Tips for Streamlining Family Routines

By: Jolene Roehlkepartain

In our home, we quickly discovered there are three key times during the day when life gets tense: getting ready in the morning, the hour before dinner, and bedtime. As parents, we wanted our kids to do one thing, and our kids wanted to do the opposite. Read more >

These transition times wreak havoc in every household. In fact, Working Mother magazine redesigned its entire magazine format in early 2011 around these time frames. I now can’t wait to get my next issue of Working Mother to read about the creative ideas the editors have discovered to make these family times easier.

Our family discovered that having a checklist for the morning and the evening routines helped our kids to know what to expect. Before our kids could read, we created a visual checklist by downloading free clip art from the Internet. As our kids got older, the list became a written checklist to follow. We found it most effective to list the tasks in the order for our children. Your task list may look slightly different from ours, but here’s the basic idea:

Morning Checklist:

  • Go to the bathroom.
  • Wash your face. Get the matter out of your eyes.
  • Brush your teeth for two minutes.
  • Get dressed.
  • Hang up your pajamas.
  • Make your bed.
  • Comb your hair.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • Get your backpack and your coat (or whatever else you need if you’re leaving your home).

Evening Checklist:

  • Take a bath.
  • Wash your hair.
  • Wash your body and face.
  • Dry yourself well with a towel.
  • Place all the bath toys on the side of the tub when you’re finished.
  • Put on your pajamas.
  • Put your clothes down the chute (or in a clothes hamper).
  • Brush your teeth for two minutes.
  • Floss your teeth.
  • Choose the clothes you’ll wear in the morning. Put them out so they’re easy to find.
  • Create a list of what you want packed in your lunch and leave it on the kitchen counter.
  • Pack up your backpack (or whatever else you need if you’re leaving for school in the morning).
  • Place your backpack by the door.
  • Place your shoes and coat by the door.

Don’t hesitate to get creative with your list to find what works best for you and your kids. We found that it helped to throw in incentives every so often. When our kids were toddlers, we walked through each step with them. Even though I had already brushed my teeth, I would brush my teeth again with my kids. We even found a way to make it fun. Since two minutes can seem like hours to a young child, our dentist gave us an hourglass (actually it was a two-minute glass). Our kids loved brushing their teeth until all the sand fell to the bottom.

As a treat, we let the kids watch TV if they completed everything on the list. Author, Jenn Berman suggests rewarding the first child who gets through the list by being given the opportunity to choose the music that’s played in the car as your family drives off in the morning.

Having a checklist for mornings and evenings is a great start to streamlining your family routines, but be forewarned! Once kids get used to having a list, they like to take short cuts and skip steps. My kids always complained that they weren’t hungry in the morning. So we encouraged them to drink a glass of juice and to take a granola bar, an English muffin, or bagel with them. Usually, they began eating once they were in the car.

One of my kids also balked at wearing coats, mittens, hats, and boots. We insisted that he wear these items until about age 10. After that, we let him suffer the consequences. We know we’re not the only parents dealing with a stubborn, scantily-clothed child in the middle of winter. We live in Minnesota, where the winters are bitterly cold, and there are times when we still see teenage guys wearing shorts to school in January, and we see teenage girls wearing flip-flops. Trust me, it won’t take your child long to learn to take care of himself and bundle up! So, be patient as you encounter road bumps along the way. Establishing and maintaining routines takes a while, but know that by sticking to your guns you’ll be teaching your child to be healthy, look presentable, and start and end their days well.

1. Working Mother magazine.

2. Everyday Parenting, ParentFurther.

3. Image via Stevendepolo on Flick’r.

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