How to Establish a Routine with Your Kids That Actually Works

Consistency is key.

By Hailey Andresen

Last month, we had our first ever true back-to-school experience as our 4-year-old started Pre-K. Thanks to the insane cost of childcare in Brooklyn and our family’s lifestyle, I’ve been working from home with him since he was born. This has been incredible for us for a number of reasons – it’s given us extreme flexibility in our days, provided the ability to travel extensively and to of course bond with each other, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for school to start. He’s eager to learn and ready to make friends, and he’s already thriving with more structure to his days. And with a baby on the way, I’m embracing the help.

But with so much change happening for our family, how can we keep a routine that’s consistent and healthy?

Scroll on for our family’s plan for establishing a routine with kids this fall that nurtures the whole family! 

Map out the logistics.

This is all uncharted territory for us: navigating pick ups and drop offs for school, juggling mine and my husbands’ work schedules, our soon-to-be newborn’s impossible to predict schedule, and so on. The first step is to write everything down so we can create a clear picture of exactly what needs organizing.

Make a list of priorities.

With the back-to-school transition for most families, there are a lot of priorities that can fall by the wayside if we aren’t conscious of them. For me this means creating time for work, my ideal morning routine (meditation, journalling and exercise), and grocery shopping to ensure healthy meal planning is taking place. For my husband and me, it means at least one or two nights a month for date nights. Since we will be welcoming a new baby any day now – this will of course look a little different for us than it does today, but having a list of priorities will at least keep us mindful of what’s most important to us.

Establish nighttime tasks and morning tasks.

We’re pretty good with this already, but there are certain things we definitely need to tackle in the evening in order to have a smooth morning. I recognize there will be a bit of a learning curve here since we’re first time school goers, but overall I think, at least for us, getting as much done for the next day the evening before is essential. We intend to do bathtime before bed, pack lunches and backpacks, and set out clothes for the next day.

Create a pick up / drop off schedule.

Our family is super fortunate to have enough flexibility in our schedule and friends close by that pick ups and drop offs should be relatively easy. Our tentative plan is for my husband to take our son in the mornings and for me to pick him up in the afternoons. This one-on-one time for our son to spend with my husband in the morning, and with the baby and me in the afternoon will be so helpful as we move through this transition! 

Get strict about bedtime.

Bedtime in our house has always happened somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30 for our son, but now that school is about to begin we are getting very specific about an exact bedtime on weekdays (and for us parents too). Considering he’s going to be in his most structured environment yet, we believe it’s really important to make sure he’s getting enough sleep before those days begin. This of course means establishing at least a wake up window so that we’re out the door on time too! 

Make room for an “off-schedule” night.

I think it’s nice to have one night a week that we take a break from cooking and either go out or order in. Making this something we can all look forward to each week sounds pretty ideal to me and helps to break up the routine! 

Plan a check-in & be prepared to revise.

Remember that list of priorities you created? Put a random date on the calendar – maybe two weeks after school starts or even a month. Be honest about what’s working and what’s not. Depending on your kids’ ages you can also include them in this conversation and ask them the same. If you haven’t found your groove yet, it can be easy to feel discouraged, but having this pre-planned time to readjust and regroup as a family will go a long way.