Creating family friendly routines: keep it simple and be selective.


January is the time for new calendars, fresh starts, and for many of us the new year is when we revamp our family routines.  But I have found that adding new elements to an established routine or altering schedules when life situations change can be a bit of a juggling act.

This week I’m going to talk about some things I have found it helpful to keep in mind when creating routines and establishing a rhythm in our home.

Normally on Simple Kids I try to write things that I think will be helpful to my readers, but I admit this time I’m writing these as much as a reminder to myself.

Our family’s rhythm and routines are changing a bit as the kids get older.  For one thing, we have more commitments outside of the home and for another, my youngest is a toddler now so our days aren’t the same as they were during the seven years or so when we always had a baby in the house.

Plus, between illness, extreme weather, and some schedule and household changes I’m finding myself in a bit of a transition stage and not the  calm groove I was hoping to kick off the new year with.  Maybe some of you can relate?

So, here are a few reminders for us all about keeping our lives simple and being selective about what we add to our day planners.


Keep it Simple

Yeah, yeah. I know the Jones have signed their kids up for every club and sports team under the sun, but odds are the Jones are going to be completely burned out from their schedule by March, so be selective about what new activities your family adds in and you’ll be happier in the long run.

Better a few well picked (and enjoyed) activities than more than you can handle without disrupting your family’s harmony.

Now, I know some kids can handle multiple activities and they are totally fine and flow along happily.  One of my kids is a social butterfly and would be content with events just about every night of the week but things have to be fair for the younger ones who aren’t so hip to the idea of being strapped in a car seat and taxied all over any more than they have to be.

So, that being said I’m not going to give a number I think is “acceptable” for extra curricular activities because every family is different.  Odds are if things are stressful, you already know if you need to cut back and if you’re flowing along, happy and stress-free you already know that, too.

At our house we limit the number of extra curricular activities because of time and because of our budget.  My kids understand why we do this and accept our reasons.  As it turns out, by limiting their number of activities, I think what they are participating in they really are passionate about and not perhaps just signing up because their friends are doing it.

When and if  you do add in something new, my advice is to give take a couple of weeks to get used to that new time commitment, live with it, and notice the way it changes your existing schedule, before adding in any more changes.

Be Realistic

It is good to have a goal in mind of where you would like to be in the long run, but I encourage you to create a schedule based on the way things are at this moment in time.

This is the time for realistic thinking.  If I’m going to be in the car three evenings a week shuttling kids right before dinner time, it probably isn’t the right time to set a personal goal of cooking a complete from scratch meal every night (although it might be time to consider a few weekend once a month cooking freezer sessions).

beehive chalk drawing

Do what will work for your family the way things are right now.

With my younger kids, I think that they need to take a nap in the afternoon, so I don’t plan to run errands or arrange afternoon play dates until after naptime. We try to save those outings for a time when we know our child is more receptive to activity and it will be more enjoyable for all of us (says this veteran mom of many ill-timed grocery store runs and their resulting meltdowns).

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

calendar close up

Plan, but Don’t Over Plan

It might be tempting to map out every hour of every day, especially when things look so nice and tidy on that brand new super cute planner you just purchased.  Just remember that life is rarely as tidy in reality.

Instead of planning out a super detailed list, why not just sketch out a rough idea of what you’d like the day or the week to look like and try to hit those anchors first before adding in other details later? Or, at the very least, promise me you’ll do that planning in pencil initially so that you can make changes and erase what isn’t working.

If you start small, you can more easily establish solid routines that your kids can count on and learn to anticipate and that your family can make stick. If you keep things simple, staying selective about what new activities you add, your whole family will be happier in the long run.

Speaking of day planners, the one I’ve been using for a few years now is the planner from The Confident Mom, which you can get for FREE! She has some add-on packs for sale, but the basic planner is a freebie. FYI, that is an affiliate link and if you choose to purchase one of the add-on packs through my link I do receive a portion of the sale.  Thanks!

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

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  1. I’m in desperate need of a good routine, being prone to drift along and get distracted. Thanks for these helpful points of advice. I’m off to look at the post on anchors that you mentioned too.

  2. The thing that is helping me alter my schedule more than anything else has is tracking my time. I haven’t made any large changes yet, but am making sure that I document my time each day. It’s helped me find extra time for me, chores, etcetera. And it’s letting me see where our natural rhythms are (nothing happens during the hour before dinner lol) so I don’t jam something in a slot that doesn’t work. It’s slower than just changing things, but it’s also letting me see how much I DO get done. Even on days when I feel like I am not sure what hit me.

    • I hear that, Adina! 🙂 My goals or my plans might be limitless, but there are only so many hours in a day (and for some of them we need to sleep, ha ha!)

      When I’m feeling depressed I found it really helpful to write down what I was actually getting done each day and, yes, like you said, even on those days when you aren’t sure what has hit you you DO really get a lot more done than you probably give yourself credit for.

      Knowing that has made it easier for me to ease up on myself a bit, relax the schedule, and just feel assured that the important things will eventually be done.
      Kara´s latest post: Creating family friendly routines: keep it simple and be selective.

  3. Kara – I would love to see how your weekly “anchors” have changed now that your kids are older. I imagine coloring, water color, and music might not be a strong enough structure to support hte days of older kids. I work part time outside the home, so we have a built in weekly rhythm with school, preschool, and daycare, so it’s even more important to keep our “home time” maximized by limiting activities. Sure, we had soccer in the fall, but we are keeping our winter weekends intentionally empty – my kids need down time!

    • Good question! 🙂
      We keep our activity days (mainly for the 2 and 5 yr olds) but yes, as the kids have gotten older I’ve noticed we rely more on things like their club or activity days or their schoolwork as our anchors.
      Family night (for us that is Friday) has gained more importance, too. It was always fun, but with so many busy weeknights now, I think the kids and my husband and I really count and on enjoy that designated time on Friday evenings to bring us back together and sort of symbolize the start of the weekend.

      YES to downtime! I notice a big difference when we don’t have enough of it around here – in my own attitude but also that of my kiddos.