Even under normal circumstances, kids of all ages benefit from routine. It gives them structure, helps them feel rooted and teaches them important time management skills. Needless to say, however, any concept of “normal” has gone right out the window due to COVID-19. Facing unprecedented stay-at-home orders and school closures, many parents (us included!) have been left wondering how to best fill the time for kids thrown out of their normal school-year routine.
To help you establish a semblance of normality and comfort at home, we’re sharing a kids schedule that many Nurture Life parents are using as we ourselves adjust to sheltering in place. It takes a village to raise a child—and especially during such uncertain times, we want to work together with you to keep all of our kids healthy, happy and safe.
Example Kids Schedule During COVID-19
Even something as flexible as our example schedule can give you and your children a sense of normalcy and predictability. Since none of us can say with certainty how long the COVID-19 lockdowns will last, it’s worthwhile to establish your new family routine as early as you can.
Of course, every family faces a different situation, so this exact kids schedule template may or may not work for you. By taking advantage of the principles behind it, though, you can create your own child or toddler routine chart that does. Download a blank version of this chart and use the tips in the next section to create your own daily schedule for kids at any age.
10 Tips for Adapting Our Kids Schedule to Your Family
Taking our routine chart as an example, here are some additional tips for building out a family routine and creating a sense of stability during the coronavirus.
1. Maintain Existing Routines as Much as Possible.
Kids benefit from consistency, so you’ll see more success with your new schedule if it maintains at least some connection with your normal routine. For the major stuff—like wake-up time, mealtimes and bedtime—try to stick with what your kids are already used to.
2. Prioritize Your “Must-Do” Activities.
Even as the world rapidly changes around us, we still have things that have to get done. So write these tasks out and put them first! If you’ll have a conference call every day at 9am or if your older kid has an assignment due at 5pm and can’t help with your littlest one, try to schedule independent play during those hours. Maybe it’s setting your baby in a bouncer, letting your toddler create a playpen fort or putting on your kid’s favorite learning program.
Not everything will get done on time (and that’s okay!). Prioritizing what needs to get done will help you get through this stay-at-home period without losing your mind.
3. Tailor the Schedule to Your Kids.
We’ve organized our kids schedule into two major columns: activity and examples. This is designed to give you lots of flexibility—you can even use the same general schedule for kids of different ages, filling in different example activities for each kid.
For example, the general activity we call “learning fun” can mean practically anything depending on your child’s age and interest:
- Babies: playing with blocks, reading a book out loud, singing learning songs, rolling around on the activity mat, playing peek-a-boo
- Toddlers: matching shapes, playing ABC or number flashcards, stacking blocks, playing with colors, practicing coordination with threading beads
- School-aged kids: science experiments, invention time, building with popsicle sticks or balsa wood, YouTube music lessons, math puzzles
- Older kids: online coding tutorials, more advanced science experiments, writing short stories or plays, experimenting with backyard photography or videography, researching career paths, starting a window garden
Tailoring the schedule to your child’s unique interests, hobbies and passions is a great way to keep them more independently entertained and intellectually engaged.
4. Aim for Daily Balance.
We all love our kids, but day after day of lockdown can definitely lead to crankiness and cabin fever. Introducing variety into your days will help keep things fresh. You don’t have to keep the activities in the order we use, but do try to maintain a balance in your kid’s schedule:
- Mental vs. physical stimulation
- Family fun vs. independent quiet time
- Focused learning vs. silly play
- Indoor vs. outdoor activities
5. Talk to Your Kids About the Schedule.
Things go better when your kids are on board. Instead of creating a schedule and expecting your kids to accept it, talk about it together. Explain why it’s important, ask for input and keep checking in to understand how your kids are adapting and feeling.
6. Post the Schedule Where Your Kids Can See It.
Display your new routine chart in a kid-friendly way somewhere your kids can easily see it—maybe a huge, stickered-out poster in your kitchen or a bright chart in your living room. You can then give them the “big kid” responsibility of checking what’s next on the schedule rather than relying on you to tell them. The more independence you can foster, the better!
7. Keep Healthy Meals on Hand.
With so many stressful circumstances beyond our control, things won’t always go smoothly. One day, you may need to attend an urgent Zoom call over lunch; another day, your kid might oversleep and then the entire day is just a little off kilter. It’s more than okay to give yourself a break!
Nurture Life is working hard to continue our normal operations so that you can feed your kids to the same nutritional standard you always have, even when the grocery store shelves are a bit more picked over than usual. Eating well is more important than ever to our families’ health, and we’re maintaining regular delivery of nutritious meals for babies, toddlers and kids. Meals are delivered fresh and are easy to freeze and reheat whenever you need an extra hand in the kitchen.
8. Create an “I’m Bored” List.
Even with the world’s best daily routine for kids, there will be times where your little one can’t resist the familiar refrain of “I’m bored!” Depending on how long the lockdown lasts, it might become hard to think of activities to fill your time blocks for “learning fun” or “make something.”
To help yourself out, start and keep a running list of things your kids can do whenever they think they’re bored. Post it where your kids can see it—perhaps right next to your routine chart—so they can choose their own activities independently. Here are some fun ideas to get started:
- Read a book.
- Listen to a children’s audiobook (free on Audible while schools are closed!).
- Listen to a kid-friendly podcast.
- Make your own board game.
- Upcycle an old box into a handmade craft.
- Draw something to give to someone.
- Write a journal entry.
- Create a new dance move.
- Invent a recipe.
- Use dry-erase markers to draw a picture on the windows.
- Find the most beautiful leaf in the backyard.
- Pick backyard flowers and give someone a bouquet.
- Cook something new (with a parent’s help!).
- Learn origami.
- Build a pillow fort.
- Play with a pet.
- Write a letter to a friend.
- Go on an indoor scavenger hunt.
- Make your own at-home escape room to challenge the family later.
If your family does chores in exchange for rewards, post those, too! Your kids can help out with housework while you’re getting some work done.
9. Ask Your Kids for Help.
Having trouble coming up with ideas for the “I’m bored” list? Then get your kids involved! Ask them for help brainstorming what they want to learn, do or explore. Explain that there might be times where they need to play quietly so that you can finish important tasks, and ask how they might be able to entertain themselves. You might be surprised at what your kids want to try out!
To get your kids thinking, check out our list of fun indoor activities for the whole family. (The post was written with winter in mind, but, hey, coronavirus lockdown feels a lot like being snowed in.)
10. Think “Structure,” Not Schedule.
Last but not least, join us in forgetting about parenting perfectionism. We’re all doing the very best we can with this brand-new daily schedule for kids, and some days will go better than others.
If some piece of your kids’ schedule isn’t working, feel free to change it! Maybe you need to put independent learning activities in the morning while you work, or maybe your kids do better with a high-energy activity right after lunch. Instead of holding yourself to a strict “must complete X activity at X time,” think about it in terms of a general structure and flow to your day. Our kids schedule template is designed to be flexible so that you can adapt it to whatever works for you.
We may be social distancing, but we’re still in this together as parents who want what’s best for our kids. If you have any questions about Nurture Life’s kids meal delivery or the health and safety measures we’re taking during COVID-19, please message us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877.988.8851.