I’ve written about routines here before. You can check out my post about one of our after school routines here, or about my morning routine here. So for those of you long-time readers, a post about routine and structure is nothing new. But today I am tackling how to create a routine for kids.
It’s not rocket science that kids thrive when a routine is in place. That’s why elementary classrooms and after school activities everywhere have a set schedule and process for doing things. And having a routine in place can make stressful times of the day or challenging tasks much easier to accomplish and far more pleasant.
So you know you want to create a routine with your kids, but are wondering where to start? How do you get from chaos to structure? Don’t worry. I’ve got five steps to help you get on track!
How to Create a Routine for Kids
- Identify problematic or stressful times in the day. For most moms, they find morning time, after school, or bedtime to be those points in the day where some structure would help. But it can be different for everyone. Maybe for you, it is the after lunch hour or two that is stressful. Another approach is to identify tasks that are slipping through the cracks. Maybe homework is not getting done or chores are left unfinished. Identify the times or areas that give you the most stress, and use that as your starting point.
- Identify the “set in stone” items first. Are there tasks that are non-negotiable, like completing homework, reading time, or certain chores? Start by identifying those things. Or are there time frames that you want to stick to, like the time you eat dinner, when you want the kids in bed, or the time you need to be out the door in the morning. Figure these tasks and/or times out first and write them down.
- Build the routine around the “set in stone” items. If dinner time is your non-negotiable, start with eating at 5:30 pm and work backwards from there for your after school routine or forwards from there for your evening and bedtime routine. If getting homework done is your non-negotiable, then plug that into your routine where you think it will be best accomplished, and fill in the other tasks around completing homework.
- Consider how the routine can be flexible. A routine is the ideal to strive for, but it will need to be flexible at times. One-time events at school, church programs, unexpected guests, and other such events will happen. Think about how your routine can be flexible when these things happen. Can you build in a “flex day” where you have a free day from homework or chores that can float to whatever day of the week it is needed? Can you have a couple meals that are easy to prepare and your pantry is stocked for to make on days when dinner time has to be shifted for activities? Figure out the flexibility when you can calmly do so, to avoid the panic when these spontaneous routine-disrupters happen.
- Start slowly. Begin by working on the “set in stone” parts of your routine first. Focus on and reinforce those areas right away. Once you have that task or activity running smoothly, shift your focus to another part of the routine. Slowly master each part, to avoid becoming overwhelmed – either you or the kiddos!
So what does this look like in real life? This past weekend I realized we were failing miserably at getting the 10 minutes a day of reading homework completed with my oldest. Knowing that he does better and has more focus right after school, rather than in the evening, I knew this needed to be done after school.
So once I realized homework was slipping through the cracks, and identified it as a “set in stone,” I began to build my after school routine around it. I know a few housekeeping tasks need to be done when we walk in the door – backpacks unpacked and clothes changed for me and for my little one who has to wear a uniform. So those came first, then my non-negotiable – homework. After that I filled in play time and dinner.
I know days like today, I have an ice cream social at school from 5 – 7 pm and football practice from 6 – 7:30 pm. Days like today, I figure can be homework break days, and dinner shifts to earlier to fit everything. If the kids aren’t too hyped up about the ice cream social, I might try to have them read to each other, but I’ll go with the flow on that.
Finally, I’m really hitting the homework part of the routine hard this week, and until we get into the habit of doing it. Then I’ll get more particular about other areas, like maybe having the kids do some chores while I make dinner, or giving them a little more responsibility with the unpacking their backpacks.
Here’s how I envision the routine looking after a while. I’m starting out posting this so we can work toward the end goal.
Do you have routines that work? How did you create them?
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