Why Routines Matter for Kids and How to Adapt Them to Big Changes

Nora Hedgecock, OTR/L - Mar 26, 2020

Plus, a template to make your own daily schedule!

For most of us, our lives are organized by repeated patterns and behaviors. These daily routines give us a sense of consistency, allow us to be productive, and help us create time for the activities that matter to us. Routines are equally as important for children. Having consistent and predictable routines provides a sense of comfort and safety that allows children to do what matters most—explore, play, and learn!

Amidst all the changes due to COVID-19, many of our routines have changed drastically— parents are working from home, school is closed, play dates and peer interactions have come to a halt, and we’re spending more time than ever indoors. We feel the impact of these changes to our daily routines and our kids do too! 

Creating new routines for the days at home ahead will help bring some of that comforting structure back. Below are a few tips for establishing new routines:

  • Consistency is key. Keep as many things as possible consistent with how things were before the “stay-at-home” period (meal times, snack times, nap times, and bed times). Keep your morning routine the same. Get up, get dressed and ready for school. 
  • Create a designated school area. Separate school time and home time. One thing that is really helpful is to have a designated area in your house that is the “school” area. You can even make school signs that are only hung in the school area when you are actually having school time. We will soon be posting some school signs (and maybe even decorating them together virtually)! 
  • Write a daily schedule!  This is something many children are used to having at school. A general plan for the day often really helps kids know what to expect. Making the schedule with your child each morning is a great way to help them internalize the plan! Try and remember at school they have art, science and tons of movement! Add that to the schedule. Check out our schedule template and a sample schedule below!
  • Move, Move, Move!  Kids are used to getting a lot of movement at school, which supports regulation. Continue to play outside! Scooter around the neighborhood, do a nature walk/scavenger hunt around your backyard. If getting outside isn’t an option, get creative with what you have in your house—build obstacle courses with the couch cushions, play tag, or have a dance party!
  • Continue to socialize. It’s been hard for many of our kids to go so long without seeing their friends. Build times for socializing with friends and family into new routines at home—this could be a time each day to write a letter, talk on the phone, or video chat. Remember, our kids are used to playing a game together so video chatting without a game will be dysregulating. Prepare a craft or even a board game and play that virtually. 

Ready to make a schedule?  Check out our template here to get started :) 

Here is a sample schedule one of our kiddos is using:

7:30-9:00 Wake up and normal morning routine
9:00-9:30 Zoom school lesson with teachers
9:30-10:00 Craft (art time)
10:00-10:30 Snack
10:30-11:00 Zoom school lesson with teachers
11:00-11:30 Outside time
11:30-12:00 Lunch
12:00-12:30 Music and movement
12:30-1:00 Zoom school lesson with teachers
1:00-1:15 Sensory break
1:15-1:45 Play 2 Progress virtual session
1:45-2:00 Handwriting & fine motor skills
2:00-2:30 Science experiment
2:30-7:30: Normal after school routine (keep all activities consistent, just join them virtually!) 

Tips for using the schedule template:

  • If your child is developing his or her scissor skills, encourage them to cut the activity images out from below.
  • If your little one is feeling creative, he/she can draw personalized pictures for their daily activities!
  • Reference the schedule throughout the day and cross off activities as you complete them to support organization and regulation. 
  • It’s okay if the plan changes slightly as the day goes on (we want to support our children’s ability to be flexible!) 
  • You can make a new schedule everyday or if you have a relatively consistent daily routine, it may be a good idea to laminate this and cross off activities with a dry erase marker each day! 

Good luck!  As always, we are here if you have any questions or if we can support you in any way!  See you soon!