Creating Routine with Little Ones

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Photo by David Clow

By Emily McClements, Contributing Writer

If you’re anything like me, you may have read in books, watched on a Nanny show, or read posts on blogs about creating a routine for your children.  It all sounds so wonderful to have perfectly planned out days where you are super productive, spend lots of quality time with your children and spouse, and even end up being able to pursue hobbies or interests for yourself.

And then, if you’re anything like me, you tried to create a perfect plan and then got super discouraged and frustrated when your first few days on the new plan didn’t create the results you were expecting.  So, you may have given up on having any kind of a routine at all.  This is basically how I operated up until a few months ago.

I have 2 young kiddos and from the beginning I wanted desperately to get them on a “schedule”.  After each of my babies was born, I would write down when they slept and when they ate to try to figure out what their “natural” schedule was.  Neither of my kids fell into a routine on their own.  In fact, I tried and tried for several months and had such a hard time getting my youngest onto a schedule, and then when I finally implemented a routine for his older sister, his routine fell right into place.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

If you’re a new mama, or new to having a routine for your days, you may feel a little bit overwhelmed with how to get started with a schedule or routine – I know I did. And this can be especially true when you have young children and no two days are ever the same.

monkey pants little boy

Photo by juhansonin

Here are a few ideas that I used in creating a routine for my days:

1. List Ideas. Write down some ideas for what you want to do with your kids on a regular basis.  When I was first trying to come up with a plan, I had a hard time deciding what it was I actually wanted to do.  Over the course of about a week, if we would do something fun or productive, I would write it down.  I kept of list of things I wanted to try to incorporate into our days.

Some of my ideas included things like doing “yoga” with my daughter in the morning, time for me to clean up after meals, doing a kitchen task with my daughter, cleaning up toys and then reading books before naps, and time outside when it’s nice out.

2. Take Notes. When you have a day that goes really well and things run smoothly (not like those happen all that often!) write it down.  Take note of the schedule or routine that you followed for that day, and why you think it worked well for you and your kiddos.

3. Start with Less. When you are finally ready to make your first schedule or routine, less is more.  Try not to fill every minute or even every 15 minutes of time.  Use 1 or even 2 hour chunks of time for what you want to do, that way you won’t feel pressured or stressed when your routine is off a little – which it definitely will be, but that okay!  If you need an example, here’s our routine that we try to follow most days.

4. Tweak It. I’m still tweaking my routine on a regular basis.  There are some things that after trying them for a while, I decided weren’t really a necessary part of our routine.  And I have added things along the way too.  The key to adding things to your routine is to do it slowly and only add one new thing at a time.

5. Give Yourself Grace. You will have days that look nothing like the routine that you have down on paper.  You will have days were it takes you all day to accomplish what you usually have done by lunchtime. It’s okay.  Be flexible. What’s important to remember is that routines give you a guideline for your days and help your little ones to know what to expect, but that doesn’t mean if you get off that the routine isn’t working for you.  As you work at implementing your routine, eventually most of your days will look a lot like your plan on paper, and most is better than none at all.

Routines are a great way for us as mamas to give consistency to our days and to our families.  They are great for helping us to be productive and get the things done that we need to around our homes. If you don’t have a routine in place, I would encourage you to try it out and see what works best for you.  Having a good routine can help us be the wives and mothers that God has called us to be.

Do you have a routine in place for your days?  How does it help you in your role as wife, mother and home manager?

About Emily McClements

Emily is a blessed wife and mama to three little ones. She is passionate about caring for God’s creation and people by being a good steward of the resources He has provided. As part of her journey towards living more “frugally green” she blogs about the things she is learning and the changes she is making at Live Renewed.

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Comments

  1. Babywise has been linked with failure to thrive in infants, Amy. The AAP has come out with a statement warning against putting babies on a schedule. http://www.ezzo.info

  2. Great post, Emily! I really like the idea to keep notes of days and routines that worked well. That is something that I have never thought to do, but I’m sure it would be so helpful! Some days really do flow smoothly, and others just don’t. I want to know WHY! :)

    Also, so good that you mentioned to keep tweaking things, and to give yourself grace. I couldn’t agree more!
    .-= Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s last blog ..Forum Highlights: March/April =-.

  3. Sorry, here is the website for the Christian alternative to yoga:
    http://www.praisemoves.com/christianalternative.htm

    • @Amy,

      Hi Amy,
      Thanks for the link. I looked at it a little bit and would agree that you have to be very careful about the religious/New Age aspects of yoga. What I do with my daughter are stretches that are loosely based on yoga and it’s mostly just to work on her balance and large muscle movements. I did find it interesting the part about calling something like stretching, “yoga”, with children, and how that can open up the door for some of the dangers of yoga later in the child’s life. I will definitely think about calling what we do something different than yoga, maybe just simply “stretching time”. Again thanks for the information!
      .-= Emily @ Live Renewed´s last blog ..Creating Routine with Little Ones =-.

  4. Hi! I have 2 little ones as well and a consistent schedule has always worked well for us. We follow Babywise when setting an initial schedule, so they establish good sleep and wake cycles. Works great.

    I noticed that you do “yoga” with your daughter. Here is a Christian alternative to yoga and an explanation of the dangers of yoga. Thanks for posting!

    Your Sister In Christ,
    Amy

  5. We do have a routine. Now that my oldest can read really well, I also gave her a routine, on paper, since she asked for one. It really helps me since she knows what is next. For younger kids, I’ve heard of doing this in a picture form. I do this right now for morning routines and evening routines.

    One thing that has really helped me is that I don’t have specific times for things. I do have “ideal” times written down that things happen, and we do try to rise and go to bed and eat meals at the same times each day. But otherwise things just happen in order. This means that if interuptions happen (and they do!) then we just go to the “next thing” in the routine, even if its “off” by half an hour (or more!).

  6. This is an excellent post. I believe that children thrive on routine, however, I don’t define routine as every minute accounted for during the day…I think that would be very hard.
    I liked what you said about giving yourself grace…it’s so true with young children.
    I was struggling with this until reading the book “Heaven on Earth”. It is not from a Christian perspective, (just so you know, more on Waldorf education and New Age spiritualism…but that aside…)the author talked about a ‘busy’ day for a young child is the normal routine of:
    Sleep/wake
    breakfast
    freeplay
    ((activity:park? 1 store? zoo?))
    lunch
    quiet time/naptime
    snack
    freeplay
    dinner
    bath/bed time routine

    Just seeing that made a lightbulb go off in my head that WOW! ONE activity is PLENTY for small children! I had just been trying to fit in way to much, and it was stressing everyone out! After implementing this idea, we do put “something” on the calendar every day whether it’s park time or a bike ride or what have you, but my entire family has been much more relaxed more than ever.
    Great post!
    Sarah M
    .-= Sarah M´s last blog ..Virtual Book Club: The River of Doubt By Candice Millard =-.

    • @Sarah M,

      Thanks Sarah!
      I really like that idea of having one planned activity for the day – even if it is just something like playing outside – it doesn’t necessarily have to involve going somewhere. We do that now while my son takes his morning nap. Once he’s down to one nap a day it will be easier to go out and do activities. It will be good to remember though that one per day is enough.