Small Steps, Big Changes: Developing a New Routine 15 Minutes at a Time

Sometimes, as an outsider looking in at another family’s routines, it is easy to wind up feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. If you’ve been feeling that way during our series on rhythm and routines this month, I want to gently remind you that most family’s routines probably didn’t fall into place in one day or even one week.

In fact, a common trend I’ve noticed among families who have steady rhythms in place is that these routines evolved for them over time. Some of their routines are still evolving.

They make small changes and adapt along the way. They tinker. They adjust. They take baby steps.

If you are a parent wondering how to begin making changes to your child’s current routines, or if you just want to know how to get started creating rhythm, my advice to you is to keep it simple. Start small. Set realistic goals. Give yourself time to make changes.

Specifically, give it 15 minutes.

You might be surprised at what a difference the adjustment of a quarter of an hour can make to your days. Making over your entire day all at once? A daunting task. Making small changes, with big benefits, just 15 minutes at a time? Now that is something you can do!

Use small steps to make big changes in your family's routine |

Ten Changes You Can Make, 15 Minutes at a Time:

  1. Spend 15 minutes preparing the night before for the day ahead
  2. Set your clock for 15 minutes earlier in the morning
  3. Get in the habit of spending 5 minutes immediately after each meal washing the dishes with your child (3 meals a day = 15 minutes)
  4. Start your bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier in the evening
  5. Spend 15 minutes outside with your child and work your way up to an hour (or more!)
  6. Do 15 minutes of structured play or crafting with your child
  7. Spend 15 minutes reading to your child.
  8. Take in 15 minutes of peace and quiet. Do nothing. Slow down.
  9. Have a 15 minute Tea Time or After School Snack with your child
  10. Set one 15 minute toy pick-up at the end of the day (or three 5 minute toy pick-ups during the day)

Individually, these items are fairly easy to accomplish. Keep in mind that I am not encouraging you to do ALL of these things at once.

What I am asking you to consider is spending just 15 minutes every day working on one intentional change that you want to see take place. Spend 15 minutes a day cultivating the habit and you are on your way toward developing a rhythm.

Work your new routine into the fabric of your daily lives and then, once everyone is comfortable and your time is flowing smoothly, add in something new.

Take your time. Tweak. Tinker.

There is no time-crunch here, no deadline. Layer things in as you need them, take them away as you don’t. These ideas are just the seeds, the rhythm that grows from them will be unique to your family.

Above all, keep it simple.

As we head back to school, what changes do you need to make in your family’s routine? Can you break them down into smaller steps?

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. So many useful posts, lately, Kara! We need to work on our morning routine. Although my son Finn gets up between 5:30 and 6, it seems like we’re always rushed to get out the door, particularly if we’re trying to leave by 9 or earlier. When preschool starts in Septemeber, we’ll need to leave the house shortly after 8am. We’ve gotten in to the bad habit of lounging around and enjoying some leisurely coffee/milk time when we first come downstairs. I’m going to focus on cutting back our lounging time and getting dressed earlier.
    Cara´s latest post: The Dailies- My Daily Cleaning List

  2. This is an excellent reminder. Thank you! I know I often want to lay it all out and jump in. But it doesn’t often work out very well that way 🙂

    Sometimes it’s hard to be patient and let these things grow and develop slowly!
    Stacy @ Delighting in the Days´s latest post: Kiss Vicks Goodbye – DIY Chest Rub

  3. The bedtime is the one I’m working on with my daughter, and carving out time for reading books for me. Thanks for the encouragement.
    Janna @ Mommy’s Piggy TALES – Record YOUR Youth´s latest post: Hair and Clothes My 8th Grade Year- How Fashion Betrays Us

  4. what a great post! I love the “small steps” mentality in the routine arena because it is so easy to get overwhelmed. Thanks for the practical suggestions.

  5. great ideas. my worst is doing the dishes. i even have a dishwasher but they pile up and then its a huge chore. just 5 minutes a meal, I think I can do that.

  6. Nice! How we did it is work our way into the backbone of our schedule first. Nail down the most important parts for us. Then we moved on to flesh it out. I think it’s true that trying to bite off everything at once is too overwhelming.
    Joseph Nally´s latest post: Increase Money- Time- etc by Giving

  7. This is a great post! I had a friend suggest this same idea to me recently and I’ve really taken it to heart. I’ve started trying to do as much as possible the night before – even taking my shower after the kids are in bed and laying out everything for breakfast, and especially making sure lunches are made if the kids have school or camp. It makes the morning go so much more smoothly, which makes the whole day go more smoothly!
    Kelly Coyle DiNorcia´s latest post: Sunday Link Love

  8. This is great! Would you allow us to include this in our email Homeschool newsletter? We would of course credit you.


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