Create your schedule

In my last post, I discussed the many benefits of structuring your day. Here I will walk you through the steps of creating a schedule to establish peace and harmony in your home.

Look at my schedule
The following explanation will make more sense if you look at my schedule first. Got it? Now, back to reading.

Start with a blank document
Find a quiet time and sit down in front of the computer. Create a table in Word or Excel. If you’re comfortable with Word, use this document that I have created for you. (I use Excel, but WordPress wouldn’t let me upload a spreadsheet, so this should do.) If you’re using Excel or a piece of paper and pen, make three columns, one for the times of day, one for your child and one for you. Having a column for yourself is key to making your schedule work for you and keeping you on task. Add another column for any additional kids.

On the far left, write down the times of the day in 15-minute increments starting with the time you wake up and ending with the time you go to bed. Take heart, not every minute of your day will be scheduled, but starting with 15-minute increments will make it easier to create your schedule. If there is an activity that lasts an hour, for example, you can delete three of those 15-minute rows.

When filling in your schedule, you won’t go row by row. You will go activity by activity. Fill in your schedule in the following order.

Fixed activities
Start with any activities that have a fixed time, like school. Include the times your child starts school and the time he gets home.

Waking and sleeping
Your fixed activities might affect the time you need to wake up. So fill in the time you and your child wake up. Whether you need to be up at a certain time or not, waking up at the same time every day is key to making your schedule work. Be realistic. If you’re not a morning person, don’t set your wake-up time to 6:00 am. Wake your child at the same time every day if his wake time is inconsistent. Now fill in times for naps and bed. Allow your child enough time to get a full night’s sleep (9-12 hours depending on age). Make yourself go to bed at the same time, too. Again, keep these consistent.

Self care
Allow enough time in your day to shower and get your child bathed and dressed. You can either create separate rows for these activities, or just include them in your wake up time.

Meals and snacks
Next, fill in meals and snacks. Be realistic about the amount of time it actually takes you to eat. If you need to feed a baby, don’t schedule your own lunch at the same time. Also think about the 10-15 minutes it takes to make breakfast and lunch. Create a separate row (30-60 minutes) for cooking dinner.

Independent play
Independent play is key to creating quiet time for you and your child. Older toddlers and preschoolers will have roomtime and quiet sit time. Babies and younger toddlers will have playpen time and blanket time. Use these activities to your advantage. Make them happen when you need a shower, time alone on the computer, or if you want to make dinner without a toddler hanging on your legs. (I’ll write separate posts for independent play soon.)

Enrichment activities
This is where your proactive parenting comes into play. Fill in times to read to your child, teach him ABCs and 123s, music play and other enrichment activities. Schedule some one-on-one time for each child. And allow for some scheduled sibling playtime. Without a schedule it’s unlikely you would have enough time to fit all this in. Don’t let your child miss out on these activities.

Fill in when you and your child will do your various chores. You may have your child clean up after every play activity or schedule just one or two clean up times. Think about scheduling clean up time before TV time as an incentive to get it done.

Free play and TV time
Schedule time for free play and TV time. Without a schedule, your entire day might be filled with these two activities. Make them planned events in your day. Keep TV time to 30-60 minutes and plan it for when you need it most. For free play, encourage your child to play on his own.

Whether you work out at home before your child wakes up, take him to the gym or go for a walk with the stroller, include exercise in your day.

Mommy time
In your column, be sure to include activities simply for your own pleasure. Whether you enjoy reading, talking to friends on the phone, scrapbooking, blogging or any other activity, be sure to schedule at least 30 minutes. If you can allow more time, then great! Your child will benefit when he sees that you take some time for yourself every day and that you don’t spend all day every day catering to his desires.

Couch time
Schedule some time to connect with your spouse when he gets home from work. Couch time is a technique the Ezzos recommend to enrich your marriage and to show your child that your marriage is secure and that it comes first above all else.

Your schedule should now be complete. Delete any blank rows. Read through it to be sure that it will all actually work for you and your child. Make any adjustments.

