Children are used to having a daily routine at school. While your day doesn’t have to follow their school schedule exactly, it’s important to establish predictable activities and routines so they know what to expect. Preparing your child for the day brings normalcy to their life and can help curb anxiety as they won’t feel uncertain about what is coming next.
What could this look like throughout the day?
If you’re normally in your home during the day, think about what you generally do during the day (chores, etc) and how you can incorporate these activities into the schedule. You can also decide how your child might be able to help with some of the daily routines you do when they aren’t at home. If you’re not normally home during the day, figure out how you can fit your usual schedule (if you're working from home, etc) into a daily routine.
Don’t worry too much about setting specific times for activities. Your schedule can be loose and provide hourly blocks for certain activities. And flex your schedule to fit your family’s rhythms. Don’t feel like you have to follow what other parents are doing. Every family is different and has different needs.
The most important thing is to have a daily plan. That way your child will still have a routine, even if they aren’t in school.
Before we discuss specifically how you can plan out your daily schedule, here are some activities every schedule should include for children:
After thinking through those four areas, here are some routines you can incorporate throughout the day.
Start the day with personal care routines such as making the bed, getting dressed, and washing their hands.
Think of ways you can involve them in the day to day activities of your household during breakfast! Let them help prepare some of the food you’ll be eating, set the table or, if that isn’t possible, help clean up the table after everyone is done. This will give them something to do in the morning and benefit them in the long run as they’ll learn cooking and cleaning habits in the kitchen.
Other morning routines can include taking a walk after you wake up, reading books to start the day, and creative time such as drawing, doing crafts, playing music, or building structures with legos or blocks.
Provide a healthy snack such as fruit in between breakfast and lunch. Around mid-day, start slowing down your routine. Get lunch ready with your child and prep for a rest after they’re done eating. This could include reading a story, or listening to music. Mid-day is a great time for a little one on one time as your child settles down.
During the afternoon, it might be tempting to turn to screen time, especially if they are feeling restless or if you’re busy. There are other activities that are just as easy to set up as a TV or phone and they’re more engaging for children.
Set up a water play area at the sink with some water, soap, and dishes or toys. Let them make up stories about what’s happening and recount them to you later on. Sensory bins with rice or birdseed are a great way to get some energy out and help them explore the world through touch. If they’re still feeling energetic afterwards, set up a dance party in your living room or turn on an exercise video (Youtube is a great resource).
As the day is winding down, have them help with some of the household chores like you did during breakfast. They can put their toys back into the places where they came from and wipe down surfaces with water and soap. They can also help with sorting laundry, putting away dishes, watering plants, etc.
After dinner, follow whatever your getting ready for bed routine is. If you aren’t already reading a story with your children before bed, this is the perfect time to start! Let them choose one of their favorite stories and read it together. This allows children to calm down before bed and gives you time to act out the story with them, have fun, and connect.
Bedtime is another great opportunity for one-on-one time with your child. Before they go to bed, recount the day with them and ask what their favorite moment was. Go over what they’d like to do tomorrow and plan out an activity or two together.
Use our recommendations above to build the perfect daily schedule for your family! And remember, don’t feel too pressured to “educate” your child. Every moment you spend with them is a moment to bond, to enjoy their zest for learning, and to support them. While these times are trying, they are also a real opportunity to spend time with them.
These recommendations align with our Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). This is a tool for monitoring and improving teaching interactions. For more tips and ways to incorporate CLASS into your home, download our CLASS at Home download.
Jess Pablo is an early childhood coach and grade level chair at The Primary School, a non-profit school in East Palo Alto, California, that serves children aged pre-K through grade 3, bringing together education, health, and family support services to support children’s holistic growth. Below are some of the ideas, concerns, and suggestions she shared as her program resumes this year in a mostly virtual learning environment.
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