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In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, schools and childcare providers across the country have ceased operations, leaving many parents wondering just what the hell to do with their kids all day long. This would be a challenge under normal circumstances, but it’s even more difficult now that the usual go-tos—parks, playgrounds and playdates—are out of the picture. Add in the fact that so many of us are juggling childcare with working from home and days can quickly spiral into chaos.

So what can you do to reign in the mayhem? Create a daily schedule for kids to help give them some structure. “Young children get comfort and security from a predictable routine,” Bright Horizons’ vice president of education and development Rachel Robertson tells us. “Routines and schedules help us all when we know generally what to expect, what happens next and what is expected of us.”

But before you roll your eyes at another color-coded, Insta-COVID-perfect schedule that accounts for every minute of your mini’s day (including a back-up plan for inclement weather), keep in mind that these are sample schedules created by real moms. Use them as a starting point to plan an itinerary that works for your family. And remember that flexibility is key. (Toddler on a nap strike? Move on to the next activity. Your son misses his friends and wants to FaceTime with them instead of doing crafts? Give the kid a break.) “Your schedule doesn’t have to be rigid, but it should be consistent and predictable,” says Robertson.

5 Tips for Creating a Daily Schedule for Kids

  • Get kids involved. Some to-dos are non-negotiable (like tidying up her toys or doing his math homework). But otherwsie, let your children have a say in how their days are structured. Does your daughter get antsy sitting down for too long? Schedule a five-minute stretch break at the end of every activity—or better yet, make it a family affair. “A good breakfast activity would be reviewing the schedules and moving things around so schedules match up,” advises Robertson.
  • Use pictures for younger children. If your kids are too young to read a schedule, rely on images instead. “Take photos of each activity of the day, label the photos and put them in the order of the day,” suggests Robertson. “They can be changed around as needed, but the visual is a great reminder for children and helps them be more independent.” (Tip: A drawing or printed photo from the internet will work, too.)
  • Don’t worry about extra screen time. These are strange times and relying more on screens right now is to be expected (even the American Academy of Pediatrics says so). To feel better about it, stream some educational shows for your kids (like Sesame Street or Wild Kratts) and set reasonable limits.
  • Have a couple of back-up activities ready to go. When your kid’s virtual playdate gets canceled or you have an unexpected work call, have a few things to do in your back pocket that you can whip out at a moment’s notice to keep your kid occupied. Think: virtual field trips, crafts for toddlers, STEM activities for kids or brain-busting puzzles.
  • Be flexible. Got a conference call in the afternoon? Forget the playdough making you had planned, and cue up an online story time for your mini instead. Your kid has a hankering for Rice Krispies squares...on a Tuesday? Check out these easy baking recipes for kids. Don’t throw all routines and rules out the window but be prepared to adapt and—most importantly—be kind to yourself.

daily schedule for kids mom holding baby
Twenty20

Example Schedule for Baby (9 months)

7:00 a.m. Wake up and nurse
7:30 a.m. Get dressed, playtime in bedroom
8:00 a.m Breakfast (“The more finger foods the better—he loves it and as an extra bonus, it takes him longer to eat so I can tidy up the kitchen.”)
9:00 a.m Morning nap
11:00 a.m Wake up and nurse
11:30 a.m Go for walk or play outside
12:30 p.m. Lunch (“Usually leftovers from our dinner the night before or a pouch if I’m feeling frazzled.”)
1:00 p.m. More playtime, reading or FaceTiming with family
2:00 p.m. Afternoon nap
3:00 p.m. Wake up and nurse
3:30 p.m. Playtime and cleaning/organizing. (“I’ll tidy or do laundry with the baby strapped to my chest or crawling around on the floor—it’s not easy but I can at least get some household chores done.”)
5:30 p.m. Dinner (“Again, this is usually leftovers from yesterday.”)
6:00 p.m. Bath time
6:30 p.m. Bedtime routine
7:00 p.m. Bedtime

daily schedule for kids toddler
Twenty20

Example Schedule for Toddler (ages 1 to 3)

