Rhythm in Action: Real Family Routines for Morning, Mealtime, and Evenings



Tax Season is upon us here at the Simple Kids household, which means I don’t have a lot of writing time on my hands these days. As Amelia was watching out the window at the garbage truck yesterday (Trash day is a favorite part of our weekly routine) I thought  of this post from the archives you might enjoy on rhythm and routines, originally published in March of 2010.

During the month of March at Simple Kids we’re talking about rhythm and routines.  Keeping in mind that every family’s needs are different and therefore every family’s routines work differently, I thought it would be fun to ask some real moms with families in a variety of situations and ages and stages of childhood what their morning, meal, homework, and evening routines look like.

I was inspired by their answers and I found a few tips that I think I can incorporate into my family’s rhythm.  I have a feeling you’ll be inspired by these families, too.

Morning Routines

Melisa, mother of 4 – ages 13, 11, 9, and 3

I am now a huge proponent of rising before your children. My morning starts pretty early as I LOVE my alone time!  I rise and work on my own meditation, prepare school lessons and get ready for the day.  The children are generally up around 8 a.m. and we begin the work of the day.  Chores that need to be done, breakfast that needs to be prepared and eaten… so many things that seem so important in the morning!

When my older children were younger, my days often felt like they were spent in the kitchen. This can be so exhausting but I wasn’t willing to give myself up to cold cereal each morning either. I began to find ways to make the morning go smoother by having the children help, even when they were young. We approached morning work with joy because we were doing it together.

Now the big kids each take a day to cook breakfast – they have their favorites.  My daughter loves to make muffins or waffles on her day, my oldest son is king of scrambled egg sandwiches and my middle son will often go for fruit and toast. Our youngest often will unload the dishwasher while his older siblings cook or he’ll help someone stir.  They work together – this doesn’t mean they don’t fight.  There are loud mornings and smooth mornings here.

We try to keep in mind who might need extra sleep some mornings because of activities the evening before, etc. but the entire house runs smooth because I am there to make it so.  I am the Beacon for them. I set the stage, the tone, the expectations.  Everyone knows what is expected of them and if they feel like it is too much they feel comfortable in letting Erik and I know.  While I will often say this is not democracy (a dictatorship!) it is a house with loving limits and rhythm.  The way the morning starts, frames our day.  A smooth morning will do wonders for our spirits.”

Photo by Cozy Memories

Meal Time Routines

Annette, mother to four – ages 11, 8, 6, and 2

“If I haven’t done it the night before, I like to start the day with a fresh tablecloth and cloth napkins. Not only are cloth napkins better for the environment and, in the long run, less expensive, but they also bring an air of reverence to the meal. Using non-disposable, non-plastic products tells my children “This meal is important. You are important.” It helps create a mood in which we can all slow down and enjoy the meal.

I very rarely have to call them to breakfast because they usually show up in kitchen, dressed and washed and brushed and with bowls in their hands! When I do call them, I sing a little song such as “Do You Know the Muffin Man?” on muffin days or a made-up “Come to the Table” song. Once they are served– we usually do this with me filling their bowls or plates right from the stove– they go to the table, where the silverware is waiting in a basket, along with their cloth napkins. After a morning blessing on the meal, they’re ready to eat!

After the meal, they each clear their own dish. Even the two-year-old can do this! I have a sink full of water waiting, and each child wipes their dish clean, rinses it, and places it in the dish drainer. We don’t have a dishwasher, and while there are times I mourn this lack of convenience, I’m actually thankful for the opportunities it gives us to slow down and do things the old-fashioned way. We encourage this small act of service by example and gentle encouragement. When a younger child hears you thanking an older child for helping to care for our things so carefully and making the house a lovely place, they want to do it too.

A song or rhyme always helps as well. One of our favorites is:

Wash the dishes, wipe the dishes,

ring the bell for tea.

Three good wishes, three good kisses

I will give to thee”

followed by the appropriate number of kisses, of course!

Each child has their own napkin ring, and barring any major messes,at the end of the meal they place their napkin in the napkin ring and it gets stored in a compartment in the silverware basket on the table, ready for the next meal. With all of us working together, there’s very little additional cleanup left to be done, and we’re ready to carry on with our day.”

Homework Routines

Photo by John-Morgan

Tracey, mother of two – ages 9 and 7

“Most of my children’s homework is done in the car.  I store pens, pencils and other necessary supplies in the car door pockets for easy access. During our drive home, they can complete worksheets or other writing tasks, as well as assigned reading.

