How to Structure the Day with Young Children

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How to Structure the Day with Young Children |  A Virtuous Woman

Q: So, what I am wondering is what do your kids really do all day? Do you have an activity for them every time while you clean, make snacks, dinner, or take a phone call, or do they watch T.V.? I don’t mean to sound critical, but while you are doing cleaning at 8am to 9am, they play in a playpen happily? And then you play with them from 9- 10:30am, they have snack for an hour?

I am actually really struggling to cut the amount of tv my son watches during the day while I go about a similar schedule you have outlined. What I am looking for is a schedule of what Mom does, and a schedule of what the kids are doing. Obviously, these will over lap when Mom and kids play together, but I want to know how often that occurs every day and for how long. You seem like you are a very kind woman and wouldn’t mind sharing some more details. Thank you very much:)

– Susan

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A: Hi, Susan. I really appreciate your question! Being a mom is most definitely a balancing act. Number one, it’s important to be flexible.

  • Days will not always go as planned.
  • Children will not always cooperate.
  • Families get sick.
  • You will have bad days.
  • Some days, the TV will seem like a life saver.

Have said all of that… what we are really wanting is to create a gentle flow to the day, a rhythm that gives you freedom to get what you need to get done accomplished while at the same time giving you the flexibility to do what you need to do when a crisis happens. We want a general consistency to each day so that our families experience a feeling a stability and security.

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Television has been shown to be detrimental to young children. The occasional video is okay, but daily viewing causes permanent damage to your child’s brain. So, we do want to limit how often we allow our children to watch TV.

Here are some healthy alternatives to television for the young child:

  • constructive toys: Mega Blocks, Lincoln Logs, etc.
  • play dough – best used at a table or in the high chair {not over carpet} and under mom’s supervision.
  • preschool activity bags
  • sticker books
  • activity books
  • “I Spy” jars
  • playing outside/ going to the park
  • finger painting

The following schedule is ONLY A SUGGESTION. Your day may look completely different, but my hope in sharing this is that you will gain some insight or new ideas on how to improve the flow of your own day.

 6:00 AM  Wake up. Have devotions and prayer time. Nurse baby if she is awake. If you toddler wakes up as well, things may be different. You may wish to give your toddler a coloring book and have him sit at your feet while you read the Bible. You can put your toddler in the high chair with some dry Cherrios and have your devotion at the breakfast table. School Aged Children will usually still be asleep at this hour.
6:30 AM If the baby and toddler are still asleep now is a good time to grab a shower. Put baby down for her nap or if she is still awake, place her in the playpen, bouncer, or on a blanket on the floor. If chaos is ensuing, skip your shower for now. You can choose to take your shower as soon as you wake up, followed by your morning devotion. Evenings may be a better option once everyone is in bed, but I usually like to take a shower in the morning. So, consider allowing your toddler to watch an educational video/ Bible story while you take a shower or put a baby gate up in their bedroom door and tell them to play quietly while you take a quick shower. OR, wait until nap time.  If your child needs extra time to get ready for school, wake them up now. If you homeschool, I suggest waking your children up between 6:30 and 7:00 am.
7:00 AM Prepare breakfast. Pack a lunch for your husband and school aged child. {This could also be done before bed in the evening to save time.} Take supper out of the freezer if needed. Now would also be a good time to get the crockpot going if you will be utilizing it today. Eat breakfast together at the table. While the children eat, read a devotion and have prayer before leaving the table. Baby can continue to sleep or play quietly. If your baby is fussy and still quite small, I would encourage you to put her in a carrier on your chest or back. Otherwise, I remember many a time bouncing her on my hip while I worked with one hand – not ideal, but reality. Wake up Toddler if he is not yet awake. Or allow him to wake up when he is ready. Wake up school aged child now if you have not already. Have a set routine for her when she wakes up: Make bed, get dressed, brush hair, carry laundry down, etc.  If your child goes to school and does not ride the bus, you will need to plan to leave the house to drop her off. Plan ahead the evening before.

Do you really need to wake up early? Yes and no.

There are seasons in life, even just days, when sleeping in a little later will benefit you much more than getting up early. For instance:

  • When you have a newborn baby.
  • When you are recovering from illness
  • When you are sick
  • When you had an especially late night or a child who was sick all night

Sleep is important. It’s one of the 8 Laws of Health. Without adequate sleep you are more likely to be grouchy and have less patience. However, I don’t believe waking up early is an excuse to be grouchy!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – for children as well as parents! Don’t skimp on breakfast. You all need good {healthy} fuel for the day.

