Keeping kids on a schedule is, theoretically, a simple task. If you have been functioning on a schedule with your kids since they were infants, then they should be familiar with the concept. However, when you find yourself having to create an actual schedule (not just the informal schedule you keep in your head) for entire days for the foreseeable future, it can suddenly feel a little daunting. Never fear, here are some tips for getting started, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Keep reading to discover how to create a schedule that works for your kids and how planning kids’ activities at home can help make the days run smoother!
How to Create a Schedule that Works for Your Kids
Take the Age of Your Kids Into Account
Each age group requires different parts of their day. For instance, young children need naps while older children don’t (but don’t rule out quiet time – it can save your sanity!).
Younger children don’t need as much formal education, while older children will have school assignments and will likely need some help with lessons. Younger kids may not have as many chores on their list, while older kids are capable of more.
Don’t Hesitate to Reach Out
As much as we may not want to admit it, often other people in our kids’ lives have been keeping their schedule for you. If your kids have been in daycare or preschool, send a quick email to their teachers and request their daily schedule. Elementary teachers often have an itinerary as well.
For high schoolers, you can aim to stick to their daily schedule or the order of their class periods. Often, kids have adapted to the schedule and predictability can help make a schedule run smoother. If your kids can talk you through their typical day, it could be a good way to include them in the process.
Join our private Boredom Busters for Kids Facebook group for support from other moms sharing their lesson plans and activities.
You may need to make separate lists for your different age groups.
- The first list should be the items that you know belong in the day; things like wake up times, food, hygiene, sleep, etc.
- The second list should be things you need to include such as school work, reading, chores, exercise, etc.
- The third list can be extracurricular activities such as screen time, watching a show or movie, virtual field trips, games, etc.
Having these lists handy will help you shape your schedule. Don’t forget to make a list for yourself! You are the one who will keep everyone on top of their schedules, so it’s important to know which parts of your day will be dedicated to food, kids, chores, or your own work.
Create the Schedule
Once your lists are complete, you can start plugging in activities. Break the week down into 30-minute chunks and be sure to allow ample time for each activity. Each individual in your household will likely have their own schedule. Where possible, for younger kids, create a schedule that they can understand.
For instance, if your toddler or preschooler isn’t reading, yet, then use pictures as well as words. Give everyone the ability to stick to their own schedule and be independent. This doesn’t mean you won’t have to stay vigilant that they are on task, but it does mean that you can refer them to their schedule.
And, when in doubt, incentives (read: bribery) work. Don’t give your kids screen time if they haven’t finished their other activities. If your budget allows, offer a reasonable monetary allowance for doing chores.
Don’t Forget the Weekend
While your kids may have a more relaxed schedule for the weekend, it’s still a good idea to enforce the idea of earning screen time or whatever it is they love to do instead of productive activities (read: chores, exercise, reading, practicing an instrument, etc.) Try to have a Family Date Night In to lighten the mood and have extra fun at home.
Create a simple checklist of the things they need to do before they earn rewards. Keeping some semblance of a routine/schedule even over the weekends can make it easier for kids to transition back into the school week.
Hold a Family Meeting
When you’ve got your schedule(s) ready, sit down with the family and talk it through. Let everyone give input and take their suggestions into account. Older kids, especially, often have more of a grip on what they can handle than you think.
Try Being Ready Before Your Kids
If you’re a serial snooze-button hitter, do your best to kill this habit and haul yourself out of bed before your kids, especially for the first week. Try putting your alarm and/or phone across the room and setting it to an annoying alarm.
Get yourself dressed, grab your coffee, and be ready for your kids to start making their appearances. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it can make when you’re ready to keep your kids on a schedule.
Everyone Gets Dressed
Even if you aren’t planning to leave the house, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and preparing for the day, as usual, can make the difference between feeling lazy (like a Saturday morning) and feeling ready for the day (or at least some semblance of ready, which is close enough).
Create a checklist (see morning routine for kids here) for each kid’s room – make them age-appropriate, using pictures or words. Help each kid have the tools to be independent.
Prep is Key
If you know the itinerary for your kids’ week, be sure to have all your supplies on-hand. If you don’t already have a workspace set up, try having a small plastic bin for each kid so they know where to find the supplies they need (whether they need pencils, calculators, and lined paper or crayons, glue, and construction paper).
Aim for an 80% Achievement Rate
Days will come when it may be harder to get out of bed, more difficult to concentrate, or a youngster just isn’t having it.
The schedule, while helpful, can get a little daunting after a while. Allow room for failure, but if you and your family are missing the mark more than hitting it, don’t be afraid to revisit the schedule with a family meeting.
Be sure to include them in the rearrangements and let everyone own up to their own failures. Encourage a team atmosphere and assure everyone that you’re in it together.
Introducing a new way of functioning in a household will take time to master. Don’t be discouraged by the first week! Be sure to give grace to everyone (yourself included) and try to have a contingency plan, in case some part of the day truly bombs.
Creating a list of alternate activities as a break from the routine may be a helpful way to curb potential failures. Allow for some setbacks and be sure to work together as a family to figure out how to master them.
Get organized with these free planner printables
Weekly Cleaning Checklist – help keep the house clean during this time.