How often are your mornings a blur of half-dressed kids, scattered toys, and breakfasts half-eaten? Ever find yourself frantically searching for backpacks, shoes, and lunchboxes, all while trying to finish just one cup of coffee?
If this scene sounds familiar, we’ve got good news: It doesn’t have to be this way.
It may sound suspiciously simple, but a well-planned daily schedule can be a true game-changer for your child (and your sanity).
Children don’t have to be whirlwinds of chaos. In fact, kids need daily schedules to thrive during transitions in childhood.1 With a little help—such as a visual schedule to follow—children are more cooperative than you might expect when it comes to sticking to a daily plan.
Here, we’ll cover some tips on creating a daily schedule for kids that works.
Why are Daily Routines Important for Kids?
Before setting up that daily planner, let’s take a moment to understand why routines are so vital for children.
You likely have firsthand experience with one classic example of the importance of a daily routine: Bedtime. It’s crucial to keep bedtime predictable and on schedule, for both you and your child. This probably took patience, time, and care, but now your child’s brain and biorhythms naturally respond to the signs that it’s time to wind down and sleep without a nightly struggle.
The same goes for any daily schedule. Just as your child learned to sleep more peacefully thanks to a comforting bedtime routine, a predictable daily routine for kids eases anxiety, helps with self-regulation, and builds a sense of familiarity.1
Routines aren’t about rigidly controlling every moment of your child’s day. For one thing, a healthy routine should include plenty of free and independent play time. It’s about providing a reassuring framework that allows them to thrive and explore, while also knowing what their boundaries are and what’s expected of them.
Benefits of Establishing a Daily Schedule for Kids
Creating a simple daily schedule for your child does much more than simply ensuring that everyone brushes their teeth and gets to bed on time. It’s about nurturing their social-emotional skills, encouraging healthy habits, and helping them navigate the world with confidence, even when you’re not by their side.
Teaching your child to follow a daily schedule can help with2:
- Fostering a sense of stability and safety – Children find comfort in knowing what to expect. When the daily schedule is consistent, older kids and toddlers alike feel safe and secure. And that means a calmer, less anxiety-prone, and more cooperative child.
- Building independence – When your child knows what to do and when, they go from needing your guidance at every step (a factor in caregiver burnout), to proudly carrying out daily tasks on their own.
- Building confidence – Being able to do tasks by themselves helps your child see themselves as a capable individual, leading to more confidence and higher self-esteem.
- Time management skills– Kids aren’t born with the same sense of time adults have. Practicing a schedule helps children start building an understanding of how to budget their time for different tasks, and that’s a helpful skill to have when they start school.
Visual Daily Schedule Characteristics
Of course, a daily routine for kids will look a little different than an adult’s day planner. Kids need simple, clear visual elements to keep track of where they are in the day. You’ll need to practice their schedule with them first to build their understanding, then help them slowly learn to refer to the schedule on their own when they’re not sure what task comes next.
Here are some tips for setting up and using a visual schedule for kids:
- Use bright, clear images. Especially if your child is a toddler or preschooler, it’s important to keep the images in your schedule simple and eye-catching. For example, a toilet for going potty and an apple for snack time. The simplicity of our visual schedule is that it has one side for daytime and one for evening.
- Keep words minimal and reading-level appropriate. Visual schedules should rely on images, with short, simple phrases like “Go to school,” “Playtime” “Dinner,” etc. Lettering should be big and bold to help early readers recognize word shapes.
- Keep it consistent. Whether you choose laminated routine cards, a bulletin board, a whiteboard, or a wall hanging, stick with it. Your child will quickly build familiarity with the layout and learn to track where they are in the schedule of events.
Balancing Flexibility & Structure
Routines are incredibly beneficial for any age group, but we have to keep in mind that life isn’t always predictable. As caregivers, we need to model for our kids that free play in moderation is a good thing and that it’s okay when the unexpected happens and plans have to change.
- Model flexibility – Whether it’s a missed bus, a forgotten lunch, or a sick kid who needs to come home early, life happens. Try to pause and modulate your reaction before showing frustration or anxiety at changes in plans.
- Practice communication – Just like adults, kids handle change better when they’ve had time to prepare. Let them know when and why their schedule might change on a particular day.
- Have family discussions – Get your child involved when you create or change the schedule. Talk about what to include in their morning or evening routine. Wash your face and comb your hair before morning chores, or after? When kids feel ownership over their routine, they’re more likely to stick with it.
Schedule Time for Learning and Growth With Slumberkins
Once you’ve worked with your child to create a daily schedule that they understand and feel comfortable with, we think you’ll find your day-to-day filled with a lot more calm and a lot less chaos.
Slumberkins has lots of tools to help you build a healthy and happy routine, including our entire Routines Collection. Sloth is the perfect snuggly friend to teach your child that having a plan for the day is the best way to feel safe, calm, and confident. Visit our Caregiver Resources collection for activities and resources to build resilience, self-esteem, stress relief, and much more.
- Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. First things first: Family activities and routines, time management and attention. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0193397316301241
- Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. The importance of schedules and routines. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/article/importance-schedules-routines