5 Tips for Creating Family Routines and Establishing Rhythm in Your Home

During the month of March we’re going to be talking about Rhythms and Routines here at Simple Kids. Predictable rhythms are important for kids, giving them anchor points in their days and weeks.

Odds are that you already have some sort of rhythm in your life. Even something as simple as bath time, pajamas, brushing teeth, story time is a bedtime routine that children can come to know and count on. Perhaps you go to the library on Thursdays or you bake together on the weekends. Anything that you do on a regular basis is your routine.

Creating a family routine from scratch, adding new elements to an established routine, or altering schedules when life situations change can be a bit intimidating. Being consistent with your schedule helps establish rhythm, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

Here are five tips to keep in mind when creating routines and establishing a rhythm in your home:

1. Keep it Simple

Pick one element to add in to your routine and work on getting that woven into your rhythm before you add another. Decide what your top priority is and focus only on that. Maybe you want to start incorporating a crafting day into your week or a daily story time. Focus on blending that one addition into your schedule before you move on to adding in another layer.

Be Realistic

It is good to have a goal in mind of where you would like to be eventually, but create a schedule based on the way things are at this moment in time. Do what will work for your family the way things are right now.

If you know your child needs to take a nap in the afternoon, don’t plan to run errands or arrange afternoon play dates until after naptime. Save those outings for a time when you know your child is more receptive to activity and it will be more enjoyable for all of you. In our family, we try to schedule outings for only one day a week and let the rest remain low-key.

This is the time to be realistic about your time constraints, obligations, and the ages and stages of your children, too.

2. Stay Flexible

Allow yourself to make changes if things aren’t working. Perhaps the day you chose for crafting  is creating stressful afternoons because there isn’t enough time to devote to a project between nap time and dinner preparations. By staying flexible you can play around with your schedule until you find a day and a time that are a better fit.

Downtime

Don’t be tempted to over-schedule your days. Allow your family to have some downtime.  The purpose of routines is to allow your days to run smoother so that your family can enjoy them. Don’t be tempted to fill up those spaces with more activities and commitments when things are running smoothly. Instead, enjoy the quiet and the slow days.

Be Open to Change

Be willing to make changes as your family changes. One thing I have learned to be true about family life is that it exists in a fluid state: children grow, situations change, life happens. Being willing to re-evaluate from time to time gives you the freedom to create a routine that meets the needs of your family.

3. Lower Your Expectations

Yes, I said to lower them. You don’t have to do it all and I would encourage you not to try. Evaluate what is essential and then eliminate what you don’t need. Take out the extra steps and keep things basic.

Start Small

Lets say one of the things you want to add to your routine is to start serving your family a warm breakfast every morning. Don’t overwhelm yourself by attempting a different menu every morning of the week or by preparing complex, time-consuming recipes you’ve never tried before. Seek out something simple and tried-and-true that you already know how to make well. Perhaps make it a goal this first week to serve a hot breakfast for two mornings and then next week aim for four.

Get the basics established and once you have a solid foundation you can build on to your routine from there.

4. Make it Personal

Your family’s rhythm isn’t going to look like any other family’s rhythm. That is okay. Family routines are very personal and each household’s will be unique. The only “right” routine is the one which works the best for you for the place where you are today.

Don’t Try to Keep Up with the Joneses

Many of my own early attempts at creating routines for my family were doomed to fail from the beginning because I was trying to copy the beautiful weekly and daily routines I saw on the blogs I was reading. I was overwhelmed and it wasn’t long before those early plans were abandoned. I set myself up for failure because I trying to do everything my family already normally did PLUS all those neat things I saw other families doing – whether or not they were truly relevant to our life.

Creating routines based on your family’s personal needs means that the changes you seek to make have a greater chance of being successfully implemented.

5. Stay One Step Ahead

Plan and Organize

Once you know what is essential, do some prep work to make it easier to follow your routines. If you want to have a daily nature walk, try establishing a designated place to have coats, hats, mittens, boots within easy reach by the door. You’ll be more likely to take a nature walk if you can get dressed for the elements quickly and easily instead of having to gather the proper wardrobe from all over the house or retrieve items from the mini-van.

If I know that on Wednesday I want to do watercolor painting with the children, then my task on Tuesday night is to make sure we have the proper paper, paints, brushes, aprons, and any other materials relevant to the task. Doing this ahead of time allows us to spend less time on prep-work during our painting time and more time on creating.

Some family routines are more structured, some are more free-form but both types of schedules provide value to the kids who count on them and find comfort in their familiarity. An hour by hour routine doesn’t work for my family, but for many families it works very well. Do what is right for your family.

I think you’ll find that a little rhythm and a basic routine can go a long way toward simple days.

