Parent Hack: Theme Your Days

I don’t know about you, but I can struggle to be the happy fun mom I want to be, especially when the kids are home for an extended period of time, like a long weekend, a school break, or, of course, summer vacation. What works for me to make our days fun and hassle-free is to develop theme days and stick to them.

The key to making theme days work well is to pick themes that are fairly consistent but still allow for innovation and flexibility. While it is true that kids thrive on routine, it is also true that no one wants to be bored.

Here is a sample these schedule that has worked well for us. We have five kids, ages 15, 13, 10, 9, and 1, so we are trying to hit a wide variety of audiences.

Minecraft Monday

I really hate being the screen time police, but I also hate how zombie-fied my elementary school kids get when they play on their iPads. As a result, we came up with Minecraft Monday, the one day of the week where they can have unlimited screen time and the only day of the week they are allowed to use their iPads. During the summer, Minecraft Monday starts as soon as everyone gets dressed and brushes their teeth. During the school year, they can have their iPads after school through bedtime, no restriction.

Why I love it: No nagging about iPads on this day or any other! And! When I let them have their iPads on a not-Monday if I need to get something done or we have a long drive, they are so happy and thankful.

Why they love it: Because they have screens all day, duh.

Works best for: Elementary-aged kids. My baby is too little for screens, and my teens have iPhones that they use very responsibly (she said naively).

Fast-Food Tuesday

Lazy parenting but make it catchy! I mean, listen. We have 5 kids and too many extra-curriculars to count. We FOR SURE will get junky food at least one night a week, and this way, it’s already part of the schedule. If the kids are off school, this might be a lunch treat, and during the school year, it’s usually dinner.

Why I love it: No meal prep! Minimal mess!

Why they love it: Junk food gets all the heart eyes.

Works best for: Again, the baby misses out, but everyone else is ALL IN.

Cold Treat Wednesday

Last summer, we borrowed this idea from Kelsey from the Rising Shining blog and the Girl Next Door podcast, and we loved it! Each Wednesday while the baby napped (and my husband worked from home), I took whatever big kids were home out for ice cream or fro yo or snow cones or smoothies—you get the idea. We decided to only go to local businesses, and we made a rule that we had to try new (or new to us) places before we went to our old favorites. As a result, we discovered so many great local shops and cute little towns.

Why I love it: Treats are my love language.

Why they love it: Hard same.

Works best for: All ages (except babies. Poor babies).

New Park Thursday

This was another summer theme that’s easy to apply to our real lives when the weather is nice. Every Thursday, we packed up the minivan of screams and set out to find a new path or playground. Not only did we discover some real gems, but we offset all that fast food and all those cold treats. Also IT’S FREEEEEEEEE.

Why I love it:  Who doesn’t love some vitamin D midday?

Why they love it: It’s so fun to find a new place to play, and the little kids adore being the navigator with Google Maps in the car.

Works best for: Honestly, all 5 kids are up for a new park, even the teens every once in awhile, especially if they can take their baby sister down a slide or push her on a swing. Babies are chick magnets.

Fun Fun Friday

This one was our very favorite. At the start of the summer (or spring break or winter break or seventeenth long weekend in freaking February), we brainstormed a bunch of activities (children’s museum, bowling alley, mini golf, backyard bouncy house or water slide, s’mores and a movie on the projector, nature walk, reading in blanket forts, pizza picnic for lunch, etc) and put them on index cards in a paper lunch sack that the kids decorated. Every Friday morning at breakfast, we drew an activity for the day.

Why I love it: It’s fin to mix it up at the end of the week, and since I approved all of the choices before they made the bag, I was happy with whatever they chose.

Why they love it: The bag of destiny is always a thrill.

Works best for: My elementary and middle schoolers were ALL IN on this one. The high schooler was way too cool, and the baby? Just along for the ride.

We have also done Library Thursday, Water Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday (my daughter suggested this when she was really into smoothies and had no idea it was a happy hour special kind of name), Board Game Tuesday, and Family Movie Friday. The actual theme is less important than the overall rhythm of your week.

If you try this, let me know, and I would also love to hear any theme ideas you might have.

Sarah Jedd
Sarah Jedd has a Ph.D. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches and studies the rhetoric of Planned Parenthood. Sarah has 5 (F I V E) children: teens Harry and Jack, elementary schoolers Cooper and Dorothy, and sweet baby Minnie, born in August 2020. Sarah blogs about being a mom of many at and overshares on IG as @sarahjedd. Sarah, her husband, and their kids live in Verona with the world's laziest dog.


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