Schedule for Preschoolers
Most of us are inside indefinitely for now. For some, it means your preschoolers are home all day, every day for the first time. I have found that my kids seem to thrive when they have structure to their days. With 3 kids 5 and under and home educating, I thought I would share what our routine looks like for days we are home. Although I have times next to each section, I never schedule by time really, although rest time and meals are usually around the same time daily.
I prefer the word rhythm over schedule because at the end of the day, we work our days around what we value most: time together, independent play and personal responsibilities. Within our rhythm, our kids have tons of time for independent play. It’s because it is what I value the most for them in childhood. I think the research backs up that play is a necessity for healthy development in children. Play teaches them more than excessive structured time with me or screens could ever teach them. If you haven’t listened to the play series on my podcast yet, take a listen.
Before Breakfast [7-7:30]
Our kids come out of their rooms after their clock turns green. Before that, they can play out of their beds once their clock turns yellow. (We have had a clock like this since our oldest was 2.5. It took a bit of time to teach him, but it has been so helpful for us!) Recently, I have established the habit with them to make their beds and clean up their rooms before they come out of their rooms for breakfast. Because of this sort of routine where I know they’ll be out of their rooms sometime around 7:30, I can have breakfast ready.
Breakfast/Morning Time [7:30 – 8]
We eat breakfast together. During this time, we do something called Morning Basket or Morning Time. If you search these phrases, you will see ideas all over the internet or Instagram. For our family, we center morning basket around what we value the most. So for us, we talk about the date and weather, we sing a hymn, we read from the Bible, we memorize verses and a new poem every month. We also read from a variety of books, which I switch out every month. This is arguably the most important time of our day. My kids are getting my full attention. I am not distracted or trying to do a bunch of stuff at the same time. Rather, I am sitting with them and fully engaging. I am also able to set expectation for the day during this time. We talk about our day, our plans and what it will look like.
Morning Habits [8 – 8:30]
After breakfast, I clean up the kitchen and the kids finish anything they didn’t get done before breakfast when it comes to making their beds and cleaning their rooms. They then get dressed, brush their teeth and wash their faces. These are habits I have worked on them with since they were young. (At first, I walked alongside my oldest and was with him as he formed the habit of making his bed, cleaning up his dirty clothes and toys. As he has gotten older, he has taught his younger brother just from his younger brother observing him.)
Independent Play [8:30 – 10*]
I have devoted four different episodes on my podcast to the importance of intentional letting alone and independent play. I believe in play for little ones so much so our day provides the space to make it happen! After breakfast, I encourage my kids to go and play, preferably outside, although often in the winter they play in the basement. The way I phrase this is an important part though. I usually say, “Please go play and we will come back together to read a book or play a game or go on a walk.”
*I usually pull my oldest aside while his younger brother and sister go and play and we do a short reading lesson, usually around 15 minutes. He has requested to learn to read and he is doing amazing! He has started reading sentences with little help from me and I can’t believe it! I think under the age of 6, every kid is so different on when they may show interest in reading. I believe in following their lead, rather than forcing it too young. My 5yo knew he was ready because he has really taken off with it.
Time Together [10 – 10:30]
If they are not lost in play and are fighting a lot, we come back together and I give them my full attention for a game or if it is nice out, we go for a walk or ride bikes. If it’s summer, we work in the garden together. Other days I will put a large piece of butcher paper out on the kitchen table with paints. Sometimes though, we do not come back together at this time because they are lost in play.
Independent Play [10:30-11:30]
Play. That’s right – we do more independent play. They get bored, they get creative, the pretend, they build, they explore, they imagine.
Lunch/ Foreign Language/ Art Study [11:30 – 12]
They kids eat lunch and they listen to French or Spanish or Mandarin on our smart speaker. I have laminated some beautiful art pieces by famous artist. Some days I will give them each one to look at while they eat their lunches.
Read Aloud [12 – 1]
I usually have all the kids pick two of their favorite books and I pick a few. I read aloud, usually for an hour before rest time! They love this time. They have the freedom to be playing or doing something else, but they usually prefer snuggling on the couch and listening.
Rest Time [1- 3]
Our kids do rest time, all separate every afternoon. I think separate rest times is important for their brains to rest and reset. My kids are close in age and spend much of their day fighting. Usually the root issue of their fights is because they each have their own idea on what to play. This independent time away from one another allows them the space to explore their own interest.
Our youngest naps and my 3yo and 5yo play quietly and listen to audio books. Currently, our 5yo is in our room and he is listening to My Fathers Dragon and building with legos. Our 3yo is in the boys room. He is listening to The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter and building with loose parts. Our 2yo is sleeping. During this time, I work or rest.
Play and Chores [3-5]
After rest time, we come together again. I often read a few books. Usually I start to prep dinner around 4. The boys set the table and clean up any toys in the living room. Sometimes they help me cook, but often they are lost in play, outside if it is nice or in our basement if it is not.
Family Dinner [5 – 6]
We usually eat dinner sometimes between 5 and 6. It’s a sweet time in our day to be together. We reconnect, share about our days and enjoy being with one another.
Family Clean Up and Play [6-7]
After dinner, we all work together to clean up our house. Usually I help clear the table and wash the counters, my husband does the dishes, and my kids bring their plates over and then work to clean up the basement, living room and bedrooms. If we all work together and have been cleaning up throughout the day, we can clean up in 30 minutes or so.
After we clean up, my husband usually wrestles with them, plays hide and seek or something else wild with them. If its late spring or summer, we take a walk or work in the garden.
Read Aloud and Bed [7-7:30]
We end our night with reading aloud. My husband usually reads aloud to our almost 2yo while the boys are getting on their pjs. She is in bed by 7. Then he is currently reading Little House in the Big Woods to our 3yo while I am reading the Growly series to our 5yo. The boys are then in bed, usually around 7:30. They can then look at books independently in their beds until their clock goes to sleep at 7:45.
That’s a look into our day. This is just a rough idea of what our day looks like. Play is the focus with reading aloud a close second. While my kids play, I am sometimes working on cleaning the house, baking, working on the podcast, or working for a homeschool conference team I am apart of. I love spending time with my kids, but I also think it’s important for them to see me focus on my own responsibilities.
For preschoolers, I believe play is the most important thing they do so I try to make sure they have plenty of space for it. If you are interested in learning more on how to establish play as apart of your rhythm, take a listen to the podcast. I have a series devoted to why play matters and a question and answer podcast where I go deeper into how we implement this in our home.
If you are interested in what a rhythm could look like for older kids, listen to Ep 9: Establishing Rhythms During Times of Crisis.
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