Why a Rhythm and not a Schedule Works Best for Families that are Cooped up Indoors with Young Children

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With schools closing because of the COVID-19 outbreak and regular after school activities and public play areas no longer an option, you might be wondering how to help your family thrive in these uncertain times.

What works for our family is using the idea of a daily rhythm to follow versus a schedule to stick by. A rhythm (besides sounding better!) offers wiggle room and flexibility. It allows us space to make changes within a block of time without that disrupting the whole flow of the day. In essence, a rhythm is relaxed, flows better and is less stressful for the person who needs to execute it, aka the parent.

For this reason, I use the rhythm below for how divide our day into blocks.Within the block, I offer myself enough space and time to account for last minute requests, toddler preferences (that are unpredictable most of the times), moods, external factors, last minute plan changes, and other things that just crop up unexpectedly. So I make sure I don’t pack it too tightly and don’t plan it down to the last detail.

When planning our daily rhythm, I divide the day as follows:

Before 9 am – Wake up and necessary chores (brush, bath, make bed, breakfast)

9 am to 12 pm – Play time or work time & light snacks

12 pm to 2 pm – Lunch & Nap (if your child is still napping or a quiet time activity)

2 pm to 6 pm – Indoor play time, help around the house (dinner prep) and outdoor time

7 pm to 9 pm – Dinner, wind down, sleep

Here are some pointers for how to make the planning and execution of the daily day rhythm easier on yourself

Involve your Children in the Planning – We try to have a 15 minute family meeting after dinner and before bed and involve our child so she gets to experience the process of planning and decision making and see and participate in healthy debate. When you give your children a voice and a say, there are more likely to own the process and take pride in the rhythm. Also, it helps when they know what to expect from the following day because children, and especially young ones, thrive on predictability.

Let your Children Choose – Within each block, my child is free to choose what she would like to do. If you are concerned that this would mean chaos, toy rotation is a great strategy to have a win win situation. We store most of the toys away and bring out a few different ones every few days (you can it more or less often as it applies to your family). On days that are especially busy or

Allow time for Transitions – Transitions and stopping what they are doing to move another activity is really, really hard for young children. So, in the morning block before lunch, for example, it’s often a good three hours of free flow activity where the child or children are free to choose what they would like to do but we start wrapping up around 11 30 am to offer transition time to lunch and to also accommodate time for “One more game, please!”

Factor in Break Time for Yourself – Find a little slot of time in the day when you can be on your own to recharge. Don’t forget to factor that in into your daily rhythm

Be Flexible – Sometimes stuff happens and your perfectly planned rhythm won’t go the way you want it to. And that’s fine because there are no perfect days. Only imperfect ones that will help your child grow and learn and build memories.

Let me know in the comments below, what you think your daily rhythm would look like! Writing it down makes it easier!

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