No matter how old your child is, they can benefit from a good kids routine that keeps them on task and helps you keep your sanity!
Whether your child is home from school for a break or an illness, you’re a homeschool family, or you still have kids that aren’t quite school age yet, having an established flow to your day can make things so much easier for everyone involved.
When everyone knows what to expect next, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done your part to mitigate the major challenges that often come our way!
Who Needs A Routine And Why?
The short answer is everyone. Everyone needs a routine. Most people just work better when they know what to expect. I’m not talking about a rigid and time-bound schedule (although, if that works for you, then go for it!).
What I’m talking about is more of a daily flow. Knowing that you always run errands after you work out or your kids always take a nap after lunch.
It doesn’t so much matter whether lunch is at 11 or noon, what matters is that naps always come next. While pretty much everyone can benefit from a solid routine, kids especially thrive with routines.
It brings a sense of normal and expectancy to their day. Even when things get a bit chaotic or something out of the ordinary happens, it’s those routines that give them a sense of peace and control.
Routines also make life as a parent so much easier. When the same things happen at roughly the same time every day, your kids begin to expect those things and it just becomes a part of their daily habits.
There’s no more fighting them about it. No more debating what will or won’t happen. Everyone knows what’s happening and you can all count on it.
What Kind Of Routine Should We Have?
The things you include in your routine will likely vary from family to family depending on what activities you are involved in, your family needs, who’s home and when, the ages of your children, and a lot of other factors.
You may also have different routines for different situations. For instance, the routine you have for school days is probably going to look different than the routine you have on weekends or during school breaks.
I’ll share with you some things you should always include in your routine and some things that would be specific to certain types of routines.
- Morning routine
- Meals & Snacks
- Personal Hygiene (brushing teeth & hair, showers/baths, getting dressed, etc)
- Chores/Household responsibilities
- Play time (both independent and group/family)
- Individual time with each child
- Outside time
- Bedtime Routine
Parents of small children (under 5)…
- Quiet/Nap Time
- Fun learning opportunities through intentional play or family outings
Parents of school aged children…
- Time for homework
- Time for extracurricular activities
- Extra learning opportunities as needed/desired
School breaks (summer, holidays, etc)…
- Extra chores & activities to keep the kids busy
- Fun learning opportunities through intentional play or family outings
- Fun adventures as a family or individually
- Group lessons
- Individual work time
- Outside play/health & exercise
- Fun learning experiences through intentional play or family outings
When Should We Establish This Routine?
As soon as possible! It’s never too late to start a new routine, but the sooner you can get your kids used to it the better. As the Chinese proverb states…
In other words, don’t let the fact that maybe you didn’t do it perfectly from the beginning stop you from doing better now. Make the change as soon as you can and watch how it transforms your life!
Older kids may take longer to get on board with the changes, and that’s ok! New habits are hard to form. Old habits are even harder to break. Give it time and plenty of grace.
If you stick with it, before you know it your whole family will be thriving on your new routine!
When Should We Use Our Routine?
As best as you can, you should try to stick to your routine all the time, wherever you are.
Whether you’re going through your normal day to day life, you’re on vacation, or life has gotten a little hectic and crazy lately, it’s imperative (especially for the youngest family members) to do your best to keep the routine in place.
For young kids, sticking to the routine even (especially) when you’re on vacation or life is a little crazy could just be the difference between a happy and content little one or a cranky kiddo.
And we all know that when the kiddos are cranky, everyone ends up cranky. The last thing you want while on vacation or when things are even more hectic than normal is to add another layer of stress to the situation.
Of course there will be times when you’ll have to adjust the routine a little. There will be days when the routine just kind of goes out the window for whatever reason. Life happens, and that’s ok.
Just do your best to stick as closely as you can to your routine as often as you can and your whole family will function a lot better a majority of the time.
Our Family Routine (An Example)
So now that we’ve got all the logistics out of the way, let’s talk about some examples! My family routine is a work in progress and is always evolving.
I haven’t always stuck to a routine, but as my children have entered the toddler/preschool age, it’s become more and more apparent that a routine is exactly what we need!
Here’s our current routine for our 2 & 3 year old (adapted from my friend, Anne Wahlgren’s, routines over on Printable Parents)!
Part 1 – Morning Routine
- Wake up & quiet play (to give mommy some “me time” 😉)
- Use potty/get a clean diaper
- Brush teeth & hair
- Get dressed
Part 2 – Day Time/Activities
- Play time – I try to get them outside during this time
- Errands and/or intentional play activities
- Wash hands & eat lunch
- Quiet/nap time
- More errands and/or intentional play activities
- Snack & TV time
- Open ended play time
Part 3 – Bedtime Routine
- Use the potty
- Brush teeth
- Family time/wind down
- Clean up toys
- Use potty again (if needed)
- Read a book
- Snuggles & sleep
One thing I need to get better about is including morning chores in our routine.
We are currently discussing the possibility of starting homeschool with our 3 year old and chores would definitely be a part of his homeschooling (practical living skills)!
If you have older kids, you may want to cut out nap/quiet time, add in more independent play time, make sure there is time for school and homework, or whatever else you include in your days and weeks.
It’s totally ok for your routine to look different some days, too, depending on what you have going on that day.
For instance, we take our boys to an evening activity every Tuesday from 6-7 PM. So on those days, bedtime gets pushed back a little bit, and sometimes dinner does too (depending on how busy our day was – we really do try to get dinner in before our evening activity most of the time).
Create Your Own Routine!
Now it’s your turn! Take 30 minutes or so to sit down and think through what you want your routine to look like. Here are some things to consider.
- What activities are you and/or your kids already committed to?
- What routines do you already have in place? (Bedtime/wake up time, morning & evening routines, before or after school routines, etc).
- Are there any activities in your day currently that you’d like to cut down on or remove entirely? (For example, we’re working on limiting screen time).
- Are there any activities you don’t currently include in your day that you would like to add?
- What parts of your day are limited to certain time frames? (Work, school, meal times, extra-curriculars, etc)
- What things would your kids like to add or subtract from their daily routine? Take those things into consideration. (But you’re not obligated to implement all of their suggestions – they may very well say they want to cut out homework and chores, for instance lol).
Now that you’ve got a good list of what you need to include in your routine, it’s time to organize it all into a good flow of activities for your day. Put all your must have activities in order of when they will happen in your day.
Add in extras as you have space and desire! Now you’ve got your routine! All that’s left is to practice implementing it. Remember, changing habits takes time. So don’t expect it to go perfectly right away.
Give you and your family some time and grace. And remember that flexibility is the key to making a good routine stick! Progress not perfection.
Routines are good for everyone. From the newest of family members to the most experienced – routines just make life easier. And the earlier you establish a routine for your kids, the easier it will be on all of you.
Kids thrive when they know what to expect. A solid routine can help bring peace and calm to even the most chaotic homes. So are you ready to get your family started with a routine?
What positive change would a routine bring to your life?