How do your daily and weekly routines flow? Are your family’s natural rhythms at odds with your current routine? Or, are you finding harmony and balance in your days and weeks? What one thing can you focus on improving about your family routines this week?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

Comments

  1. Thank you for such a great post. We are expecting our first baby, and after he arrives (and maternity leave), I will be working part time and my husband will still be full time, so establishing a routine is definitely on my mind. Perhaps I have missed it somewhere, but I would love to see some ideas for sample routines! Such as ideas for play time, down time, etc. Just an idea! Thank you!

  2. One of the great things I learned early on in motherhood (from you, by the way) is thatit’s important to be flexible. Our routine has changed many times over the years (and probably will continue to change as we go on). I’ve also learned that you can’t worry about pleasing others. You’re routine is for you and your family! Not any one else’s joy.

    Right now our routine is working for us. It seems like the kids have fairly similar rythms, so that helps. We keep it simple. Nothing is set in stone, but there are certainly some things that always happen and often the order is very important to my kids. They are HUGE on routines – not sure if it’s a because of or in spite of me. Either way, we’re going with it for now.

    Thanks for the great post!
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..Stupid Tax – Well, sort of… =-.

    • Ah, yes, that is crucial isn’t it: keeping it simple so that you can make sure those times your kids count on (a bath before bedtime, for example) can happen and you can go with that flow.

      You’re right – this isn’t about anyone else but your family and the routines that work for you guys. Kids are different, families are different, and life changes.

      Thanks for your kind words, friend :-) I learn a lot from you, too!
      .-= Kara´s last blog ..5 Tips for Creating Family Routines and Establishing Rhythm in Your Home =-.

  3. When my kids were babies, we did the Baby Whisperer routine of eat, play, sleep- every three hours. Now that my boys are 4 and 2, we still tend to follow a similar routine (which I now see as our rhythm)- meal or snack, active play, quiet play (reading books, watching a show, or alone in their rooms quiet time) over and over again, all day long. I just feels natural and almost effortless! Thanks for the great tips!
    .-= Sandra´s last blog ..Sledding =-.

  4. We have fairly well established routines at the moment with our 2 1/2 year old and two full time working parents, but we are expecting baby #2 in late May/early June and I know there will be some tweaking required when I start maternity leave and we add another person to our little household. I have been thinking about it a lot over the last little while, so thanks for the reminder on how to go about making changes!

  5. One of the most helpful things for me, in terms of creating routines, is being inspired by other people’s routines! I love hearing how other people order their days and the fun things they regularly do with their kids because it’s just part of their routine. Fresh ideas help me to adjust what I’m doing to make it more satisfying for my whole family!

    • I agree Haley, and often find inspiration in the routines of others. We made a major change in our homeschool routine last fall after I read about some of the routines other homeschoolers were following.

      The key, for me, is making sure that I take the best of what I can use from others and apply it, adapting if I need to, for my own family. I’m thankful when parents share their routines and what works/doesn’t work for them – love those “fresh ideas” as you say :-)
      .-= Kara´s last blog ..5 Tips for Creating Family Routines and Establishing Rhythm in Your Home =-.

  6. Thank you so much for this post!! I have just started getting myself into a cleaning routine which has helped me feel much more free and less stressed (and my house is more organized!!) My next area to tackle is the rhythm of our day. This post was so timely!! I have been wanted to do more intentional activities with our son, not just, “go find some blocks to play with, or go cook me something.” I want to start with at least two intentional activities each week such as painting or playing with rice or playing with water. I feel like we are in a real rut right now. The link to the previous simple kids post with the sample schedule was so helpful. I love how flexible it is. Thanks for that!

    I think my biggest obstacle is not planning too many outings. I feel like it has been weeks since we have not had somewhere to go in the morning. Play dates and what not. So my goal is to begin saying no and just enjoying being at home together! Thanks again for the thoughtful reminders!

  7. This post couldn’t have been more timely for me. Thank you! We have a fairly normal routine in our home with my 3 yr. old DD. With all the snow, sickness, etc., our routine has been off and I’ve realized it in DD’s behavior. Children truly do thrive on a routine, no matter what it is for your family. I love that you mentioned adding one new thing at a time. This is what I needed. I want to start doing more with my daughter and put it into our routine so it happens. Thank you for reminding me to stay flexible and taking baby steps in the change is best.
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Real Food Challenge: Letter to Jenny =-.

  8. Great tips! I think it’s easy to slip into a pattern of not doing these kinds of things and not even knowing it. The challenge for me is self-awareness about the whole thing.
    .-= Katie ~ Simple Organic´s last blog ..Good Bacteria, Bad Bacteria: How to Wash Your Hands and Be Gentle on the Earth =-.

