Why you need a daily schedule - and how to create one
Do you have a general idea of what you are going to do each day or do you simply wing it and hope things go well?
I like to think of myself as a "fly by the seat of my pants" type of person but in actuality I'm very much a planner. I'm the type of person that looks at a menu for the restaurant we are going to a week in advance so I can see what my options are and possibly decide what I'm going to order. I love menu planning and creating our weekly grocery lists. I had notebooks filled with planned out ideas for 5, 10, and 20 year reunions with my core group of childhood friends (none of those events happened but they were fun to think about!) and don't even get me started on vacation planning! So while I can easily change plans and do things spontaneously I find having a plan and idea of what's to come very comforting.
I don't know if it's because of my personality rubbing off on my children or a quality of all children but I know my kids thrive when they know what is expected during the day just as much as I do. We started with daily schedules as soon as we could and all of our kids seem to thrive with a plan. It's nothing rigid but it's a general guideline of how our day will go and what they can expect to happen. I've noticed less tantrums when we stick to our schedule than when we go without for a period of time which is a HUGE bonus!
This is our approximate schedule during the summer. These times aren't concrete by any means. I think the only time that ever gets a held more firmly than the others is the 10am snack. The kids know not to even ask for a snack before 10am. There are days when they watch the clock like a HAWK for it to switch from 9:59 to 10:00 and other days when it's almost 10:30 before they notice! I try to keep an eye on the clock to make sure it stays spaced out fairly evenly though.
Most of the points on the schedule only take a short amount of time and all that free space? Play time! The kids are in the living room playing, out on the deck, in the front riding bikes, or in their rooms. Chore and work time usually lasts about 20 minutes depending on their task(s) for the day and if I want them to "work" they sit at the table and color, write in journals, or do some worksheets.
This schedule is not for everyone and simply what works for our family! That is the key. You need to spend some time figuring out your own needs as a family in order make your own schedule. How can you do that?
Here are 4 simple steps for creating your own family schedule.
1. Pay attention to the times common events happen.
Do you and your family members wake up around the same time each day? Do you need to do this due to work schedules or is it your natural rhythm? Whichever it is that is your natural start time for the day. Our start time is different in the summer than it is during the school year. We don't have places to be super early so we can take our time easing in to our day.
What about meals? I'm assuming you have an approximate time of day that you eat. Great! Put those in place.
What other events happen on a daily basis? Chores? Naps? Activities? Whatever it may be you can put those in place.
2. Make a rough outline of a schedule
You don't need times or anything set in stone. Just an idea of how you think your day should go. Try this schedule out for at least a week, especially if you've never had a schedule before. You or your kids might need to adjust to a new routine.
3. Make adjustments as necessary
Is it not working to have outdoor play just before nap time? Are you not able to get dinner made because the kids are being super clingy? Did you forget to add in a needed item?
Adjust and edit your schedule to fit what works for your family. We used to do a snack first thing when the kids woke up because we didn't want to make breakfast too early. That backfired on us because they were eating their snack (usually dry cereal) and not eating breakfast! That item quickly got tossed in favor of a real breakfast.
We eat our dinner somewhat earlier than other families because we've noticed our kids need for an early-ish bedtime. Plus we like having quiet evenings to ourselves so getting them to bed by 8pm is key in our schedule. The little boys are actually in bed by 7pm right now giving us some extra time with the bigger kids for doing books and extra snuggles.
4. Enjoy the freedom and peace a schedule can bring!
Freedom because of a schedule? Yes! Because our kids know exactly what is coming next and approximate times of when those things happen we don't listen to "is it time for..." or "can I have...." multiple times a day. They learned quickly what the numbers on the clock mean and when they can expect various things during the day. It has significantly decreased the whining we hear about snacks especially!