8:00 AM {driving to school}
If you are leaving to take your child to school, gather your purse, diaper bag, and anything else you need to take with you. Slip your feet into shoes and go out to the car. Now would be a good time to plan to run errands since you are already out of the house. I suggest limiting errands to one day a week or less. It’s morning chore time when you return home. If you are leaving to take a child to school, dress baby and carry her out to the car. If you are leaving to take a child to school, have your toddler put his shoes on and walk out to the car. Have child carry dirty dishes to stack beside the sink. Brush teeth. If your child is leaving for school, have her gather her belongings and put on her shoes. Then she should offer to help you carry things out to the car if needed.
8:00 AM {at home}
If you are not leaving the house and you homeschool, now should be your morning chore time. If you are not leaving the house, allow the baby to sleep if she is asleep, or to play in her favorite spot OR carry her with you as you do your chores, as far as possible. If the baby needs your full attention, it’s okay to sit down and console or play with her. If your house is baby proof, you can set her down on a blanket in each room as you work. If you are not leaving the house, put up a gate in the room you want your toddler to play quietly while you quickly go through your morning chores. Another option is to “take” your child with you to each room as you tidy, do laundry etc. Involved your toddler. Let him load the washing machine or switch the clothes to the dryer. Give him a wet sponge or magic eraser and instruct him to “help” you clean the kitchen by washing a cupboard door or the front of the stove. Toddlers love to help! If you homeschool, give your homeschooled child a few chores to complete for her morning routine before school starts.

Your first priority when you have an infant and/or a toddler should be your infant and toddler. Any time you add a new baby to the equation, there will be a period of adjustment and depending on the temperament of your baby/ toddler, that period of adjustment may be longer than for other moms. That’s okay!

However, we don’t want to allow motherhood to defeat us, right? So, each day is a new day to strive for peace and calm in our routine.

The Morning Routine should include:

  • Tidy kitchen & sweep
  • Tidy bathrooms & wipe down sinks
  • Start load of laundry
  • 10 minute de-clutter.
  • Straighten the main area of the house {Can be delegated to a homeschooled child as part of their morning routine}
9:00 AM If you homeschool, once your Morning Routine is complete, sit down at the table {or wherever you do school} to do the subjects that your homeschooled child needs your help with to complete. Baby can be sitting on your lap, breastfeeding, eating breakfast if she slept through it, or eating snack of Cherrios. Have your toddler sit at the table to do “school” which might consist of playing with playdough, coloring in a coloring book, working in a preschool workbook tracing letters, or using an Activity Bag. If you homeschool, begin school now. Juggling school for children of multiple ages is not easy. However, you can manage. Remember, not every day will be perfect and school time may be a real challenge if you homeschool, but the rewards are great – so don’t grow weary and press on!
10:30 AM Prepare snacks and serve. Around 10:00 AM, put Baby down for a nap. Snack Time. After snack time, give your toddler free play time. Snack Time.
11:30 AM Prepare lunch. Have your toddler tidy up his toys. He can then come into the kitchen while you work. Don’t forget to utilize that gate! Your school aged child should be working on lessons that she needs minimal help with.
12:00 PM Eat lunch together at the table. You may wish to read from the Bible aloud before leaving the table. Baby wakes up. Nurse baby as needed. I ate lots of meals with a baby nursing in my lap! If your baby eats solid foods, put her in the high chair. Eat lunch. Eat lunch.
1:00 PM Playtime with Mommy for Baby and Toddler. If you are going outside, strap baby into a stroller, or back carrier – or simply carry her on your hip. If you are going outside for Nature Study, involve your toddler. If you aren’t homeschooling, spend some time on the floor playing a game together, or go take a walk, or go look for bugs. Do something together. Have your homeschooled child finish up any lessons. Now is a good time to get that Nature Study done outdoors.
2:00 PM This is a good time to get those Afternoon Routine Chores done. Nap time. Quiet time. Quiet time.

Mom’s Afternoon Routine Chores could include:

Remember to include your children in chores later in the day – after quiet time.

3:00 PM {driving to school} If you have a child at school, you will need to plan to pick her up. Every school district is different and you know what you need to do and at what time. Gather your purse, diaper bag, etc. Wake Baby from nap and put into car seat. Have your toddler get her shoes on and follow you out to the car to get buckled up. Pick up child at school.
3:00 PM {at home} If you don’t have to leave the house, once your chores are complete, you can have some free time. Baby is sleeping. If toddler is not asleep, he can have free play time, play in the back yard, etc. Just be sure to supervise! When homeschool is complete for the day, have her put her school books away and tidy her workspace. Now she can have free play time and even entertain the toddler.

If you have to pick up a child at school, this could disrupt a 2:00 naptime. My babies always went to sleep around 2:00 in the afternoon. You might consider putting the baby down at 3:30 when you arrive home instead. Or, your baby may just stay asleep if she is put right into the car seat. You know your family – your children – best.

