Schools are shut down.
Restaurants are shut down.
We’re stuck at home with our kids, alllll day long.
I LOVE my kids and love the opportunity to spend time with them. However, not being able to leave the house… to grab a coffee or go to Target or meet a friend for lunch… that’s hard.
It’s hard for us and it’s hard for our kids.
They miss their school and friends and structure and routine.
I’m thankful that it isn’t the dead of winter, and we can at least get outside for some fresh air!
We’re going to get through this.
So, if you are staying home with your kids for the first time, or they’re home from school and you don’t know what to do with them… I’ve got you covered.
I thrive on structure and routine (but not a rigid routine!).
I’ve outlined my process for creating a schedule that is both fun for my kids and allows me to get some work done!
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The number one most important part of staying home with your children is some sort of structure.
It has to be realistic enough that you can manage it for weeks on end because we don’t know how long schools will be shut down.
Problem With Structure: Too Rigid
If you try to schedule every single hour of your day, that probably won’t work for you. When I have tried to keep too rigid of a schedule, it doesn’t work out well. It might work for a day or two, and then it all falls apart.
Problem With Structure: Let It All Go
There have been mornings when my kids are playing sooo well together after breakfast, that I just let them be and do my own thing.
Then, I will be RIGHT in the middle of something and a huge fight will break out. Then I have grumpy kids, and I’m frustrated because my workflow was interrupted.
I need to remind myself to stick with structure!
Are you struggling with organization during this time? Here’s how I manage to be an organized stay at home mom!
How to Make Structure Work For You
The entire point of setting a routine or schedule is to make it work for you. Here’s how you do that.
Work Around Your Priorities
Are you working from home full-time and need your kids to be entertained? Or are you now homeschooling with no clue what you’re doing?
It’s crucial that you figure out your priorities and make your schedule around them.
If you still need to get in 8-hours of work, but it can be at any time throughout the day, you could do: 2 hours before the kids get up, 2 hours while they have screen time, 2 hours while they have rest time, and 2 hours after they go to bed.
Give yourself grace. While endless screen time is not ideal for anyone, it might have to happen some days. We are in an extreme circumstance. It’s fine.
Work Around Essentials
A good place to start with your routine is breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Those are things that happen every day.
Then, add in other things that are important. Mandatory daily phone conference with your boss? Screen time for the kids.
Do they have school work to complete? I suggest placing that before screen time.
How to Set Your Daily Schedule
Here’s how I set our daily schedule. For reference, my kids are 6 and 4 (twins). We aren’t currently trying to do any homeschooling, I work from home running this blog, and I’m 35 weeks pregnant!
My husband is working from home during this time as well, but his hours are much more demanding during regular work hours.
List Out Daily Activities
The first thing I did was list out everything that I want to get through daily. I also marked whether they were activities that I need to supervise or not. Here’s what was on my list.
School Time (supervised)
My kids are in Kindergarten and Preschool and I’m not really concerned about them missing out on academic work.
However, I know that mental stimulation is so important for many reasons. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation in helping kids get the sleep that they need.
If my kids don’t get enough mental stimulation, they have a harder time falling asleep at night. Since they will be home with me alllllll day long, I need them to go to sleep at night!
Theo has already told me that he wants to write out his sight words and teach them to his sisters, which will be really fun for all of them!
We will be doing about 30 minutes of academic work per day.
Our Favorite Academic Workbooks
Independent Playtime (unsupervised)
Since we will be home together all day long, I know that having breaks from each other is crucial. We will be implementing independent playtime daily.
Basically, independent playtime is when each child goes to their own room (one can go in a playroom/guestroom/parent’s bedroom if they share a room) with a few toys and plays by themselves.
We will be doing 60-90 minutes of independent playtime per day.
Together Playtime (unsupervised but plan on being interrupted)
We will also do plenty of free play when they all play together. I won’t do a set amount of time for this, and any time that isn’t scheduled, they will naturally play together.
Outside Time/Recess (unsupervised but keep an eye/ear out)
Can we all take a second to be thankful that this is hitting us in mid-March instead of mid-January?
While we still have some chilly days, it’s definitely warm enough that they can go outside with jackets on!
We have a huge covered porch, so even if it rains… the kids are going outside every single day.
If we have enough time in the day, I’ll add in some structured outdoor activities, such as a nature scavenger hunt.
I am aiming for 60 minutes of outdoor playtime per day, AT LEAST.
Spring Bucket List Activities for Kids! (perfect for social distance!)
Quiet Reading Time (unsupervised)
This is one of my favorite activities to do with my kids.
It’s my go-to activity for those days when they are overtired and grumpy from a long week of school, and can’t handle playing together or even breathing the same air without fighting.
They each gather a stack of books and get cozy and read quietly. My twins, Josie and Margo, are only 4 and can’t read yet, so sometimes they just look at pictures.
I put on some quiet, classical music, and diffuse some lavender essential oil so the vibe is very relaxed.
I either get some work done (my computer is in the room they read in), or I relax and read with them!
Read –> Our Favorite Books About Spring!
We do 30 minutes of quiet reading time per day.
Tips for successful quiet reading time:
- Timing: I like to do quiet reading time right before screen time. This way, if they don’t want to participate, they will lose screen time.
- Teepee: We have one of those little teepees, but we don’t keep it set up all the time. When we do have it set up, my kids LOVE to snuggle in it with their blankets and read. This is a great way to make reading time a bit more exciting.
- Audiobook: I know I call it quiet reading time, but if your kiddos can’t read yet, and don’t want to sit there and look through books, consider putting on an audiobook. It may seem like it defeats the purpose, but if you need to relax or get stuff done, as long as it entertains them, it’s serving a purpose!
