A Guide to Managing Kids’ Unstructured Time over Summer Vacation

A Guide to Managing Kids’ Unstructured Time over Summer Vacation

by Kara Ferreira

As summer approaches, many parents often find themselves wondering how to manage their children’s unstructured time effectively in the absence of school and other regular activities. The good news is, there are benefits to letting kids have unstructured time – so you do not need to feel pressured to fill up their schedule completely with other activities.

The Benefits of Unstructured Time

Unstructured time refers to periods when children have freedom from planned activities and schedules. It is during these moments that children can truly discover their interests, develop their creativity, and cultivate essential life skills. Unstructured time offers a range of benefits for children, including:

  1. Self-discovery and exploration: Without the constraints of a set schedule, children have the opportunity to explore their interests, discover new hobbies, and develop their passions.
  2. Creativity and problem-solving skills: Unstructured time allows children to engage in imaginative play, fostering creativity and enhancing problem-solving skills as they navigate and create their own games and activities.
  3. Independence and self-reliance: When children have the freedom to manage their own time, they learn how to make decisions, set goals, and take responsibility for their actions. These skills are vital for their personal growth and future success.

Tips for Managing Unstructured Time

  1. Create balance: While unstructured time is essential, it’s important to strike a balance between free play and structured activities. Plan a mix of activities, outings, and hobbies that align with your child’s interests while leaving enough room for them to explore on their own.
  2. Encourage outdoor play: Encourage your children to spend time outdoors, exploring nature, and engaging in physical activities.
  3. Create a routine: Establish a loose routine that provides a sense of predictability without being overly restrictive. Include designated times for reading, chores, and family activities to maintain a sense of structure and responsibility.
  4. Nurture their interests: Pay attention to your child’s passions and help them develop those interests further. Whether it’s art, music, sports, or science, provide resources, enroll them in classes or camps, or encourage them to join local clubs or groups related to their interests.
  5. Limit screen time: While technology has its benefits, excessive screen time can hinder creativity and physical activity. Establish reasonable limits on screen time and encourage your child to explore other activities that foster social interaction and intellectual growth. You can view recommended limits on screen time per age here.
  6. Plan family activities: Make the most of the summer by planning family outings and adventures. Engage in activities like hiking, picnics, museum visits, or even a family game night to strengthen the bond and create lasting memories.
  7. Foster independence: Encourage your child to take ownership of their free time by allowing them to plan and execute their own activities. This promotes decision-making skills, time management, and self-reliance.

Summer vacation offers a precious opportunity for children to experience unstructured time, explore their interests, and nurture their creativity. By following these tips, parents can effectively manage their children’s unstructured time, providing a healthy balance between free play and structured activities. 


Michigan State University, The Case for Summertime Play

The Spokesman Review, Embrace the Boredom: How Kids Can Benefit from Unstructured Time

Kara Ferreira is a G3 Contributing Writer.