Since our route includes a number of stoplights, I use the time while we are sitting still to call out spelling words, drill them on math facts, or quiz them over notes.  Larger projects have to be completed at home, but we try to make the most of our commute by getting the basics done.”

Jean-Marie, mother of two – ages 6 and 2

“I have a 6 year old and a 2 year old, and play is still VERY important for our routine.  At least 2 days out of the school week we head to the park after school. I also bring a bucket of chalk with us.  In-between playing and running and sliding and jumping I quiz my daughter on her spelling words for the week.  She has fun writing them, sometimes even adding her own flair with different colors or heart-dotted Is.  Since kids are expected to sit through 5 – 6 hours of school I try to make our home learning and practice process fun.

Bedtime/Evening Routines

Angela, mother of two  – ages 4 and 1

“Our routine has changed a little over the past year as we added our second child and as our oldest gave up nap time. Even with the small changes, we’ve kept our routine pretty simple and very consistent – bath, books, bed. We have found that having a familiar routine has not only helped avoid night-time melt downs, but it also provides some familiarity when we travel or are away from home. It’s some thing we can take with us almost any where we go.

Not only has this familiar routine helped keep bedtime simple (and drama free), but it’s often one of the best parts of our day. One of our best traditions is probably our family hug followed by “kisses all around”. I don’t know what the kids will remember when they grow up, but this has become a very special family time for me.”

Mandi, mother of four – ages 5, 3, 2, and a new baby

Our evening routine is one of the most important in our home because it really helps set the tone for the following day. For us, that means filling up water bottles and setting out activities and clothes (and sometimes even breakfast) so that they’re waiting for us in the morning.

Each step only takes a minute, but it has a much larger impact on our morning routine! Getting ready the night before is not always easy. A lot of times, I don’t really feel like spending extra time on things that don’t seem to matter at that moment, but when I skip this routine, I always end up regretting it in the morning.”

Thank you , ladies, for letting us peek into your daily routines:

What about your family? What do your morning, meal, homework or evening routines look like? What questions do you have about developing simple routines and rhythm?

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.

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  1. calliope says:

    Mother of one 2-and-a-half boy
    I’m all for routine and schedule by nature so I was really really happy to read everywhere that little ones thrive with everyday routine. So I’m ready to tell you myself that this is 1000% true!
    All contrary examples of known families with no routine in their daily programs are a disaster waiting to happen: all day long tantrums, exhausting mealtimes and bedtimes that last from 2-3 hours!!
    Keep in mind, though, that a 2-year old is a 2-year old and everything needs to be calm, happy, colorful, exiting and with some generous dosis of “spontaneity” orchestrated by me, of course!!

  2. We have a fairly well established morning routine and bedtime routine. What I am trying to establish now is our weekly rhythm – we have recently moved house and have yet to find our way back to having regular activities organised by day of the week. I actually just blogged about this today and published it moments before I saw your post!
    .-= Christie´s last blog ..Finding our Rhythm =-.

  3. This is a great post that I’ll be returning to. We’ve come a long way in our routine, and it’s pretty functional, but it can always be improved. There are some really good tips here.
    .-= Jaimie´s last blog ..How We Fill our Seasonal/Weekly Book Basket =-.

  4. I love all these thoughts on routine and ritual and the impact they have on kids. I especially like the emphasis placed on what these physical actions communicate to our kids. Well done all!
    .-= Missy K´s last blog ..Filling the Bellies =-.

  5. I enjoy seeing how different routines work for different families. I love how Annette brings music to the morning and how Mandi gets everything prepared the night before to make her day start smoothly. Thanks again for including my homework routine!
    .-= Tracey´s last blog ..Saturday Salutes =-.

  6. We love reading – could do it all day… but after baths and teeth my little little ones are desperate to sleep… so we do: Books, Bath, Bed… Just the thought of everyone snuggling down in bed for a story and then everyone getting up for another last trip to the bathroom only to be resettled!!! So everyone is quite eager to get finished with supper and clear the table etc… because I start reading as I am ready (hehe!!!). One story or chapter for everyone depending on ages and stages and then bath and bed… This is just such a great post!!!

  7. Thank you for the inspiration. What a testimony to taking time to create good routines and stick with them.
    .-= Sarah Clachar´s last blog ..Essential for Family Fitness, Home Gyms Let You "Sneak Some Extra In" =-.

