Early March, the realities of a pandemic hit the world. Businesses shut down, and people laid off, schools closed. The world turned upside down within days. With it, our sense of normalcy and security. Trending all over blogs and Instagram were sample schedules filled in 30-minute increments as families took on the balance of work, school, and parenting. Not long after this trend, I noticed the surge of memes using these schedules (or lack of) as inspiration because who cares about plans when we are all JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE, and lots of screen time and snacks is much easier than a rigid schedule. As much as I enjoyed and related to the memes, it shows how easily we adults fall apart when we have our day-to-day routines taken away. And even though Netflix and snacks may offer relief for a week or two, we all know it gets old fast, and we start to crave order and normalcy. Aka routines.
Routines are necessary for both you and your kids for many reasons. For children, one of the most important benefits of a routine is that it helps their minds make sense of the world around them. The repetition and predictability help children learn how to manage themselves, forming confidence in their abilities. Also, just as we find normalcy in our routines; it gives children that same security allowing them to focus more on playing, learning, and exploring.
When creating a schedule and routines around my family’s needs, I take into account the tips listed below. Planning around the following guidelines keeps our priorities in check, helps us function as a family unit, and gives us the freedom to enjoy our time.
LIST ESSENTIAL TASKS
I start by figuring out what tasks are necessary each day and do them in the same order every day. Once I get in the habit of doing essential tasks every day, it opens my day to productivity and flexibility. Necessary tasks typically look like chores and personal care (make bed, workout, shower, get dressed, breakfast.) Itâ€™s beneficial for children to get in the habit of having their routines built around essential tasks, so they master the tasks themselves (ex get dressed, brush teeth, pick up toys.) Children learn how to manage themselves and form confidence in their abilities. Visual prompts can be helpful for young children as they learn how to be more independent with their routines. I purchased, printed, and lamented beautiful routine cards and have them up in our calendar corner of the home, and the girls love to refer to as we go through our day (that is when they arenâ€™t scattered across my kitchen floor – Thanks Owen)
With kids, is there any other choice than to be flexible? As we all know toddlers are unpredictable irrational little beings, so no day is ever the same. I make sure I leave enough room in the schedule for the toddlers to be, well…toddlers. Setting realistic goals and time limits for tasks, along with not fitting too much in a day helps establish this flexibility. If I think of our day as a steady sequence of activities instead of having every minute planned to the T it allows me to roll with the kids. You can teach kids to be flexible by changing things up within the framework of their routine; this encourages children not to be TOO dependent on predictability and teaches them to adapt to new situations and activities. For example, If Tuesdays we have the park as our routine outing, I might change up what park we go to every week. Or it can be as simple as reading a new book at bedtime, watching a different show, or trying a new snack. Too much change may cause distress, but little switches here and there demonstrates to kids that change can be good and eases them into learning how to adapt to new experiences.
SCHEDULE IN PREPARATION
Scheduling in preparation may seem like overkill, but it makes our days a lot smoother and more productive. With three kids under three, I quickly become overwhelmed with every little task that needs to get done on a day-to-day basis. For example, getting the kids out of the house every day is crucial (especially with my husband working from home), but getting out the door in of itself is a significant task, one I don’t always feel up to doing. By the time all the kids are fed and dressed, gone to the bathroom, last-minute diaper change, the 2-year-old starts undressing herself – we are 30 mins late and Iâ€™m ready for a cocktail. I make it a little easier on myself by prepping the night before, packing the diaper bag, laying out clothes, and making sure their shoes are in the car (no point in putting them on prior bc they almost always take their shoes off in the car.) The prep the night before makes it so much easier to leave the house and makes me more excited about taking the kids out. I just plan on taking a few minutes of prep the night before and its what keeps me sane. Grocery shopping and meal prep is also another task I schedule into my week because once its done, I don’t have to agonize over what I’m making for dinner every night, and makes the witching hour less disorderly. Think about what tasks seem daunting to you and what little prep you can do to take the load off, then schedule it in!
Here is a sample of our routines for a typical day for my family. In between our morning and evening routines, we usually go out for an outing, or the kids play, and I will do various projects around the home.
A few tools I like to use to help keep order in our household routines and schedules
–Family Organizer Wall Calendar – I have this hung up in our kitchen for everyone to see, I will include dinners, projects, events, and any other reminders that may be important.
–Magnetic Chalkboard – Easy to apply to the wall and has held up nicely
–Daily planner – I love this planner because it is so detailed and includes a daily breakdown, which can be so helpful for me when I feel like I’ve been off track and need to take my days step by step.
Now I won’t sit here and act like we have it all together, because we don’t! That would be far from the truth. Sometimes we don’t get out of our sweats and maybe the tv parents more than I would like to admit, but we do have a basic structure to fall on. Our routines and schedules change based on the season of our life, but when we set our priorities and goals, everything else falls into place. Your methods and routines will look different from my own because you have different needs, interests, and preferences. But I hope this helps you sort out what will add value to you and your family’s life.
Home. (2019, November 05). Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/structure/index.html
10 Reasons A Daily Routine is Important for Your Child (and How to Set One). (2017, May 11). Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.petitjourney.com.au/10-reasons-a-daily-routine-is-important-for-your-child-and-how-to-set-one/
Phelan, T. W. (2010). 1-2-3 magic. Glen Ellyn, IL: ParentMagic.