On track!

 5 Tips for keeping your child to schedule

With the new school year coming up, getting younger children into a good routine pays dividends for learning, not to mention everyone’s peace of mind. Here are 5 tips from Krista Harper that will help parents of children in your class get things off on the right foot.

 The importance of schedules

When it comes to your child, schedules are important as they set routine. Routine is how your child learns time management skills, plan and understand the future, and builds self-confidence. But, let’s not forget, schedules are also important for you. Your life may already be busy, but when you have a child that means you are adding school, extracurricular activities, and there is always a couple additional steps to anything you are trying to do in your life.

Here are five tips that will help you keep your child on a schedule.
  1. Have a family meeting

Depending on the age of your child, discussion around the week’s activities and when they occur may not resonate. That’s because time is different to a child. For example, time may begin with an understanding of “lunch time” or “nap time” before moving onto the seasons. However, months, weeks, days, and actual clock time may not make sense until after your child is six or older.

One way to help your child understand the concept of time is to use calendars and counting the days to an event. Children can count much earlier in life than they can tell time. So, by counting they have a better understanding and know that in “three” they will spend the night at grandma’s house. A family meeting will help prepare your child to have open discussion, plan events, and problem solve.

This is a great way for your child to feel involved in the process. Family meetings can begin as young a two-years-old when your child first begins to understand and communicate some recognition of time. For a younger child you may discuss events such as lunch and bedtime, for an older child you may discuss school and extracurricular events.


  1. Set a plan

Many parents like to take note of activities and either plan it out in their head or wing-it. This may make sense to the parent, but for a child this can be confusing as they need to figure out what is going on without any preparation or context. Especially for children under five, it is important that the child understand what is going to happen and how something is going to happen. A break from routine or a new situation can lead to sadness, lack of comfort, confusion, and an array of emotion.

Setting a plan doesn’t need to be detailed out by the minute, however, prioritizing events is helpful and will allow your child to more easily understand why certain things are done before others. A good example is nighttime snack, brush teeth, put on pajamas.


  1. Establish routine

Setting a plan and following through on your plan is how positive habits are formed. When a child has the ability to understand the steps of a process, they gain confidence. The confidence learned during routine helps your child feel comfortable handling tasks on their own such as following a bedtime routine without a parent’s assistance.

An excellent place to establish routine is at bedtime when there are few distractions or deviations from the norm of daily life. A bedtime routine may be something like:

  • Nighttime snack
  • Bath
  • Brush teeth
  • Put on pajamas
  • Cuddle and read a book
  • Light’s out

A good nighttime routine will slowly ease your child to bed with each step less active than the prior. Developing a routine at night not only helps your child create time management skills and confidence, but will allow your child to feel secure as they sleep and therefore create sleep habits that are important both for child and parent.


  1. Allow your child to be heard

When a parent has a plan in place or sees that a plan is working, they become very toddler-ish in allowing for change. Sure, it’s good to re-enforce positive routine, however, as your child ages and becomes more confident in their routine they will also become more confident in vocalizing their opinions. This is a positive thing.

As your child begins to make suggestions – such as when they are five and they WILL make suggestions – sit down with your child and acknowledge their opinion. Sometimes you’ll need to push back such as when your child wants to eat chocolate after light’s out (trust us, this will be a topic). Other times your child may surprise you and suggest brushing teeth after putting on pajamas, or request to wear underwear at night instead of pull-ups. While some suggestions may be more comfortable to you than others, it is important to praise your child for offering a good suggestion.


  1. Plan ahead

In nearly every step of keeping your child on schedule there is room for planning ahead. Planning ahead allows a process to flow smoothly with little effort. For example, by having breakfast prepared when your child wakes up allows your child to go directly from bed to breakfast without distractions that can lead to confusion and lack of morning motivation.

By having clothes picked out and bags packed the night before there is less time involved in making last-minute decisions (or indecisiveness), especially when you may be pressed for time.

Keeping your child on a schedule is important in building important life skills. From the social discussion involved in a family meeting, to understanding the importance of planning ahead and even making positive adjustments your child will benefit through a better understanding of time management, decision making, and gaining self-esteem.



Krista Harper

“Krista Harper is a freelance writer from Southern California. She is a former elementary school teacher and mother to two adorable kids. She regularly covers lifestyle, education, and health topics and has a passion for helping others create balance in their lives.”



Feature Image:  ThePixelman – Pixabay

Other Images: rustic-vegan-HNlX7p_dn9Q – Unsplash, Picsea – Unsplash & sweetlouise – Pixabay

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For further reading about establishing routines in any household, see: