How to Create Flexible Family Routines

coloring Photo by Vince Alongi

Our family has enjoyed over two weeks of living life out of our normal routines.  We have spent entire days in our pajamas, we’ve stayed up late many nights and slept in quite a few mornings.  The housework has been neglected while games have been played.  It has been a delightful break from the ordinary.

As this first week of the new year begins, however, I am quite ready to get back into our normal rhythms and routines of life!

Some families find that lots of structure and a consistent schedule works wonderfully while other families like to keep things spontaneous.  As babies grow into toddlerhood and as toddlers become preschoolers, a sense of routine allows them to have a confidence that comes from knowing what comes next.  I will never be a person who can run my home by the clock, but I do know that we have very predictable routines that provide for stability and order while making way for lots of flexibility.

This topic came up recently in a parenting discussion forum, and one mother from Texas shared her ideas on some routines she wrote up for her family.  She wrote, “We do not follow this religiously, but it’s something I have on hand if I am noticing too much chaos/disorder, out of whack kiddos, shrieking/whining/boredom – then I tighten things up again. We also have “off” days where I pretty much do nothing but let them run around like wild creatures.”

With her permission, I am sharing her ideas on flexible routines:

Each morning, allow some time for waking up, a little snack or drink, perhaps a morning TV program – whatever works best for your family.

8:00 AM
Mommy Officially Awake
Breakfast
Get Dressed
Brush Teeth
Brush Hair

9:00
Kitchen/Dining clean up
Small Motor Activity at table (see ideas below)

10:00
Snack
Outside – Nature/Large Motor Activity OR Foray (see ideas below)

12:00 PM
Lunch
Clean Up Lunch

12:30
Toddler Nap
Reading/Workbook
Computer game

1:30
Free Play – Indoor Small/Large Motor/Sensory (see ideas below)

3:00
Snack
Art/ Music OR Foray

4:00
Outside – Nature/Large Motor/Sensory (see ideas below)

5:00
Bath

5:30
Dinner Prep & TV Show

6:00
Dinner
Free Play

7:00
Clean Living Area
Clean Bedrooms
Bedtime Routine

7:30
Bedtime

Forays
Library
Playgroup
Church
Groceries
Park
Daddy Outing
Splash Pad
Children’s Museum

The Arts
Puppets
Arts/Crafts
Musical Instruments
Classical Music
Folk Songs
Hymns

Reading
Poetry
Books
Foreign Language
Bible
Nursery Rhymes

Indoor -Small Motor
Color
Paint
Paste
Cut/tear paper
Clay
Building blocks
Puzzles
Stringing beads
Lacing Cards
Pouring
Bubbles

Indoor – Large Motor
Dance
Chase
Hide and seek
Tag

Indoor – Sensory
Playdough
Shaving cream

Outdoor – Nature
Woods adventure
I Spy
Collection for nature box
Journal
Scavenger Hunt

Outdoor – Large Motor
Run
Walk dog
Games
Sports
Trampoline

Outdoor – Sensory
Sand
Water

Of course, the general structure of the daily routine and the activities are just suggestions. Each family will know what works best for them.  As this very wise mama shared, some days we may just need some ideas on how to answer the question, “Now what?”  (I want to say thank you again to this generous mama for sharing her ideas with us!)

For more suggestions on sensory activities, check out the article 99 Sensory Activities For Any Child from Mommy Poppins.

What do routines look like for your family? Do you tend to be more structured or less structured? How do you get your family back on track after many days of being out of routine?