Let your schedule serve you
For the first two or three days, do your best to stick to your schedule as it is. But have your schedule and a pen nearby to jot down any changes you’ll need to make. Make sure your schedule serves you, not the other way around. Don’t become a slave to it. And don’t follow it because I’m telling you to. Follow it because it will make your life so much more fulfilling. You’ll start seeing the benefits in just a day or two.

Schedule variations
You’ll notice at the bottom of my schedule, I included an alternate activity for when the weather is nice. When it’s nice, I’d much rather get my exercise by walking with the kids in the stroller and going to the park than going to the gym. This is also the time that I use for occasional activities like running errands and scheduling play dates. Also, if William went to preschool on just Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would have a variation for that. Think through any similar variations you’ll want to make.

Lazy days and weekends
I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t follow our complete schedule every day. Sometimes, we’re just feeling a little lazy. Weekends are also invariably a little lazy. But you don’t want to toss your schedule out the window entirely. Meals and naps still need to happen at the same time or you’ll all pay for it. Either create a new schedule for lazy days or bold the items in your daily schedule that you’ll stick with on your lazy days or weekends. Here is my lazy day schedule. (You’ll see that I’m not much of a morning person, but the rest of our day is pretty much the same.) My only caution is to not fall into making every day a lazy day. Encourage yourself to do all you can with your days.

Free play activities
At the bottom of your schedule, jot down ideas for your child’s free play. It will be nice to have them in a handy place so you can get your child started on one when he comes to you for entertainment. Play with him for 5 minutes to get him started and encourage him to finish on his own.

Post your schedule
Print out your schedule and post it in the kitchen. The refrigerator is a great place, or tape it to the wall or a cabinet. Make it visible. Think about printing a second copy for your bathroom or other spot in the house. Show it to babysitters when they come.

Make your schedule a living document
Allow yourself to change your schedule whenever you need to. Revise it when your child drops a nap, when school is out for the summer, etc.

It will all be worth it
If this all seems like a lot of work to you, go back to my post on structuring your day to remind yourself of the benefits. Remember that not only will it reduce the opportunities for your child to misbehave, but it will also allow you and your child to have quiet time and quality time. Your child will have a greater respect for authority and improved focus and concentration skills. And you can be more proactive with your parenting and more easily accept new members to the family. Trust me, it will all be worth it.



Filed under miscellaneous, parenting, prevention

12 responses to “Create your schedule

  1. Great post! My children are older and we all still benefit from having a schedule.

  2. Kristin

    Any suggestions on wake time. You said, “Be realistic. If you’re not a morning person, don’t set your wake-up time to 6:00 am. Wake your child at the same time every day if his wake time is inconsistent.” I’m not a morning person, but my kids get up early whether I like it or not. Any ideas on how to change that?

  3. Maureen

    How old are they? I believe wake time is part parental influence and part inborn natural tendency. With an infant, I would always feed if they woke up before 8:00 and put them back to bed. So from day one, anything before 8:00 was too early for me. I have known of some moms (not BW moms) who get their children up at 4:30 am on a regular basis. One night, my friend’s son was up at 2:30 am for the day she said. Crazy. Anyway, if you have a child who is still in the crib, leave him there until you want him to wake up. For the first few days, you might give him a book or two, but don’t get him up until later. For an older child/preschooler, tell him he cannot leave his room/bed until you come to get him. Again for the first few days, you might allow him to play. Also think about the total amount of sleep they need for their age. Ferber’s sleep book has a table of the total average sleep by age. Say one child needs 14 hours total in a 24 hour period. Say his daytime nap is 3 hours. If you put him down for bed at 7pm, he is going to be up at 6. So you can try adjusting the nap length and/or the time they go to bed. But then you need to decide which is better, having a long nap, having an early bedtime or having an early morning. Also work out any outside noise and light issues. Blackout shades are a lifesaver. And Lucas naps with a fan in his room to block out noise.

