Hey there folks! I know that it can be a challenge to keep your little ones engaged and busy at home. Believe me…I KNOW! Especially if it’s your goal to stay away from technology as the main source of entertainment while they’re around the house. I’ve come up with a great system for setting your home up as the ultimate learning lab for your kiddos, and I’m excited to share it with you soon! But until then, I’m going to drop a secret on you: The beginning of it all is a great, easy to follow Daily Schedule.
Now, I’m going to share something with you: personally, I’ve always thrived with a schedule, even since I was a young child. Because I’m more of a big ideas person, and less of a detail oriented one, having a list of things to get accomplished during the day is EXTREMELY helpful. I love To-Do lists and agendas. They really keep me pointed in the right direction during my busy days, and they help me stay focused and on track. And, I love checking back through the day and crossing things off. Please tell me I’m not the only one here who does this. The great news is that, as much as we love our agendas, our children love them more!
Children thrive on predictability and consistency at this young age, while at the same time they crave independence. Schedules help children to know and understand what is coming next in their day, and to follow along with what they’ve already completed. It helps them to complete tasks without your help (awesome, right?) and also warns them of any changes that might come up during the day. It lets them know ahead of time if they have a doctor’s appointment, or they’re going to spend some time with a sitter during the evening. Knowing these things helps them to feel more confident about their day, and can actually cut off a bunch of arguments and tantrums before they ever begin. Your child can argue with you, but she can’t argue with her schedule!
Setting up a daily schedule is actually pretty easy, but there are a few key things to remember to have it be successful, and tailored to your child’s needs. Find them out here, and then download my free schedule printable!
1. Start Big, Work Down
So the first key to a great schedule is to block out the big stuff. The things that stay the same each day. For example, every single day, we wake up and do our morning routine. We always eat lunch at about the same time. We always do our bedtime routine. That’s going to be the backbone of your daily schedule. Think to yourself:
- What do you do every single day, without fail?
- When do you eat?
- What things never change (chores, errands, daily trips)?
Take a sheet of paper right now, and write down the main, never-changing parts of your day. Then move on to our next key.
2. Fill In the Blanks
Now that you’ve got the big stuff in place, think about the important things that children need to stimulate development and academics.
- Immersive, imaginative playtime (this will be in your Centers, which we’ll cover in more depth later).
- Discovery of new things.
- Outdoor playtime.
- Introduction and familiarity with academic concepts (letters, numbers, etc.)
Now add time for all of these things into your schedule! Set aside a time for outdoor play, for Centers, for new experiences, and for school activities. Some of these activities will only take 15 minutes or so (School Skills and Story times will take a lot of focus in a short time), and some of them should have at least an hour (Centers and Outdoors). Lord knows, I don’t do a big field trip every single day, but we have things that we schedule, like library time and so on.
So, now look at your piece of paper with your schedule’s backbone, and fill in the blanks with the small stuff.
3. Make Room for Flexibility
At this age, while children need a predictable schedule, they also need flexibility. If your child gets immersed in bug catching and cataloging one day, it’s alright to let him continue with that and have less time in the next part of the schedule. He might be worn out from a trip to the zoo the day before and need a little extra nap time. At the same time, there are things that we know will happen beforehand. Make extra cards for activities that don’t happen every day, such as field trips, doctor’s appointments, or other engagements that are planned in advance. That way your little one will know that something different is coming, and they need to be prepared!
Remember, as i said above, these schedules give your child a framework to work within. Think of this more as guidelines for your child, rather than a rigid, moment-to-moment routine to follow. As they get older, they may appreciate a more detailed schedule. For now, though, give you and your child a little bit of wiggle room. As you know, every single day is different with young children.
4. Use Pictures, and Make it Sturdy
The way I use my schedules, I want my child to be able to understand and handle them. They should be able to look at them and know exactly what each activity means, and what to do in each one. They should be able to do something to show that each activity is completed. In my own schedule, I use pictures to illustrate each activity (since not everyone can read just yet, it’s there to reinforce the word’s meaning). I also use card stock, and I laminate each activity so that my children can turn over the cards to show that they’ve completed them.
For my daily schedule, I use a pocket chart from my teaching days, with a slot for each schedule card. However, I have also done it with velcro, and a piece on front and back of each card so that they can be easily flipped over to show that they’ve been completed!
Ideally, as your child continues to use and understand the value of your daily schedule, they should be able to manage it all on their own. They should be able to come out of their room in the morning and see that they need to get started with their Morning Routine (get dressed, brush teeth, etc.). Then, they should be able to run back in and see that they need to get ready to have breakfast before they can have playtime in their Centers.
5. My Schedule
Here’s a quick example of what our schedule looks like here at my house.
- Morning Routine
- Story Time
- Outside Play
- School Skills
- Bedtime Routine
After each activity is complete, either I or a child will go ahead and flip over the card to show that we’re moving on to the next one. When I need to change or add something, I slip it into my schedule where I need to. On Tuesdays, we go to the library for story time, so I switch in a Library card for our first Centers card. I usually do errands after lunch, so that takes over our afternoon Centers, or Outside Play time in the afternoon. So on.
Now, this is my children’s schedule for their day. MY schedule looks pretty different! While they’re busy in their Center time, I’m catching up on my morning chores and writing out my own To-Do list. While they’re napping, I’m checking emails, writing posts, and doing those things that are impossible with small children underfoot. I’ll also use that time to get around any materials I may need for School Skills that day. You’ve got to make your own daily schedule slide in with your child’s so that you can each get done what you need to!
Well, there you have it!
Now you know how to get started with setting up your child’s Daily Schedule. I promise, having one of these in place will help your days go much more smoothly, and you’ll find that you and your child are both getting a LOT more done!