By Lisa Edwards, Parent Coach
Children crave routine. In fact, not only children crave routine, but adults do too. It does wonders for our mental health and keeps us feeling safe, secure and brings a sense of comfort. We need to know what to expect. School is a great environment for kids because things are scheduled to the minute and they can predict what is to come next. That is why, when they are not in school, you will see many children struggle. When left wondering and thinking about what next, the anxiety levels raise. Also, without a schedule, you may end up not being productive which can lead to hours in front of the TV or a device which can lead to depression and loneliness. It is paramount that parents are building routine for children when they are not in school.
9 Fundamental Tips to Building Routine
- Bedtime and Wake Up Time – If your children get up early for school, it is easy to start letting them sleep in, and stay up later. Especially if you have teenagers in the house. If you don’t have school or set activities, it is still important to keep a consistent schedule for your body. It doesn’t have to be the same hours as when in school. The best part is they can follow their natural rhythm a little bit more. For instance I have one child who likes to stay up late and sleep late, while the other is an early riser and tends to go to bed earlier too. But, we try to keep it consistent from day to day so they aren’t sleeping until noon one day and getting up at 6:30am the next.
- Meals – Keeping a schedule with meals is key. Many tend to eat out of boredom. And it is easy to one day eat a late lunch and then find yourself not ready to eat at dinner time and pretty soon, you are just eating at random times or even grazing all day long. Try to keep consistency with when breakfast, lunch and dinner are. If you need to, set a time for an afternoon snack for the kids. One friend of mine has a 3 o’clock snack for her kids. This keeps them from constantly asking for food all day and the parent having to monitor their food intake.
- Exercise – If there is no routine, one of the first things to go is exercise. The USDA recommends children participate in 60 minutes of activity every day. Activity can be infused with work or play, but establishing a time when you will exercise or be active, makes sure that you have gotten your full amount in. It can be done all at once or broken into multiple chunks spread throughout the day.
- Chores/Work – Keep a list of things you want to accomplish. Choose 1-2 (or more) things from the list that you hope to accomplish each day. This keeps everyone feeling productive. Chores are great for kids to learn about independent living skills, and daily routines can include daily chores such as making your bed, emptying the trash can, etc. Read more about having your children to chores here.
- Creative Time – Kids need time to be creative. We have a creative hour in our house so that every day our kids partake in an activity of their choosing where they are stimulating their creative brain. Our daughter specifically likes to participate in activities around art, such as drawing, painting, or crafts. Our son, enjoys other activities like building with legos, creating battlefields for his army men, etc. My husband and I each participate as well, in activities such as baking or building in the woodshop. It is important for kids to see this modeled by parents. Now, some of you may think that creativity should be done without a device or technology. I disagree and find that technology can be used as a tool to inspire or support the creativity. We have spent time as a family discussing what consuming information on a device looks like, and what creativity looks like. Some great activities for creation are creating your own graphic novel, or making videos to upload to their own YouTube channel. Kids can also be creative in the outdoors and you can read more about that here.
- Reading – The one skill you should always include whether kids are in school or not, is reading. This is the number one activity that will have an impact. We always schedule time for reading. Our time is generally scheduled right before bed (so we can turn devices off and help our brain reset.) But I find my children often taking time in the middle of the day to relax with a book, or even read a novel on their device. We as parents spend time reading news online too.
- Family Time – It doesn’t hurt to actually schedule in a time where the entire family can be together. This can be over meal times, but also for a fun activity. Our family found that meal times were getting short, only about 15 minutes together for eating. So we extended that time, and now we prepare the meal together too. This usually gives us a solid 30 minutes of family time. Another great activity is to spend time playing games or watching a TV show that connects us all. Check out this article on having kids help in the kitchen.
- Alone Time– Everyone needs alone time. Schedule in a break for everyone and give them the opportunity to pick something that is going to make them feel relaxed and reenergized.
- Stay flexible – Although you may have the perfect schedule on paper, unlike school, it is difficult and unrealistic to think that you will be planned to the minute. There are no bells to tell us when first period is over. Instead, stay flexible, and know that different activities may come up. It is all about a healthy balance.
If you build a schedule for your children, and you stick to it, you will find that your children will feel comforted knowing what may be coming. This keeps a sense of safety and security that all children crave. Good luck!
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