  4. Maureen

    Great posts, Lynn. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Kristin

    Daniel is 7 1/2 months and Noah is 2 1/2 years. I want wake up time to be 7 or 7:30am. When Noah was a baby he’d get up at 6am. I just got up. Back then I wasn’t as tired and I’d usually take him for a walk. Now I just really want to sleep in a little longer. With the time change Noah was sleeping until past 7 until recently. With Daniel, for the longest time I did just what you suggest… I laid him back down after feeding him (when he’d get up before 7). Now that Noah’s waking early too I have just been getting up with one or both of them in the 6:00 hour. I’m not a happy camper though. I’d go back to the other way, but if it’s only one I worry he’ll wake his brother (I keep hoping they’ll start sleeping in by habit). So, do you think I should just leave them in their rooms until I’m ready even if it does become a crying fest? Would they get the point and adapt? My biggest concern is with Noah since he can get out of bed on his own. How do I train him to stay in his room until I say so and to do it quietly? (I’m reading Childwise, but could still use any suggestions you might have).


  6. Maureen

    If I were you, when they woke up, I would get up and give them a couple books and crawl back into bed. If they are well-rested and not hungry, they should be able to stay there for 30-40 minutes without crying. And you could do it gradually. Try 10 minutes the first day, 20 minutes the next, and so on. That should be enough for Daniel. For Noah, you might need to do some non-conflict training and practice staying in bed. Also, does he know his numbers? You can get a digital clock and next to it, have a piece of paper that says what time he can get up. Then tell him when it matches, he can get up. Or you can have a lamp connected to a timer. As soon as the light comes on, he can get up. If he gets up and the light isn’t on, he can’t get up. You could try doing this with a radio, too, if it’s one that will turn itself back on once the power source is back on. He should be able to play or read quietly too. A lot of this is about your authority. Does he obey most of the time? If so, great. If not, you need to work on your authority at other times of the day. You might also turn a fan on in the baby’s room since 2yo’s often aren’t aware of their volume. But I’d say it’s worth a shot. Plan it out. Decide now what you will do if he gets up. (You don’t want to be making those decisions after being woken up.) Also, I often let William climb into bed with me. He will just lie there quietly and when he’s done resting, he’ll get up and go into his room to play.

  7. Amanda

    Your schedule looks just like mine, except I do things in 30 minute increments. 15 minutes just seemed overwhelming to start with. I agree completely that having a “mommy” column is key to getting things accomplished!

  8. Jennifer Glogorski

    I need help with the independent play part of this post. My almost 3 year old son (one and only) will not play by himself and I will go insane if he drops his nap before he learns to entertain himself! He has plenty of toys but doesn’t play with them for more than a minute before he seems to get bored, move on to another toy, ask for tv or come find me. So for the sake of my sanity please help me with any/all ideas…thank you!!!

  9. Lynn

    Sounds like you could benefit from using a timer. I would suggest you get a timer and instruct your son that he is going to play with puzzles or legos or whatever you have chosen for him, until the timer beeps. Make it clear that he will be playing alone. Start with a short amount of time at first, like 10 minutes, then gradually increase the time. Instruct him that he is not to ask you to play with him and that he is not to leave the area where you have told him to stay, whether that is on a blanket or in the living room or where ever. If he does, start the timer over, or treat it like you treat any other type of disobedience. Also make sure you are scheduling a fun play time with him before this alone play time, so his “love cup” is full.

  10. Maureen

    Lynn has some great ideas. I have a couple more thoughts. I would play in his room with him on a regular basis just so he gets used to it more. I know we spend most of our time downstairs. I would also play with him for the first 5-10 minutes of roomtime. Then tell him what you are going to go do and that he is to stay and continue playing.

    If he doesn’t play with toys well and asks for TV, this is your cue to drastically cut or eliminate his TV time. This is the age when imaginative play comes out, and TV and electronic toys totally hinder that. We can go days without the TV on during the day, and my 5yo is the only one who asks for it. My little one, also almost 3, never asks for TV.

    I would also encourage him to play more independently during free play. Get him started with a toy and then tell him you’ll be right back. If he’s still playing on his own, then leave him. If not, give him another nudge by playing with him for a couple more minutes and leave again, saying you’ll be right back. Use it to your advantage that he doesn’t know time.

    Good luck!

  11. Jennifer Glogorski

    Lynn and Maureen…thank you thank you thank you! I will start these great ideas this very morning. Please let me know if you think of anything else. Thanks again!!!

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