7:00 a.m. Wake up and eat breakfast
8:30 a.m. “Independent” play (“My two-year-old can keep himself busy with moderate supervision but his attention span per toy is about ten minutes, max.”)
9:30 a.m. Snack, playtime with parents
10:30 a.m. Go for walk or play outside
11:30 a.m. Lunch
12:30 p.m. Nap
3:00 p.m. Wake up, snack
3:30 p.m. Put on a movie or TV show (“Moana or Frozen. Always Frozen.”)
4:30 p.m. Play and clean up (“I play the clean up song to get him to put away his toys.”)
5:30 p.m. Dinner
6:30 p.m. Bath time
7:00 p.m. Reading
7:30 p.m. Bedtime

daily schedule for kids preschooler
Twenty20

Example Schedule for Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5)

7:30 a.m. Wake up and get dressed
8:00 a.m Breakfast and unstructured play
9:00 a.m. Virtual morning meeting with classmates and teachers
9:30 a.m. Snack
9:45 a.m. Schoolwork, letter and number-writing, art project
12:00 p.m. Lunch
12:30 p.m.: Science, art or music interactive video or class
1 p.m. Quiet time (“Like napping, listening to music or playing an iPad game.”)
2 p.m. Snack
2:15 p.m. Outdoor time (“Scooters, bikes or scavenger hunt.”)
4:00 p.m. Snack
4:15 p.m. Free choice play time
5:00 p.m. TV time
6:30 p.m. Dinner
7:15 p.m. Bath, PJs and stories
8:15 p.m. Bedtime

daily schedule for kids yoga pose
Twenty20

Example Schedule for Kids (ages 6 to 8)

7:00 a.m. Wake up, play, watch TV
8:00 a.m. Breakfast
8:30 a.m. Get ready for school
9:00 a.m. Check-in with school
9:15 a.m. Reading/Math/Writing (“These are assignments given by the school, like ‘Grab a stuffed animal and read to them for 15 minutes.’”)
10:00 a.m. Snack
10:30 a.m. Check-in with school
10:45 a.m. Reading/Math/Writing continued (“More assignments from school for my daughter to do at home.”)
12:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m. Lunchtime doodles with Mo Willems or just some downtime
1:30 p.m. Zoom class (“The school will have an art, music, P.E. or library class scheduled.”)
2:15 p.m. Break (“Usually TV, iPad, or Go Noodle activity.”)
3:00 p.m. After-school class (“Either Hebrew school, gymnastics or musical theatre.”)
4:00 p.m. Snack
4:15 p.m. iPad, TV or go outside
6:00 p.m. Dinner
6:45 p.m. Bath time
7:30 p.m. Bedtime

daily schedule for kids on computer
Twenty20

Example Schedule for Kids (ages 9 to 11)

7:00 a.m. Wake up, breakfast
8:00 a.m. Free time on their own (“Like playing with his brother, going for bike rides or listening to podcasts. Every other day, we allow screens to be used in the morning.”)
9:00 a.m. Class check-in
9:30 a.m. Academic time (“This is a pretty regulated time. I leave tabs open on his computer to complete and I write out a separate schedule from the teacher schedule with boxes that he has to check off.”
10:15 a.m. Screen time (Ugh, Fortnite or Madden.”)
10:40 a.m. Creative time (“Mo Willems draw-along, Legos, chalk on sidewalk or write a letter.”)
11:45 a.m. Screen break
12:00 p.m. Lunch
12:30 p.m. Free quiet play in room
2:00 p.m. Academic time (“I usually save the hands-on stuff for now since they need something appealing to get back into work.”)
3:00 p.m. Recess (“I make a list of things to do, like ‘shoot 10 baskets in the driveway basketball hoop,’ or I create a scavenger hunt for them.”)
5:00 p.m. Family time
7:00 p.m. Dinner
8:00 p.m. Bedtime

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