn’t want to do. Plasters are a kind of magic for Charlotte’s behaviour, and if it works, I’m going to go with it.

Obviously those Freddos (4) are mainly there for me. (As if I need to spell that out.)

I don’t usually have all of these with me unless it’s a long journey or there’s a likelihood of sitting in a waiting room for a while. But the snacks, stickers and bubbles are permanent fixtures, and the rest get added in depending on what I think is likely to be deployed on any given day.

I’m always on the lookout for small, portable things to help Joanna and Charlotte manage transitions and find that the party bag filler section of the supermarket can be brilliant for small entertainments. Amazon has lots of party bag fillers you can buy in bulk – things like those little plastic mazes, small notebooks, chewy bracelets, etc. I also whip the toys out of McDonalds happy meals before the children get hold of them (they really don’t need any distraction at mealtimes) and save the decent ones for producing when required.

I’m curious about what other parents have in their bags. Is yours similar to mine? Or are there other things that work well for your family? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook