The following was written by editor Kara Fleck.
This month at Simple Kids we’re talking about rhythms and routines for life with children. The contributors and I have been working on writing about a variety of aspects of daily life from a range of perspectives and circumstances. Our hope is that you will find these posts helpful as you craft you own family’s routines.
Rhythm vs. Routine
Some of us are “by the clock” people. Some of us are not. For some a detailed schedule or structured routine, where events occur at the same time every day, works well for their family and for others a less detailed order of events is a better fit.
I tend to fall into the second category myself and prefer to think of our days as having a “rhythm” rather than a “routine” because, to me, that term seems gentler and more flexible. So, “rhythm” is the term you will see me use the most often.
But, really, what you call it – rhythm or routine – doesn’t matter. Because no one family will exactly mirror another family, there aren’t “one size fits all” parameters. In other words, there is no “right” or “wrong” – only what works for your family in this season of your life.
The Anchors of the Day
If you’re just getting started establishing a rhythm for your family, or perhaps if you are re-evaluating your days as you enter a new circumstance, my advice is to focus on what I call the anchors of the day.
Notice that I’m not specifically speaking right now about a cleaning routine, although some might find that incorporating household chores and caring for their living spaces into their rhythm is something they want/need to do.
What I’m talking about is tasks and events of the day related to the care and physical well-being of the people that live in your household.
A Basic Morning Rhythm
If you’re struggling, feeling like there is no rhyme or reason to your days, one good place to start creating structure is by focusing on developing a morning routine. In fact, when I find myself in a place where it seems our rhythm is slipping a bit, getting back into the habit of a solid morning routine is where I start.
I find that how the morning goes at our home sets the tone for the rest of the day, so a dependable morning routine is a help to my whole family.
If you don’t have a morning routine in place and would like to, or your existing routine needs a little tweaking, first take some time to come up with a short list of reasonable expectations for your mornings. Keep it simple!
Here are some potential questions to ask yourself, along with some possible answers:
- What needs to be accomplished? (breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth, combing hair, prep for school)
- What would you help the rest of the day flow smoother? (morning chores: clearing the breakfast things, making beds, gather school stuff before the bus arrives)
- What tasks are specific for the parent? (make breakfast, check day’s calendar)
- What about for the kids? (help clear breakfast things, gather backpacks and coats for school, make beds)
- In what order should these tasks be done?
Now, ask yourself what is a realistic amount of time to get these things done? In other words, how early do you need to be getting up in order to get the day started on the right foot?
Once you’ve established your routine, the key is repeating it until it becomes a habit that anchors the start of your day. If you need to, write it down and place it somewhere prominent, giving yourself a visual guide until it becomes automatic behavior.
You might find that your kids need visual reminders, too. We have used these printable kids morning routine cards from Living Locurto at our house with success. I printed them on cardstock, laminated them, and then put them on the kids’ bathroom door.
If you find something isn’t working, or that you need to add something in, go ahead and tinker with the plan. This is your family’s personal rhythm, after all, and it needs to serve you well and help the day’s flow.
Stick with that morning routine and then move on to giving structure and developing a rhythm for another part of the day until that becomes a habit, too.
Tips For Getting Started from the Simple Kids Archives:
- 5 Tips for Creating Family Routines and Establishing Rhythm in Your Home
- Small Steps, Big Changes: Developing a New Routine 15 Minutes at a Time
Photo by Kara Fleck
A Brief Outline of Our Routine
We are a homeschooling two-parent family of five with a nine year old, four year old, and a two year old. This is the rhythm of the day that is working best for us right now.
Our morning routine looks like this:
- Mom up first, quiet time (I get up at 5am to give myself a peaceful time to start the day in)
- Daddy up, coffee together
- Kids up (older ones get dressed, brush hair and Daddy or I help the youngest)
- Breakfast (Daddy leaves for work)
- Morning Chores (clear the breakfast things, set table for lunch, kids make beds, brush teeth)
- Kids freeplay (during this time I’m prepping for today’s homeschool and usually set up a playscape or a busy box to occupy my toddler while we have our lessons)
I try to make sure that we eat our meals around the same time every day. Sometimes we need to be more flexible, of course, but I find that regular meal times are another place to give us anchors within our days.
- Morning Snack (This gives us a transition time during homeschool. We usually do a craft or have an activity before homeschool lessons begin again.)
- Lunch (Generally followed by some outdoor play)
- Afternoon Snack (Around 4 o’clock, as we eat dinner when Chris gets home at 6:30)
Occasionally we might have some cinnamon toast and milk or some sort of light snack before bedtime, but not very often.
Each meal or snack time is followed by a brief clean up, during which everyone is expected to help. I have found it helps if we set the table for the next meal or snack after we finish the previous one. I try to involve the kids as much as I can in preparing meals and snacks, too.
Our bedtime routine is:
- Brushing Teeth
- Story Time
- Sleep (after the kids are asleep I do a quick 15 minute prep for the next morning)
Does every single day always look like this, perfectly? Well, no of course not. Life happens. For example, I haven’t been faithful about getting up at 5am daily during this pregnancy and I imagine when the new baby comes this Summer, we’ll do some adapting and make some changes as needed.
And, of course, there are many things that fill in those spaces in between our anchor points. Some days are busier than others and some days are more challenging.
However, these are the anchor points I strive to reach every day. This daily rhythm, combined with our weekly rhythm (which I’ll share with you on Friday) helps our lives to flow more smoothly. Having a daily rhythm is a valuable tool that I feel helps my parenting.
Do you have a basic daily routine? Or, are you hoping to bring more rhythm to your days? What are some obstacles you face and how have you overcome them /or are you working to overcome them to help your days flow more smoothly? If you’ve written about your daily routines, I’d love it if you’d share a link in the comments so that others can read and we can exchange ideas and tips.