Collaboratively Creating Morning and Evening Routines

DSCN49732Earlier this week we shared our love of routines and now we are excited to begin sharing the details of the ones we are most fond of with you! We knew we wanted to kick things off by discussing morning and evening routines. We feel that by implementing a basic structure for our children to follow when beginning and ending their day we have helped them feel comfort and security, seen them master basic life skills and become more independent. Even better, is the fact that this all came while we decreased battles and reduced chaos during what are usually two of the craziest times of the day. There is a lot to love about that!

When implementing these routines in our homes, we felt there were two things that really helped contribute to our success. The first was a visual, i.e. a chart or checklist, and the second was a plan to ensure our children knew their feelings and opinions were considered and included as the new systems were put into place. So today we are sharing a simple idea that incorporates both of these things…routine charts that you create collaboratively with your children. These are an easy and straightforward way to get the routines for your family established and displayed so you can start reaping the benefits we mentioned above. Below Christie wrote up 4 different variations of this activity based on the age of the child you will be doing it with.

Ages 0 – 24 months

I want to make sure we included this age group when discussing posted routines. Obviously children this young won’t be referring to the documented schedule, but I found it beneficial to have a written record of the sequence of events my babies relied on for comfort prepared and printed for the times I was away. I felt better knowing this would help them avoid unnecessary stress from having their routine interrupted while I was gone.

I also want to ensure the importance of considering and respecting the feelings and opinions of children this young is not over-looked. There are some simple and wonderful ways I feel you can collaborate with your baby as you move through your routines together. Consider asking their permission before doing things like massaging them or changing their diaper. Try calmly talking them through all the steps of your routine. For example, before placing your baby in a bath, simply let them know that is what is going to happen next. Finally, try to verbally acknowledge their different emotions. If they seem fussy while you change or dress them, let them know you hear their protests and are moving quickly so you can pick them up and comfort them.

Ages 2-5 years

photo-55For children in this age group, I have found a printed routine sheet with photos of the items they need to do each morning and night works best. By using pictures you create a chart that gives them the opportunity to see for themselves exactly what needs to be done each day. This eliminates the need for a grown-up to help read the chart so children do not feel they are being “told” what to do. The other thing that I feel is important for the routines used with this age is that they include a few basic and age-appropriate chores like putting clothes in the hamper and dishes in the sink. I really believe that the younger you begin to have children help with simple household chores, the better. It is never too early to begin to instill in them the message that it is required for all members of your family to help with the tasks that are needed for your home to run smoothly. It is also a great way to help them realize they are important contributors to your family.photo-56

There were several simple ways Kellie included her 2 and 5 year-olds in the routine making process. First, after discussing with them the tasks that they were going to be responsible for, she asked them to help demonstrate exactly how they would do each of them so she could take a photo. After she printed the photos she allowed the girls to tape them on themselves. Finally, she had them personalize the charts by decorating them however they chose. By having children help assemble and decorate the routines it helps them feel like this was something that you created together instead of leaving them to feel like this was a routine that you created for them.

Ages 6-11 years

For this age group I think a printed chart that gives a basic but clear description of items they need to complete is ideal. In addition to simple self-care tasks and daily chores, I feel children of this age are now ready to learn the skill of thinking ahead about what they need to do to be prepared and organized. It is beneficial to add a few simple things for them to do each evening to help better prepare for the morning rush.

DSCN4949While creating this year’s edition of our morning and evening routines with my 10, 9 and 8 year-old kids, I wanted to help them feel like the process was something they were a part of and not just subjected too.  I did this by providing the list of activities I felt should be included in their routines, but I had them decide the order in which they wanted to complete the tasks. They also really enjoyed getting to personalize their charts with stickers and markers.

Ages 12 years and up

This is an age group that neither of us have experience parenting just yet, but since I have only about a year until I get there with my daughter I put some thought into how I will want to help update her routines next year. Once children reach this age, it is important to focus on the fact that you are in the final stages of helping them prepare to completely care for themselves as adults. As they make more and more of their decisions independently from you, I feel that it would be advantageous to add some specific healthy habits focusing on sleep, exercise and nutrition to their routine. Simple examples of things that can be added are; specific waking and lights out times, monitoring daily water intake or fruit and veggie consumption, or getting some form of physical activity daily.

With children in this age group I think it would be beneficial to give them a large sense of ownership in establishing their routine. Instead of providing them a written list of the tasks you would like them to complete, you could sit down for a brainstorming session together on the items that each of you feel should be included. While you are meeting you could also briefly discuss what they hope to achieve for themselves during the year and the items that could be added to their routine to support this. By this age they can fully grasp the concept that they are really taking control of their own life, so it is important for them to realize their routine can help them accomplish the things they desire for themselves in terms of health, athletics, academics, etc.

We hope the information provided in this post has given you some age-appropriate ideas on how you can collaborate with your children to implement morning and evening routines in your home.

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Reducing Chaos With Routines

Today I was looking at my calendar and I realized there were exactly 4 weeks until school starts for our family. While I fully intend to soak up every single second the less scheduled, homework free, outing filled summer has to offer; the rapidly approaching start of a new school year gets me excited to share about one of our families most valued tools for clarifying our chaos…routines. Honestly, I love routines all year-long, but there is something I find especially comforting about examining and adapting our most important family management systems as we transition away from the relaxed pace of summer into the busyness of the school year.

Over the next few weeks, Kellie and I look forward to sharing more detail on the routines that have benefited our families. We plan to post on child directed routine sheets, meal planning and preparation, discussion points to talk with your children about the importance of routines, chores and more!!

RoutinesOne of the things I love about routines is that they have been instrumental in helping my children successfully master necessary life skills. Creating morning and evening routines revolving around self-care, proper nutrition and simple organization has increased their personal sense of competence in each of these areas. Also, I feel reassured knowing our current routines are helping me raise children who will know how to properly care for themselves as young adults.

Routines have also helped alleviate power struggles in our home.   For example, my husband used to have a very difficult time getting the kids to choose snacks other than crackers and yogurt after school. They would want to eat only these items and would complain when directed to other choices. So that led us to create an after-school snack routine. They could choose one “non-produce” item and after that it was two fruits or veggies before they could have another. Once this family policy was put into place we kept it clear, predictable and enforced. It was just a short period of adjustment before our children began, for the most part,to quit protesting and accept that this is just how afternoon snack time works in our home.

Another benefit of routines is that they help my children feel a sense of security. There is so much that happens in their daily lives that they have no control over… will they have their regular teacher or a substitute at school, will there be conflict between kids in their class or at daycare, will we have an unexpected errand to run after work or school, etc. Having regular routines in place at home allow my children the opportunity to predict exactly how certain parts of every day will go. For example, my kids and I start every weekday morning eating breakfast together. This provides a reliable moment of closeness between the four of us before we all go out to deal with whatever the rest of our day may entail.

Finally, everyone in our house has profited from having routines in place for things like chores and meal planning. Involving my kids in these activities has helped teach them responsibility and the valuable lesson that in order to help family life run smoother, a little preparation and a lot of teamwork go a long way.

After reading the above I am sure you can see why I am excited to spend the next few weeks posting on routines. Kellie and I look forward to sharing ideas with you to help instill a sense of order and clarity in the midst of everyday chaos.