Rest Time (unsupervised)
While they don’t need naps every day, rest time is crucial.
You can make your rules for rest time whatever they need to be.
I require that they are in bed, and not talking.
Theo has to rest in bed for one hour and then can play quietly in his room.
Josie and Margo are still supposed to stay in bed for 2-hours. If I hear that they are still awake after an hour, I go up and tell them that they can read or play with their stuffed animals quietly.
We have 2 hours of rest time per day.
My kids don’t have a crazy amount of daily chores that they do. Theo empties the dishwasher, and Josie and Margo don’t have daily chores since we don’t usually have time when we’re getting out the door to school.
I’m treating this time at home the same way I would over the summer: they will make their beds in the morning and put away any clean laundry.
List Out Rotating Activities (all are supervised)
We will have one activity per day that is rotating.
This includes painting, coloring, playdough, necklace making or anything I randomly find on Pinterest. I’m not huge into big art projects, so we will be doing very simple things with lots of freedom.
I used to teach elementary school music and early childhood music classes, so this is my jam (see what I did there?)!
We have a variety of musical activities that we do. We have sing-alongs and play simple percussion instruments. A favorite activity is to play a waltz and dance around the room with colorful scarves.
I’m going to ask my kids to take turns putting on a show. They can either act something out (they love to act out scenes from movies!) or do a puppet show.
Baking is not my forte. I love to cook, but don’t enjoy baking haha. However, my kids really enjoy it, and it’s a good skill for them to learn.
Even though they will have outside time every day, we’re doing an additional physical activity.
Here are a few of my ideas:
- Ring Around the Rosie
- Good old fashioned races
- Animal Walk: Call out the names of different animals and have them act out the animal walk
- Simon Says: Use active commands to keep them moving! Hop, skip, spin, etc.
- Freeze Dance: Start some upbeat music, and have your kids dance around. They have to freeze when the music pauses.
- Yoga for Kids: There are many videos on youtube!
I might write them down on a piece of paper and have my kids each draw one activity.
I am guessing that our rotating activity will take 30-60 minutes.
Setting the Schedule: When to do What
Once you’ve listed your daily and rotating activities, it’s time to figure out when to do these things.
I sorted my activities into supervised vs unsupervised. The unsupervised times are when I get my work done, so I put those activities from 9:00-11:00 because that’s when Josie and Margo are typically in preschool and I get my work done.
Our Daily Schedule
I am not overly strict about our schedule. If the kids sleep in, that’s fine; we adjust as we go.
If we get started with something late, I don’t stress it. The times are just a guide for me.
What I do, is set a timer when we start an activity. If they get squirrelly, I will mix up the activity. If that doesn’t work then I will cut it short and move on to the next thing.
7:30: Kids wake up and get dressed. I will already be awake and dressed! Then they have breakfast and complete their chores.
8:30: School time.
9:00-10:30: Independent playtime/work time for mommy
10:30-11: Quiet reading/work time for mommy
After quiet reading time, if all of their toys are cleaned up and they’ve done a good job listening, they get a very small snack as a reward. OK, OK, it’s a bribe to make sure they clean up haha. Desperate times!
11:00-12: Outside time. If I’m feeling up to it, we will go for a walk/bike ride
12:00-1:00: Lunch and then free play.
1:00-3:00: Rest time. I either work or rest myself, depending on how I’m feeling.
3:00: Snack (for everyone who cooperated during rest time!)
3:30: Rotating activity
4:30: Outside time, screen time, or basement time. Depending on whether my husband is done with work at this time, he can take them outside or for a walk. Otherwise, it’s T.V. time, OR basement time. Our basement isn’t finished, but we have a little space with a rug and all of our extra toys. It’s a big treat for the kids to go down there!
After dinner, we have family time.
7:30: Bedtime for the kids.
Other Helpful Tips
Get Ready For the Day
I’m sure we will have a few pajama days, but it will be a special treat. We will all get dressed and ready for the day, every day.
Now, we may be wearing sweatpants or leggings, and the kids might not always match; but we WILL change out of our pajamas.
There is something about the act of getting ready for the day that sets me up for success, and my hope is that it does the same for my kids.
Communicate Your Expectations to Your Children
Tell your kids what your days are going to be like, what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you.
I strongly suggest that everyone still gets dressed every day- even if it’s in comfy sweatpants. Let your children know!
Maybe if they do an awesome job following the routine Monday-Thursday, then Friday can be a pajama movie day, or if it’s nice weather, go to a nature park.
Be Smart With Screentime
It can be so easy to just let our kids veg out with screens all day. And honestly? We will definitely have a few movie days where we throw the schedule to the wind.
However, who knows how long this isolation is going to last for. We can’t do it every day.
Use screentime to your advantage. Be smart with it!
Use it to bribe your kids to clean up or listen, use it to get work done, use it as chill time for yourself.
Add it to your schedule at times of the day when your kids are more likely to be grumpy, or when you need to get stuff done.
Work on a New Skill
This isn’t something I’m going to be doing right now, because, #imsopregnant. But it’s a great time to work on new skills!
I know several mamas who are taking advantage of the time spent stuck home and are potty training.
You could work on reading, or learning letters, or teaching your little one to tie their shoes.
Make It Fun!
This is a trying time for all of us.
Your kids are going to miss their routine and friends.
Reward your kids. Praise them. Build them up.
Plan fun things! Dessert every night!
Go for a walk in the woods or on the beach.
Have a pajama movie day with hot chocolate and cookies.
Dress up in costumes and paint their faces.
Reassure them that they are safe and loved.
We’ve got this, mamas! We will get through this trial and our normal lives will resume. I challenge us to use this time as an opportunity to slow down and embrace the quality time (and chaos!) with our family.