I used to fly by the seat of my pants. No schedule, no rhythm, no routine. But when I switched to a consistent daily routine with kids, my life got so much easier.
Any seasoned mom will tell you a daily routine with kids is really important. I had a somewhat loose routine that I followed when it was just me and my firstborn, but it wasn’t until my twins reached toddlerhood that the need for a consistent daily routine was clear.
The thing is, the routine wasn’t just for the kids, it was actually mostly for me as a way to keep my sanity intact with three wildlings 4 and under running amuck.
I was so stressed out.
I felt like I was untethered. Like I was just being blown about by the winds of parenting without any structure to my life.
We had kind of loose rhythms that we followed. Basically we woke up, napped, and went to bed about the same time every day. But besides that? It was all up in the air.
Sure, the scheduled activities like swim class or ballet class were consistent, but even something as simple as dinnertime varied from day-to-day.
Before having kids, the idea of a schedule or daily routine seemed so confining and boring! I even kind of made fun of the idea in my mind when I first had a kid. I thought those moms who had strict schedules were kind of… well… over the top. It all just seemed so unnecessary.
Whenever I tried to implement a more consistent routine, my daughter, the consummate free spirit, would throw a fit, and I let that deter me. I just went with the flow and the path of least resistance.
Sometimes that works in motherhood, and other times you have to just push through your child’s resistance because on the other side is a much happier life for the entire family.
My current daily routine with kids is still pretty fresh, and I’m still working to flesh out what works the best for us as well as continue to add new pieces to test them. But after some initial rebellion over a more structured day, we have settled into a much more peaceful existence. (As much as that is possible with two 2-year-olds and a 4-year-old. Thoughts and prayers are welcome. lol.)
The Daily Routine with Kids that’s Working for Us Now.
The first thing to note about our daily routine. I do not put times on our routine. This is for a few reasons.
Each day we might have a slightly different schedule due to different activities, appointments or lessons that we have scheduled outside the home. So instead of having different schedules or routines based on what we are doing which day, I just have the daily routine with kids set up in a way that allows us to just cut an element short or skip it entirely if need be.
I think of our routine in three main blocks. The morning, afternoon, and evening. For the most part, each block begins with a meal, except breakfast which begins with the normal waking up tasks like brushing teeth and getting dressed.
My kids love food, and making sure they have full bellies ensures the next parts of the routine go smoothly and aren’t interrupted by too many snack requests.
I also incorporate small circle times and lessons for my kids. We “homeschool.” I put that in quotes because my kids aren’t in school yet. My eldest won’t be in kindergarten until next year, but I wanted to begin to instill the habits we will need for homeschooling now.
Without further ado, here is our daily routine:
- Wake up
- Get dressed
- Brush teeth
- Have breakfast
- Daily list of chores/lessons (really basic list for my older child)
- Circle time, reading time, and any lessons/crafts/projects we are working on
- Outdoor Play/Walk
- Get ready for bed
- Relaxing play (no TV’s, quiet time)
- Small snack if they need it
- Bedtime for Twins (daughter usually plays for about an hour longer than the twins before going to bed)
3 keys to keep in mind when creating your routine.
Let’s get into the three things that are most important to creating a daily routine with kids that will actually be helpful and not stressful. In the past, I’ve tried to implement routines that just turned into a hot mess, and other times it was like a charm.
These three keys will help you craft and implement a rhythm in your day that gives a sense of calm and peace that is kind of magical if you can nail this daily routine with kids.
1. Follow your child’s/children’s lead
This is so important! The biggest reason for my attempts at having a routine or schedule before this was because I was basically imposing a pseudo-arbitrary routine on my kid/s that didn’t really fit for them.
Whenever I try to force too much onto my kids and pull them outside of their natures it doesn’t work out well.
The ideal way to structure your day is to be super observant of your children. Watch for their cues. Are there times when they get extra cranky? Is it because they are hungry? Tired? Overstimulated?
That is why I focus on creating rhythms and routines instead of schedules.
I try to see what my kids are naturally doing and maybe just nudge them here and there.
