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Schedules for a smooth day
Every now and then the house would be a complete mess. The fact that our house really isn’t that big doesn’t help. I’d be walking around the house, and everywhere I looked there would be stuff.
Not just toys, that’s what most people think when you have children. Though, toys made up 80% of the stuff. But also other things. Books lying scattered across a table. Laundry lingering on a chair. Random things filling the decorative bowl on our dining table.
It makes me antsy. And it does absolutely nothing for my temper…or my feelings of guilt for that matter. (Even though I warned my husband I’d make a terrible housewife before we married.)
Chaos does the same to me; if I have to remember too many things I just get restless and snappy. It means I’m juggling too many balls.
Related: How to survive the terrible twos
Enter mom’s powerful schedules
I’ve learned that the only way to permanently control the chaos, is to have a few routines during a given day that make sure things stay under control. For a mom, there are a lot of hacks and tips that could be helpful, but these relieve the biggest pain points.
It’s important to have a time and place for things. It leads to a sense of control, which in turn leads to a calm mind and some space to do some actual living, rather than running after the facts all day. Trust me, I don’t like being tied down by stuff, but using these schedules have done nothing of the sort.
On the contrary, using daily schedules for the kids has given me much more freedom!
Quick wee side note: Because I know how hard it can be to come up with fun games each time, I’ve created a 7-day challenge for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. This is a great way to get started if you’ve fallen out of the habit of playing with your kids, or to learn about fresh ideas and activities.
Each day for 1 week, you will receive an e-mail with an activity that you can do with your kids. Join the newsletter and start your 7 days of play today!
How these schedules will help you
Having these routines in place will make things go more smoothly and quickly. The household will be more under control and thereby it will eat up far less brain power. This will create some measure of balance, because the obligatory stuff, as I call housekeeping, shrinks in terms of time and effort.
This, then, creates space because there is more time and energy left over for actual living. (You remember this right? Doing something because you have time for yourself and doing something you enjoy and chose to do?)
These days, I can almost enjoy housekeeping. Being in control means I actually feel like I have the time to do things. It puts me in a position where I can remind myself that I’m now working only on my own schedule. I can focus on what I’m doing, without having a million thoughts running through my head.
This takes practice, but we’ll get better and better at it the more we keep trying.
Main pain points of the day
From reading and hearing about other mom’s lives there seem to be three times during any given day that most of us recognize as being particularly difficult. Either because we’re on a schedule and the kids have no notion of what such a thing means, or because the kids and we are tired.
These fabled (ahem) pain points are:
- The early morning – trying to get someplace on time;
- Late afternoon – kids are tired but you’re trying to put dinner on the table;
- Bed-time – kids are tired but seem to think they don’t need any sleep.
Okay, so nothing is going to make these times of day a dream. Barring the kids growing up and moving out of the house But, I have found that if we’re all used to doing the same things each day, these moments go down on autopilot and the struggle is less.
What makes this work?
Focus on installing one of the schedules at a time. One of the biggest ways people set themselves up for failure, is by wanting to be absolutely perfect in all areas. Just do one thing at a time, focus on getting results there, and once this works well then move onto the next thing.
Also, don’t think you’ve failed if you don’t get things right all the time. It’s no reason to quite or give up on something. Simply regroup and get back on track.
What makes schedules work so well is the repetition combined with time. Schedules work for my kids, because they can’t really remember things ever being different. Luckily for us, even though children remember things from way back, they have a really poor grasp on time. So something that happened only a month ago, will seem like years ago to them.
Keep drilling a schedule into everyone’s habits for as little as 2-3 weeks, and everybody should be following along rather nicely.
The early morning schedules
As I was writing this, I noticed that the secondary reason that our mornings are so efficient, is because my husband and I can share the tasks. I’m calling that the secondary reason, because the real strength of the schedule lies in the fact that we’ve done this since the boys were born. They don’t know any different then this. Of course, that’s the strength of all schedules : repeat repeat repeat.
Feel free to move particular items around to suit your specific needs. If you’re a single parent, you may want to move preparing breakfast to before waking up the kids. In the free printable downloads I’ve provided, I take single parenting into account.
Also, our kids are used to staying in their rooms until they are told they can come out. To facilitate this, you can put some toys in their rooms and / or give them permission to play in each others rooms until the day starts.
07:00 am: Get up out of bed and take a shower before the rest of the family wakes up.
07:30 am: Wake everybody else up – dad goes downstairs to make breakfast.
Give the kids their clothing, if they’re old enough to dress themselves – Clothe the kids who can’t clothe themselves.
07:40 am: Mom & kids head downstairs – everybody eats breakfast.
07:50 am: Dad takes a shower – mom prepares lunches and packs up backpacks – kids continue breakfast and/or watch a few cartoons.
08:10 am: Everybody puts their shoes and coats on.
08:15 am: Dad drops oldest off at school – mom takes youngest to daycare.
This depends a bit on what time everyone’s home. But I’m working on the assumption that the kids come home around the time that school ends, or when they wake up from their afternoon nap.
The afternoon snack can really be anything, but I’ve noticed that this is the time my kids get hungry and so I take advantage. I put something on the table, without asking them for their opinions, that I want them to eat. This often puts some vegetables in them without me having to make any effort at all.
3 pm: Everybody comes home / infant wakes up. Everybody gets something to drink.
4 pm: Mom dives into the kitchen and cuts up some veggies / fruit / crackers and puts them on the table.
4:30 pm: Excitement of being at home worn off, bellies full. Either the kids play outside (if weather permits) or they play inside. Usually plenty of exercise around this time solves a lot of problems.
If playing outside isn’t feasible, organize something inside. Building great train tracks, utilizing printable play sheets.
5 pm: Mom starts dinner. I let the kids either play some more outside (provided it’s not raining) or they get to watch some cartoons. Yes, I let them watch television! By this time, anything other than playing outside usually leads to arguments and tears. If all went well, they’ll already have had plenty of exercise and educational activities for the day, so a little TV probably won’t hurt them.
5:45 pm: We sit down for dinner.
6:15 pm: I announce that if they still want to play before bed, they need to start now! This is usually enough to get the kids to play without parental support
6:30 pm: Ideally, if I’ve managed to get dinner on the table on time, we head upstairs for a bath or shower. I’ll give the kids a signal beforehand that they still have 5 minutes left to play, so that they’re prepared!
Having just had the treat of playing some more after dinner, getting the kids upstairs usually isn’t much of an issue.
6:30 pm: Mom announces the kids have 5 minutes left.
6:35 pm We’re going upstairs and into the bathroom.
6:40 pm: Hit the shower. The older boy is encouraged to undress himself.
5 minutes play – then we lather and rinse – 5 minutes play.
6:50 pm: We tell the oldest it’s time to turn off the shower.
Both boys get toweled dry – we put on the diapers and PJs – the boys get their vitamins.
Both boys first get to brush their own teeth, then mommy brushes some more.
7 pm: We all snuggle up on the oldest boy’s bed. Mommy reads a story.
7:05 pm: With the story done, the youngest gets tucked into bed. Then the oldest gets tucked in.
And that’s it! Don’t forget your FREE Cheat sheets!
Stick to this every day. It doesn’t work if you don’t rinse and repeat. So every day the same beat, the same rhythm, the same sequence. Make sure the kids don’t remember things ever being different and you should be just fine in a few weeks time.