Setting a Schedule for Small Children

Some parents like to plan out every detail of each day, others just like to have a general idea to work around. Either way, kids need a daily routine to keep them healthy, happy, and out of trouble. And you need it to keep yourself sane! Here are some tips for creating one that works for your family.

Setting Rules and Activities

  • Take 30 minutes at the start of every week - and also every day before the kids wake up - to sit down and decide what needs to be done, and when you will do it. Include planning the family meals, projects around the home, personal time and doctors' appointments.
  • Be sure your spouse or partner knows their daily tasks. Give extra help when they ask for it.
  • Find friends who have or had young children and ask them how they structure their days.
  • Little children learn one rule at a time. Teaching too many "No" rules at once will make it hard for them to learn and for you to enforce. As they learn, you can add more.


  • Get up early every morning. Your children will follow the schedule you set by getting the day started consistently, and you will have enough time to get things done. Make sure you are also going to bed early enough to make this happen!
  • Think about problem times. When are the kids usually hungry, sleepy, or tired? Activities around those times should be helping you manage these problems, not making them worse.
  • At places like doctors' waiting rooms or when standing in line, there's often nothing to do but wait. Bring along small activities, like mail to read, or crayons and paper for your kids.

Sticking to It

  • Write down as much of the schedule as you can on a calendar or paper. Post it on the fridge, next to the TV, in your bathroom, in your closet. Carry a copy with you to help you learn it.
  • If you have an emergency that you may need help with, like needing to pick someone up or getting delayed at work, ask a friend to watch your kids. Be sure to do the same for your friend!
  • Follow through with all the rules and consequences!

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