  8. Oh yes! LOVE THESE! Thank you for giving us a peek into the lives of other families.

    I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan of routines and rhythms. I didn’t realize how much I needed our routines until I took the girls on a road trip recently. It was so hard for all of us to be out of routine for many days . . . but it was worth it for the fun that we had.
    .-= Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last blog ..Snack Food Makeover – Real Food Style =-.

  9. I am not a routine sort of person by nature, which is strange because I suffer from OCD, but perhaps it is a backlash against my mum who was an over the top scheduler.

    I try very hard to at least have some sort of intentional rhythm for our days, when I stick to it I definitely see the benefits with myself and my family. I think i just need to get my life more in order and stop acting like a teenager!

    Great post!
    .-= Satakieli´s last blog ..March 15 =-.

  10. I love routines and I know that children only benefit from them. I am a huge proponenet of being up before the kids. I am in such a better mood if I have had even 15 min to gather my thoughts for the morning.

    We even have a routine for our treats. My kids get one treat a day and it has worked wonders. They can have it WHENEVER they want, as long as they have eaten breakfast. Once they have had it, they are done for the day. My kids are 7 & almost 11 and my daughter even said to us today “I don’t want to go out on Thursday because I know we are having pie at school”. I mean, she was thinking ahead, it was so awesome!

    Our homework routine is that they get 30 min of play time once they get off the bus and then homework time is at 4:30. It has worked very well for us.

  11. It was really interesting to see how other families use rhythm and routines. I’m still struggling with this though. We have a bedtime routine that is pretty solid, but the rest of the day is a toss up. I continue to think of how we can create rhythms and routines in our day. :) I look forward to reading more of your posts on this topic.

  12. It’s so great reading about other peoples’ routines. Our homework time is just a wreck. Our eldest is in 2nd grade and regularly takes 30 minutes for spelling, and then has to read for 20 minutes, plus math homework (which is easier/faster for her!). I’ve started trying to have sit-down types of activities for our preschooler during this time such as play-doh, cutting and pasting, painting, etc. But overall, it’s been a struggle to do all this consistently. Every day seems to pose its own problems. Would love some more ideas on getting the homework done!

  13. These are great! I’m an incredibly routine person but boy can this be a struggle when you throw kids into the picture. I’ve found that I personally benefit from a morning Yoga routine. I get up half an hour early to fit it in and I really find that it helps me feel refreshed and more centered so I can tackle the day with a much better frame of mind.
    .-= Tina ´s last blog ..The Radio Flyer Horse – Hi-Yo Silver, Away! =-.

  14. I loved reading about everyone’s rhythms and routines. Thanks for letting me share some of ours!
    .-= Annette´s last blog ..Katie Grace’s Main Lesson: Flood Stories and Math Review =-.

  15. Rhythm, Routine – words that I adore! I can be a little neurotic, though, and with three children age five, four and two, flexibility is also a trait to be admired. I find that the rhythms are what sustain us. It may not be at the exact same time daily, but the flow of acitivity is very regimented. For example, before a meal we set the table, say our best and worst of the day then enjoy (whether that is at 5:40 or 6:10. Before bed we have a bath, brush teeth, rock and pray. Some days it happens at 7:15 pm, others more like 8:30 – depending on the day’s activities. The rhythm is key in our home and allows my children to be secure in what to expect next.

  16. We’ve got dinner and bed time down in a very goo way, but I’ve been aching for a better morning routine. Thanks for the reminder about getting up before the kids. I used to do that back in the days when we had roommates, not kids, and that quiet time and solitude definitely got my energy up. As much as I want the sleep these days, it might be time to bring that back.

  17. I always had fun with nieces & nephew helping out in the kitchen, something they never did at home. I made the expectation fun, with lots of laughter and letting them do things their way while encouraging & instructing matter-of-factly. They were always eager to be helpful and participate in meal preparations. It gave them an appreciation for food & cooking, and helped them develop skills for feeding themselves rather than being dependent on adults. Expect children to grow up on a consistent basis and they will rise to the occasion.

  18. I’m not a naturally “routine” person (more of a free spirit) but I have come to see the great value routines have for my kids and so work hard to keep them, well, routine. The mealtime routines were especially interesting to me, since I’ve been trying to think of ways to get my older kids more involved in food prep. Plus, it fosters an attitude of service that we want to encourage. Thanks for these great ideas!
    Heather Gaither´s latest post: Weird (But Not Uncommon) Teething Symptoms


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