With summer coming to a close, we are starting to think about getting back into a more consistent rhythm. My husband starts seminary classes on Monday and we are off to another full year.
With young children in the home, a routine of some type is extremely helpful. Not only does it help the days go more smoothly, but it is comforting to children to know what is coming next.
The type of routine you establish in your home depends largely on personality and individual circumstances. Some people like a more rigid, detailed schedule. Others prefer more fluidity. I am sharing today how we do things in our home, but please know that there are many, many ways to go about it. Finding what works for your family is key.
I quickly figured out that I did not want to live my life worrying about keeping up with a schedule that I had created. It has taken me some trial and error to find a balance between routine and fluidity that I am comfortable with. This is what is working for us now, but I know all to well that things like this can change very quickly as my children grow older or circumstances change.
I use three basic ideas in establishing the rhythm our days take. From there, there is a lot of variety and flexibility.
Rather than thinking in hours and minutes, I like to think in time blocks. This keeps me from feeling tied to the clock, while still having some direction in my day. With young children this is really valuable. I use this as a framework for the day without dictating exactly what takes place within those time blocks.
- Early morning. This is the time I take before the kids are awake. I typically get up early, but I never feel guilty staying in bed a little later if I went to bed late or I was up in the night with kids. I just make sure I am up before the kids are.
- Morning. The kids are usually up around 7:00. This morning time consists of breakfast, getting dressed, some household chores, and reading with Stefan. We are generally all together during this time. The kids help me with cleaning or play near me, and we do some learning activities together.
- Late morning. This is our most varied, flexible, creative time. Some of the things we do during this time include art or crafts, playing outside, having another mom over for a visit and some play time, a trip to the park for some time in nature, or alone creative play for the kids.
- Early afternoon. This is nap and rest time for the kids. Stefan does not sleep every day, but he still does some quiet play time. Often he and I will work on something together, but he usually does about an hour completely by himself quietly playing.
- Late afternoon. A lot of frustrating days have finally made me realize that this is not the time to send the kids off on their own. They are typically a little more needy by late in the day. We read together during this time, and then either they all come into the kitchen to help me with dinner, or I find a really fun, interesting activity to keep them occupied. This would be a great time for some more outside play, but in an apartment setting that isn’t always possible.
I think of anchor times as those things that send the message to my kids that we are changing gears. These are much more consistent and are pretty intact even if we otherwise change the day up.
Breakfast, lunch, and nap time are the obvious anchors. They know exactly what is happening and what is next.
Our other two anchors involve reading. When we transition from our morning to late morning activities, we usually have our book basket time. This is when the kids and I read books that they choose. In the afternoon, right after nap time, we read our chapter book read aloud while they eat a small snack.
Children love routines. While our whole day is not a consistent routine, we do have some moments in the day that are very routine.
Morning routine: Our morning follows a predictable pattern. We typically eat breakfast all together before Daddy heads out for the day. We normally eat our simple oatmeal breakfast by candlelight which is a nice quiet way to ease into the day. I don’t know how long we will do this, but for right now, it is a nice, simple tradition.
Transition to rest time: I have been reading the older two a couple of poems right before they go down for naps. This has been a great way to transition into naps while also giving me an opportunity to read poetry which is important to me.
Our evening routine is the most consistent. One way to help your kids transition to bedtime is to have a good routine in place. Brian takes most of the getting ready for bed duties (hurray for sharing parenting duties!). We then have our Bible time which consists of reading a story, saying our memorized Scripture passage, catechism, and singing. Then it is straight to bed.
While many of the specifics of the day change, our basic time blocks, anchors, and routines are pretty intact. This, for us, is a great balance between a schedule and flexibility. And you should know that I always feel free to switch it all up on occasion!
Do you have a more structured or flexible day in your home?