  9. Rhythm! I can’t believe I never thought to think of it that way. I am definitely a person who thrives on routine, the rest of the family is only so so. And since I injured myself quite badly 7 weeks ago we’ve been struggling to adapt. Routine isn’t always an option, but rhythm can be. Love this concept!
    .-= Cheryl Arkison´s last blog ..Atrophy =-.

  10. Routine really helps to be mindful of what needs to be done – there is nothing worse than being caught on the back foot having missed a snack or a storytime – really it can turn a good day into a terrible day instantly!!! I like routine because it reminds us to stop and enjoy the moment – that’s part of our routine… kind of left the dashing out of it!!!

  11. What a great picture. We definitely need some rhythm in our routine. Thanks for the tips.

  12. Our family has completely struggled with this. The only small thing we’ve been able to manage is a short bedtime routine. We don’t do baths every night and it seems like when I try to create a routine it’s really hard because there’s nothing that is constant ~ like the bath thing. It seems like there’s never enough time to actually do the routine I’d like to do, but when I look around it seems like we’re not really doing anything so I don’t know why I can’t get the routine things in. grr… What I do know is this: when we finally got a routine going at bedtime it got much easier to get my daughter to sleep. It was at that point she finally started falling asleep without one of us in there with her. I truly believe routine and rythms could seriously help in other areas of our family life and I look forward to reading more of your posts this month. Maybe this will be when we get it together. :)
    .-= Jackie Lee´s last blog ..Planning a 4 Year Old Party =-.

    • That is where I have struggled myself, Jackie Lee. I put a lot of pressure on myself trying to do too many things. Now, I keep just a few times in the day as my main focus in consistent rhythm: our morning routine, meal times, and evening/bedtime routines. The rest of the time we tend to go with the flow, but we have those anchor points of consistency in the day.

      When things feel “forced” or impossible to keep up with, I scale back. We’re in a busy season of life right now, so my kids don’t always get a bath either – but we do keep up the pajamas, brush teeth, short story routine at bedtime.

      Be gentle on yourself, do what you can as you can, and if not this month, there’s always next month :-)

      Best Wishes!

  13. The last few months made it very difficult for us have any kind of structure. My youngest had some health issues that kept up always back & fourth the the hospital for various surgeries and the like. Plus we moved in December…and then it was Christmas.

    As soon as I could in January, I planned out a rhythm for the days, and I knew that would save my life. I wanted to start some pre-school for my 4yo, and have the children know what was coming next instead of constant upsets and surprises.

    It’s been working very well, thankfully, and my 2yo LOVES pre-school, which is super cute. I’ll be applying these tips as they are so valuable and I can see where we could benefit from them.
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..One Pot Wonders For Babies & Toddlers =-.

    • I’m sorry to hear that your youngest has been ill, Aimee. That is very difficult, under any circumstances.

      I can relate to what you say about rhythm saving your life. When my father-in-law was ill a few years ago we spent a lot of time in the city where he was being hospitalized. It was comforting – both for the children and for my husband and I – to have those simple routines in place. Bedtime was still the same bedtime, even if in a different city and tucking children into a different bed, you know?

      Best wishes!
      .-= Kara´s last blog ..5 Tips for Creating Family Routines and Establishing Rhythm in Your Home =-.

  14. I love how your posts are always full of concrete and useable advice – I think I put at least one each week in our Friday Web Roundup! I especially like this one, I think it such an important thing for young children to have predictability, but it’s something that is so often overlooked and difficult to implement. Thank you!
    .-= Kelly – Wellspring Community School´s last blog ..Friday Web Roundup =-.

  15. Thank you for this post. I am going to print it out. I have one 3 1/2 year old son and am a SAHM to him, but I am still struggling with routine. He will be starting preschool in the fall and I know that it will serve the both of us well to get our act together before then. I’ve read through the comments here and they are all inspiring. Thank you again.
    .-= April ´s last blog ..An Afternoon Update. =-.

  16. I’m trying to incorporate crafts into our routine. I took an art class with my little one a few months ago and it mostly consisted of me sitting there gluing and him running around inciting riots with the other kids so we ended that. I try to color with him at home but its not very often and is pretty short. I guess I need to realize that I should do it as it works for him (so not make it miserable for him to sit there and color for a long time). I also need to get over my natural reticence towards making a mess, we did stamps once, that was awful. gotta start letting go. thanks for the suggestions.

  17. For us as a family it’s vital we have a routine and plan the coming days ahead in advance. For example we like to decide what we are going to do as a family at the weekend well in advance otherwise we find ourselves wasting time on a Sat morning brainstorming ideas of things to do whilst the kids get increasingly frustrated. I also like looking forward to things and the weekends especially.
    James´s latest post: cot bed mattress

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