As a classroom teacher I ran by a fairly consistent daily schedule, and I try to do the same thing when teaching my kids at home. Although we don’t live by the clock as strictly as I did in the classroom (after all- if we eat lunch at 11:30 instead of 12 we’ll still have a place at the table!) we do certain things every day that I find beneficial, helpful, and in some cases essential. It really doesn’t matter when you do these things, but I think they’re all important to include in any schedule with young kids.
–Outside play: I think it’s so important to get outside and play every. Single. Day. Fresh air, sunshine, and ample space to run and play are so good for the well being of your kids (and I dare say for you too!). I can’t tell you how many times one of us has been in a funk all morning and it’s solved by simply going outside to play. Since we’ve been staying home more than normal due to the Coronavirus, we’ve been even more consistent with going outside to play for an hour or two each day. We don’t always do it in one big block- sometimes it’s an hour in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, but we’re always outside at some point! Even on rainy days it’s fun to get outside and splash in the puddles (as long as it’s not lightning!)!
–Story time: Since I’ve been reading to my boys pretty much from the moment they entered the world they’re both very good listeners when it comes to story time, even at 1 and 3. We always have at least two story times a day- one during morning and/or afternoon snack (this is a fantastic place to start if your kids are super wiggly or aren’t used to sitting to listen to a story because they’re busy eating and in the case of toddlers are strapped into their high chair!) and one before bed. Sometimes we also throw in a few other stories throughout the day, especially if one of the boys brings me one to read to them. What kind of books do we read? Everything! If your kids are interested in it and it’s kid appropriate- dive in! I’ve also started reading to my 3 year old from chapter books while his little brother is sleeping since he loves reading so much! He really enjoyed “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” and “Henry and Ribsy” by Beverly Cleary, “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White and the “Fudge” series by Judy Blume. Since he turned 4 I’ve also read him a few Kate DiCamillo books (one of my favorite kids book authors!) like “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” and “Flora and Ulysses”. They’re perfect for building vocabulary because she always uses great word choice!
–Discipleship: To help disciple our kids, I read to them daily from the “Jesus Storybook Bible” during one of our story times. We got it from our church for my oldest son’s baby dedication and he’s read it so often we’ve already had to duck tape the spine back together (along with several pages he accidentally ripped when he was learning to be gentle with books). The pictures and storytelling is highly engaging for young children and as a parent I love how they tie every story (even in the Old Testament) back to Jesus- a connection even I hadn’t made as a Christ follower! He’s asked some amazing questions after reading it too like “What is the holy spirit?” and “Why is there only one God?”, which I definitely encourage (even though sometimes I have to go look up the answer!). After all, you learn by asking questions, right?!
–Free play: This is so important for young children and should make up the largest chunk of their day. It builds problem solving, imagination, and creativity and encourages exploration and curiosity about the world- all things that are important in the development of young children. I would say on average our kids spend 5-6 hours of their day playing whatever they want inside (and another hour or two playing whatever they want outside- so around half of their waking hours). Often I play with them because it’s a great way to spend quality time together and they’re just so darn cute when they use their imaginations!
–Learning activities: Although this website is focused on providing great learning ideas, we only spend about an hour and a half to two hours doing learning activities each day, with about 10-20 minutes spent on each activity. Some days we go a little bit longer if the activities are more involved (such as when we search through magazines and cut out pictures), but if my kiddo is showing signs of being tired of working, we’ll take a break before starting the next project (or sometimes if there’s only one more short thing to do I’ll offer him a treat for finishing with a positive attitude- we all enjoy being rewarded for our hard work, right?). I like to do art and sensory play with both boys, and math, science, literacy, etc. with my preschooler while the littlest is sleeping so we can focus on learning and not what the toddler is getting into! I don’t ever try to do all of those things in a row with my kids since they are so young and have fairly short attention spans (particularly the toddler, even though he can spend up to 20 minutes engaged in a sensory play activity if he really likes it!) Since the beginning of the school year, we’ve also added a daily calendar time to our learning activities, where we go over basic skills on a daily basis. Even though my toddler is running around during most of it, he’s still picking up on letter and number recognition, which is great!
–Screen time: I’m a bit of a stickler about screen time because it makes me kinda sad to see my sweet children glazed over staring at the TV…not to mention all the research supporting that it’s really not beneficial for babies and toddlers (or probably any of us- but sometimes you just need to veg out!). We didn’t let either of them watch TV or movies until they turned two (other than the very rare occasion- like when I was pregnant with my youngest and puking my guts out and really needed to lay down for 20 minutes I’d turn on Sesame Street for my then 19 month old because I felt like death on two legs!). That being said, now that my oldest doesn’t take naps anymore it’s a life saver to know he’s (most likely) safe on the couch while I put his brother down for a nap. We only let him watch 2 hours a day tops, and I encourage shows from PBS kids because at least they’re educational. That being said, since Covid hit they’ve both watched church online with us every Sunday, so I understand that some wiggle room in the area of screen time is definitely needed! Plus sometimes Mommy needs a break- and that is OK! We can only be good parents when our own cups are refilled!
Now that you have an overview of what we do each day, here’s a sample schedule that we follow. It’s highly flexible and typically doesn’t look the same each day (especially regarding the exact time we do things) because of appointments, picking up groceries, and (before Covid) kid based outings like playdates, classes at the library and swimming, but it’s a good place to start. The key with young children is really to be flexible and if you get busy and don’t do anything but read your kiddo a story, don’t sweat it! Even in the classroom lessons would get moved around due to unforeseen circumstances like fire drills (or actual fires…like that one time my computer started smoking during social studies and we had to evacuate the whole school and call the fire department to come throw the thing out the window…)
- Wake up
- Free play
- Eat breakfast/morning story
- Calendar time
- Sensory play or art
- Go outside to play
- Lunch (possibly another story)
- Naptime for the toddler/Screen time for his big brother
- Preschool literacy, math, and science
- Free play
And there you have it! Also, this pertains to Monday-Thursday only (and I can’t say enough that it’s flexible and subject to change!) Friday, Saturday and Sunday are for family time, playing, studying God’s word and relaxing!