Sample Day

I’ve had lots of people ask me for a sample schedule.  Of course what your “ideal” day will look like depends on lots of things: how many kids you have; their ages and nap schedules; children’s personalities and preferences; YOUR personality and preferences; any commitments you have, classes, work schedules, etc.; other people’s schedules you need to work around; etc. etc. etc.  That being said, it can be useful to know what other people do, and this is a schedule that has worked well for me.  As you think about your schedule, some key things to think about are: 1) when/how often/what do you eat? 2) When/how long do your kiddos sleep? 3) When do you schedule outings? Some kids do better with outings in the morning, others do better in the afternoons. If possible, it’s helpful for kids to have MOST of their outings either one way, or the other. This helps them know how the day is likely to unfold.

OK, here’s a sample schedule for someone who is home with one child:

7am: Wake up, snuggle, brush hair as sweet wake-up activity, get dressed. Some kids need an immediate snack or drink, while other kids don’t get hungry till about 45 minutes after they wake up. If they need a snack, have a sippy cup of milk, or a banana & peanut butter sandwich, or some other easy snack that is prepared in advance and they can eat with minimal help from you.

8am: Sit down and eat breakfast together. Breakfasts I like: eggs w/ cheese; oatmeal w/ raisins & almond meal stirred in.  I’m currently eating chicken-vegetable soup with my daughter for breakfasts, since she always eats especially well at breakfast.  After breakfast I run the dishwasher and wash the pots and pans from the previous night’s dinner, as I hate washing dishes at night when I’m tired.

9am: Outside time. If you have a yard, this can be in the yard. If you don’t have a yard, you can go for a walk together, or go to a park. Invest in some warm and/or waterproof clothes for yourself and for your kid(s), so that you can go out in all weathers. I’ve found that having at least 45 minutes outside in the morning makes a HUGE difference for the entire rest of the day. I will work in the garden, or bring some veggies outside to chop, or work on creating beauty or function in our outdoor play space. Or I’ll just sit in my adirondack chair and drink my coffee. If you want some ideas on making your yard more interesting and kid-friendly, check out the Bonus Material on Nurturing Spaces.

10am: Head indoors, get lunch started, change diapers/go potty, etc.  Then do some sort of adult-directed activity: this might be an arts & crafts or baking project, it might be Ring Games for a group of kids, it might be snuggling and reading books together, it might be making something beautiful to celebrate the season, or something useful for your home, or a gift for someone (grandma, an elderly neighbor, daddy, etc.). This activity can be longer or shorter, depending on your children’s ages and interests. If you like to have a weekly rhythm, this can be part of it; for example: painting on mondays, baking on tuesdays, cleaning on wednesdays, making things (seasonal or practical) on thursdays, and fixing/mending things that have broken on fridays (I have a “mending basket” where we put anything that breaks, and on fridays we’ll pull it down and see what we can fix, and say a sad goodbye to things we can’t).

11am: Tidy up, do a short puppet show, sit down for Early Lunch. We’ll talk about meal options in Week 6, but I often do a grain with red lentils & veggies for lunch. Again, kids LOVE rhythm, and Waldorf kindergartens have a weekly rhythm for grains. These are: rice on mondays, barley on tuesdays, millet on wednesdays, rye on thursdays, oats on fridays. We had to play with this quite a bit to accommodate gluten sensitivities and other allergies, but once we made a schedule for the semester, we’d stick with it. This type of variety within the week, but regularity across the weeks, can help children develop tastes for a much broader range of foods than they otherwise might have.

12pm: Clean up from lunch while children help or play; diaper/potty children, etc. Fold laundry or do other household tasks while the children play. If it’s beautiful weather outside, we might go out again for a short time. Around 12:40 or so, start getting ready for nap time: a small snack starts off the process, then look quietly at books, brushing teeth together, then tiptoeing to bed, and lying quietly while I sing or tell a soft story (for older kids), and kids fall asleep.

1pm: Rest time for everyone! This can be a good time to check email or return phone calls, activities that are not so kid-friendly.

2pm: Kids gradually start to wake up. I brush their hair when they wake, then they have a meal/snack while I start doing dinner prep. I try to get everything prepared: veggies chopped, put in the strainer w/ water and lid; salad made; meat marinating, or whatever.

3pm: This is often a good time for an outing: a trip to the library, a visit to the park, a trip to the store, etc.

4pm: Might come home from our outing around 4:30 or so, spend a little snuggle-time reading books on the couch, then work on finishing up dinner together.

5pm: Set table, sitting down to eat between 5 and 5:30. Finish dinner, tidy up and pile dishes in the wash-tub below the sink to wash tomorrow. Wipe counters.

6pm: Bath and start getting ready for bed. If partner is working, this might be the time when he or she gets to spend time with kiddos.

7pm: Kids falling asleep. Kids between 2-4 generally need 12-14 hours of sleep per 24 hours. If your kiddo is getting significantly less, try moving bedtime earlier. Kids often wake around the same time each day, relatively regardless of when they go to sleep. Some kids need more; my daughter (age 1) needs 15 hours in order to be her happiest self.

OK, that’s a sample day that I’ve found can feel really solid for toddlers and preschoolers. However, you’ll have to figure out what works for your individual kiddos. For example, my daughter goes to sleep every night at 6:15pm, rather than the ‘traditional’ 7 or 7:30pm bedtime. Also, she’s still taking morning naps at 15 months, so we make sure to have outdoor time in the afternoon.


Is this similar or different from what you do? What’s worked (or not worked) for your family?

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