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Creating Schedules for Your Child

October 20, 2021
Early Childhood, Family Support, Parenting

Schedules are important when creating consistency and structure for your child. Creating a daily plan with clear timeframes also can help increase your child’s independence and help them plan and prepare for transitions throughout the day. Schedules can also benefit you, as the caregiver, by helping you plan your own day and accomplish the items on your to-do list. 

How to Create A Schedule 

Review the schedule with your child in the morning or the evening before. Consider the timing you think would be best for your child.

Incorporate your child’s preferred activities, which can increase focus, motivation, and engagement throughout the day. You know your child best, so think about their attention span when creating their schedule.

Decide if this is a schedule for your reference or your child. A schedule for your own use would be appropriate, for example, if your child is too young to understand your plan. A schedule for a child, which can include images, increases time on tasks, provides structure, and increases independence. 

Choose a time-based or completion-based schedule. A time-based schedule is created with a specific time frame, such as: 9 AM Storytime, 10 AM Numbers, 10:45 AM Break, 11 AM Circle Time, 12 PM Lunch. A completion-based schedule requires children to complete an activity before moving on. It also could be a variation of both. For example,“At 9 AM, we will start storytime, then we will work on numbers at 10 AM. We will have a break when you finish your numbers and at 12 PM, we will have lunch.”

Schedules do not need to be fancy. They can be simple, clear, and direct. If you’re feeling stuck, contact your child’s teacher for ideas or to send you a sample schedule that you can adopt at home. Modeling your child’s classroom schedule might be helpful for transitions into remote learning.

My Morning Schedule

7:30 AM

7:45 AM

8:00 AM

8:30 AM

8:45 AM

Wake up

Brush teeth & get dressed

Eat breakfast

Put dishes in sink & get ready for school

Start first school activity

How to Apply Schedules Successfully

Here are five strategies to apply schedules to your family’s daily life.

  1. Pre-frame: “Preview” the day with your child. In the morning, discuss what is expected.
  2. Identify & reward positive behaviors: Any time your child does something you want them to do, acknowledge it and give praise–verbal praise, a handshake, hug, a smile, or a gesture that will make them feel happy for doing the right thing. 
  3. Use “I” statements to communicate about behavior: Talk about what you are feeling and what you want to see. For example, “I feel sad because I want to finish the puzzle with you. I want you to sit down and finish this puzzle with me.” This style of communication focuses on the feelings of the speaker instead of placing blame on the child. It lets your child know how you feel and what they can do to fix it.
  4. Set limits and expectations: This is important because remote learning and working from home may be two new experiences happening at home. 
    • Limits: Provide guidelines for behavior. For example, “We keep our feet on the floor in this house.” This limit covers jumping, climbing, or kicking.
    • Expectations: Share specific examples and positive statements of what you want to see at home. For example, say “walk” instead of “don’t run.” You also can give choices. For example, “you can draw pictures or play with playdough.”
  5. Create social stories: Social stories provide step-by-step explanations of new experiences or routines through pictures and simple text. Learn more from this INCLUDEnyc tip sheet.