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How to Get Your Kid Involved in a Planning a Routine *Before* School Starts

Back in the day, summer vacation meant camp, hanging out with other kids, swimming in public pools, and theme parks. This summer, on the other hand, looks like lots of unstructured time, and for most of us, lots of screen time.

I realized recently that my own family was lacking in the structure I know helps everyone. (When all the days blend together and the only way your kid can connect socially with other kids is by playing Minecraft while on FaceTime, you start to slip a bit on structured screen time.)

But as we get closer to back-to-school time — whatever that ends up looking like — one of the big concerns weighing on me and other parents is how we avoid the living hell that was distance learning in the Spring. In our house, every day started with a ride on the Struggle Bus. Lots of complaining, frustration, tears, and anger (usually directed at me, the terrible-math-student-turned-terrible-common-core-math-teacher).

The only saving grace in Spring was our routine, which (thanks to living with a former teacher) mimicked the classroom a bit. It broke up the day between "home" time and "school time" with physical activity — usually a walk around the neighborhood.

Routine Chart and weekly calendar

Today I want to share how you can prepare for back-to-school in the time of coronavirus by getting your kid involved with creating the routine, and how to make sure they're consistent with it.

Why Your Kid Has to Help Plan the Routine

Kids don’t like being told what to do all the time, and the only way we can get them to consistently follow the schedule without a fight is by getting their buy-in.

Kid cutting routine options

When it comes to routine, that means you decide what needs to be done, and they choose the order it can be done in. That way, they feel like they had some control over what their day looks like, and they're way more likely to actually do it.

Step-by-Step Planning

But before we involve them, let’s get prepared by deciding what, exactly, you need to have in the routine. After that, we’ll put each item on a small piece of paper and have the kids help us arrange them.

Child arranging routine options to help with consistency in following the schedule

If you're just starting out with structure after a few weeks (or months) with nothing, just create a Morning and Evening routine, and leave the stuff in the middle a bit loose until you get closer to school time. 

Tip: Make sure you involve physical activity as a way to anchor routines. This is done in schools and is proven to help kids concentrate and pay attentionIt breaks up the day between morning and day (and day and evening). We usually do a walk around the neighborhood.

 

Example routine for kids 2 - 4

Morning

Evening

Wake up

Go Potty

Get Dressed

Eat Breakfast

Brush Your Teeth

Brush Your Hair

Walk together

Evening walk

Go Potty

Bathtime

Put on Pajamas

Brush Teeth

Read Together

Bedtime



Example routine for ages 5 - 7 

Morning

Evening

Wake up

Go Potty

Get Dressed

Eat Breakfast

Brush Your Teeth

Brush Your Hair

Put Backpack by the Front Door

Screentime

Evening walk/bike ride

Go Potty

Bathtime

Put on Pajamas

Brush Teeth

Floss Teeth

Read Together

Bedtime

 

Example routine for ages 8 - 12

Morning

Evening

Wake up

Go Potty

Get Dressed

Eat Breakfast

Brush Your Teeth

Brush Your Hair

Pack lunch

Put Backpack by the Front Door

Screentime

Evening walk/bike ride

Put Completed Homework in Backpack

Go Potty

Bathtime

Put on Pajamas

Brush Teeth

Floss Teeth

Read Together

Bedtime

 

Step-by-Step:

  1. Decide what needs to be in the routine
  2. Write each one on a piece of paper (or download this free printable), and leave a few extra pieces blank so your kids can add anything they think you've missed. Pre-readers can do this too! Just use something that's easy for them to grasp, like this magnetic routine chart.
  3. Tell your older kids, "I want us to all be happy and healthy, and I read online that one big way to do that is by making sure we do the same things in the morning and the same things in the evening every day. Let's figure out what those things are together." Tell your younger kids, "here are the things we need to do in the morning! Let's decide how to do it together."
  4. Say, "here are the things I thought we could start with, but if you think I missed anything, we have some blank pieces, too." Let your child arrange the order.

    Include blank pieces of paper so your child can suggest things to do in their routine

  5. Once they're done, take a picture of the finished product and turn it into something cute.

If your child has a learning difference like ADHD, hang the routine in lots of places. In our house, it's in the living room, my daughter's bathroom, and the kitchen. 

Routine chart and calendar

How to Get Them to Actually Stick to a Routine Without Nagging

In short, timers are your BFF. I have a love-hate relationship with our Alexa, but one of the reasons I love her is that she's a stand-in for me in the nagging department.

Once we created the routine and hung it on the wall, I asked my daughter when she thought she should start her morning routine. She decided that she should be able to watch 20 minutes of YouTube on her iPad, so I used the Screen Time setting to limit the app to 20 minutes, but you can also use parental control apps.

In your house, you might set an actual time (like 9 a.m. for example) using an alarm on Alexa or your child's device. 

The key to their consistency is your consistency, and setting alarms on devices means you don't forget, either!


If you’ve found this helpful, please SHARE it with the parents and teachers you know! My goal is to help kids cope with uncertainty, especially when it comes to big hard things — like going back to school during a coronavirus pandemic.

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher is the Founder + CEO of Mighty + Bright. She's a young cancer survivor, mom, and former single mom.

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