What is a routine?
A schedule or flow chart of activities for the day. A flexible plan for how you will allot your time and energies that will allow you to be organised, achieve what you want and need to achieve and ensure that your family’s social, emotional, cognitive, physical and spiritual needs are met.
Why have a routine?
Having a flexible routine helps us as busy Mothers to achieve what we need to do within the time that we have available. It means that all those things that we want to do or mean to do but just never seem to get around to, will actually happen. It helps us to apportion our time where it should be, not where it just happens to be used. Routines stop the “tyranny of the urgent” continuously pushing aside other important things that should be happening but just aren’t. They help us to arrive at the end of our day without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
The house will be tidier, with the trail of destruction left behind by the children virtually eliminated and the necessity to say “no” continuously throughout the day very much reduced. You will be able to set aside time to spend with God, time for yourself, time to cook and clean without continuous interruptions and time for a myriad of other activities.
The afternoon crazy hour will be smoother and you can plan to proactively train your children in the character and behaviour that you want them to have. Having a flexible routine will enable you to cultivate a calm and orderly household (most of the time!) with a flow of activity that meets everyone’s needs, keeps up with the chores and trains children to willingly complete their own responsibilities with a good attitude.
Routines provide stability and security to our children and help them to relax, knowing what will happen throughout the day. Behavioural problems are reduced as they know what is expected, choices are appropriately managed and there will be less whining for Mum’s attention because they know that there are planned times in the day for this to happen.
Planning the day means that siblings spend less time bickering, arguing and annoying each other and spend planned quality time together instead. The looser your child’s daily schedule is, the more opportunities there are for problem times. Obviously you do need to be flexible and activities will change from day-to-day, but if you have several planned independent times when children spend time by themselves, you can fit in what you need to do as well. It will also be invaluable when a sibling comes along and the toddler is no longer the only child and focus of attention.
What do I include?
Every family is unique with a variety of needs and will assign their time according to these needs. Spend a day or two writing down exactly how you spend your time now and approximately how much time each activity takes. Seeing how we currently spend our time in black and white can be a very eye-opening experience. It allows us to see where we waste our time and when we use it on the less important things to the detriment of the important.
A routine for a child should include time with you, time near you, family time and independent play times when they are alone in a safe place.
Specific activities to include:
- time with God – daily devotions and prayer time
- your shower and dressing time
- nap times
- morning routine (start time, what the children have the freedom to do when they wake)
- evening bedtimes routine (teeth, stories, bible time, prayer, singing etc.)
- meal and snack times, including baby’s feeds
- room time or quiet time for older children
- playpen time (introduction, starting late & toys)
- highchair time (introducing highchair time, playdough, teddy food play, pasta play, commercial activities, ideas for babies)
- table time (introducing table activities, table activity ideas, felt boards )
- regular outings or commitments (school drop-offs, Mum’s groups, food shopping etc.)
- exercise for you
- date nights with your spouse
- bath time
- couch time (Mummy and Daddy talk time)
- circle time
- family devotions (Joel Beeke, children who stand against the crowd)
- chores and household responsibilities; yours and the children’s (chores and responsibility, different systems, kids bedroom how-to)
- focus time (time with Mum or Dad one on one)
- mat time (introduction, on the go)
- outdoor time (water play, more water play)
- structured play times with older and younger sibling pairs
- sit time (reading: good for when child first wakes or immediately after meals.)
- TV/video (limited time & planned approved show)
- free time/independent play times in set area eg. toy centre, playroom, baby in bouncer/doughnut/activity gym/jolly jumper
- family time; whole family (family nights, beanbag wars)
- play dates
(I’ll be adding more links from this list as I post about these individual components of a flexible routine)
Managers of Their Homes by Teri Maxwell is a very thorough, well thought out scheduling manual that goes through every part of scheduling, from what to include to how to actually plan a routine that will suit you and your family. It is written from the point of view of a homeschooling Mother of many, however regardless of whether you only have one baby or toddler at home or many, or whether your children attend school or are homeschooled, this resource will help you to put a plan into place.
Terrific Toddlers by Mel Hayde is another brilliant resource for all things toddler related and flexible routine planning and implementation is well covered. My must have resources for every Mother of 1 to 4 year olds.