I also love following the Waldorf idea of thinking of your day as in and out-breaths. Children (and adults too) need time to be calm, chill, relaxed, introspective, thoughtful, creative, and then time to blow off steam, play, run, jump, sing, and dance.
The daily routines should reflex the natural in and out-breaths of the child/ren, and yourself.
2. Consistency + Flexibility
I can be so tempting to backslide into chaos.
Truly creating new habits and routines can be really hard at first, especially for tiny ones who don’t even really grasp the concept of times and schedules yet.
Being consistent is so important when you first start implementing a daily routine with kids.
As much as kids might be independent and want to do things the way they want without being told by a grown-up, they actually thrive with some amount of structure and routine.
When my daughter asks what day it is and I answer “Friday,” she then asks, “But what does that mean?“
She doesn’t yet associate days of the week with specific activities. Instead, she knows that certain activities follow others. So she might not know that she has swim on Mondays, music on Tuesdays, and ballet on Wednesday, but she does know that the day after swim is music and the day after that is ballet.
See what I mean?
This is why routines are so important. They give kids cues about what happens next in their lives so the transition between things on the agenda can be smoother.
Ironically the other aspect of creating your daily routine with kids is to also be flexible.
First, they’re kids. Meltdowns happen, colds happen, shit (literally) happens.
But also you want to give them the space to explore. So if for example, my kids are deep into some amazing playtime then I am more than willing to delay the next step in the routine as long as possible. Or if my kids are just miserable one day and we need a change of pace, I’ll swap playtime for a walk or a trip to the local petting zoo to get some new energy going.
I don’t stick to the routine no matter what just because it’s the routine.
The routine is there to provide some structure, and in general, you want to be consistent, but you also have to look at what it’s happening in front of you at the time and make a game-time decision sometimes.
3. Don’t forget your own needs too
When I crafted my first routine with the kids, it was our morning routine, and I made the decision that I would do it with my own needs in mind first.
So often we put our own self-care on the backburner because well… #momminainteasy. But if you can actually put your self-care into your daily routine with kids, it will ensure that you are taken care of too.
My morning routine (and daily routine) is constantly evolving, but in all iterations, I ensure the first thing I do (assuming there’s not a diaper explosion or sibling fight happening) is something for myself.
For example, when I wake up in the morning now, I get myself dressed, teeth brushed and ready for the day. Then I get all the kids downstairs, take my vitamins, drink a big glass of water, and get water on the stove to make my tea.
Once those basic necessities are done for myself, I then tend to the children barring any emergencies that might come up. Most time though, the kids are happy to play quietly first thing in the morning while I take care of myself.
Before I would spend all day in pajamas and if we needed to leave the house for something I would just throw on clothes quickly and do one of those superfast tooth brushings while dumping some coffee in a to-go mug. If I didn’t take care of myself first, it wouldn’t get done or just barely get done.
I have taken this approach with our entire schedule too.
Within the big routine, I shared above are tiny routines. I used to just throw together something for the kids to eat at mealtimes and let them chow down while I catch up on my email or some other not so important task.
Our new routine is that I actually fix myself a plate and sit down and eat with my kids. Not only does this help them focus on their meals more, but it’s also a real break for me. I get to sit down and have a yummy (and hot!) meal with my kids. It’s super rewarded and nourishing to my soul.
So please please please. Don’t ONLY think of the kids. Make sure you are taking your own needs and priorities into account when crafting your daily routine with kids.
Creating a daily routine with kids can ease a lot of the stress that comes along with momlife, but it should be done in a thoughtful way that works for you and your children.
I’ve seen tons of posts on Pinterest with various moms claiming to have the perfect daily routine for kids that will work every time. But I’m just gonna say I don’t buy it. All kids are different, all families are different, and all moms are different.
Some kids are cranky AF if they don’t get to sleep by 7pm, and others are happy to party all night. Some kids still take two naps a day and some are taking none. Some moms like to go out and extroverted, and some would rather just be homebodies chilling with the kids.
Do what works for your family.
These keys should help you create a daily routine with kids that DOES work for you, and honors the needs of you and your kids too.
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