4:00 PM Daddy will be home soon and you will want to tidy the house. Direct the toddler and school aged child to pick up their toys and help you get the house ready for Daddy to come home. Nurse baby if needed. Now’s a good time to send the kids outside if the weather is good.  Have your school aged child complete her afternoon chores and then she is free to play quietly, go outside, etc.

I can’t stress enough the importance of supervising your toddler closely all day long. So many moms “hide their heads in the sand” as their curious and rambunctious toddler pulls the books off the shelf or draws on the walls. Always be aware of what you toddler is doing. Correcting bad behavior or even dangerous behavior immediately is part of child training! Utilize a baby gate as much as possible. Gently, but firmly correct your child as soon as you see a problem arising. Be consistent in your discipline and speech. Praise good and helpful behavior and encourage your toddler to be obedient the first time.

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Also, teach your children from an early age to only get one toy out at a time. This will bless your life tremendously as they get older!

5:00 PM Cook supper. Menu planning is a huge time saver and brain saver. When you plan your menu a week or even a month at a time, you don’t have to figure out what to cook just before time to eat when everyone is starving. Put Baby in bouncer, swing, play pen, or on a blanket with toys. Or put her in the high chair if she is old enough and let her play with a wooden spoon and bowl. I always had a drawer in my kitchen just for the little ones to play with – kitchen items that were safe. Infants love to bang a pot and spoon together! Your toddler could play with play dough, help tear lettuce for a salad, or draw quietly at the table, etc. If you have a child who goes to school outside the home, use this time to complete homework at the kitchen table while you finish preparing supper.
6:00 PM Greet Daddy with a smile and a kiss when he arrives home. Eat supper together at the table. Nurse baby as needed. If your infant is eating solid foods, place her in her high chair and feed her supper. Eat Supper. Eat Supper.
6:30 Tidy kitchen. Daddy time. Daddy time. Daddy time.
7:00 PM Family Worship. Family Worship. Family Worship. Family Worship.
7:30 PM Begin Night Routine. Bath time. Bath time. Free time.
8:00 PM Nurse baby as needed. Bed time. Bath time.
8:30 PM Story time and Bed time. Story time.
9:00 PM Bed time.
9:30 PM Shut down the house for the night. Shine your kitchen sink. Prepare for tomorrow as needed.
10:00 PM Bed time/ time with Husband.

Your Night Routine could include:

  • Family Worship
  • Giving the children a bath
  • Reading a bed time story
  • Playing with Daddy
  • Tidying the kitchen
  • Shining your kitchen sink
  • Doing a quick run through the house to pick up anything that was left out

The times in the schedule/ routine above are approximate and really only a suggestion! A good routine gives your day continuity. In real life – you could approximate the times and just do the next thing on your routine as each task is completed. Some days will flow smoothly. A lot of days won’t. That’s okay. Just because life is unexpected doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set goals or strive for a certain rhythm to our day.

How do you handle temper tantrums, skinned knees, crying babies, or anything else that goes wrong? Simply take it as it comes. Stop what you are doing. Get down on eye level with your child. Hug him. Kiss him. Talk to him. You are called to minister to your children. That’s what it’s all about!

Some children require more attention from Mom than others. Especially if they feel they’ve been “replaced” by a younger sibling. Be sure you are giving each child one on one attention each day. Include them in your day and they will feel secure in your love.

Instead of looking at your child’s needy behavior or crying as just one more frustration in your day, look at your child the way Jesus looks at her. With compassion. With gentleness. With joy. Nuture your child’s spirit through the good moments and the bad moments.

The house may not be perfectly spotless, but really, who wants to live in a sterile environment? I sure don’t! Life happens at home.

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In fact, if you find yourself gone from home often and the family going in different directions, whether it be for errands, sports events, kid’s activities, or social events, I would encourage you to think {pray about} about cutting back on your activities. I’m not saying you should – only you know what it best for your family.

Families that are very busy often find themselves stressed and disconnected. Meals should be taken around the table – together – as often as possible. That’s where families are bonded together. Don’t think that you don’t really need to sit together for meals. You do.

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Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything and if you have any questions! Being a mom isn’t easy, but it does get easier as time goes on.

Other articles in this series:

How do you structure your day around your children?

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  1. I just came across your blog through Pinterest and love it! I cannot seem to pull up the toddler section of your schedule and would love to know what it says. Thanks!
    1. Hi Matison, thank you for your sweet words. I'm so glad you've been blessed. You can find the post on Structuring the Day for a Toddler here:
  2. Josiah is turning one in 2 days, so he is kind of right between the baby and toddler section. However his daddy works an odd schedule, 3-11, so he is home to help with Josiah while I do my daily routine. My question is, how do I teach him to play with one toy at a time and when do I start that, also he is just learning to obey and doing well with it, but are there any tips for rewarding good behavior??