How to Create a Visual Daily Routine Chart
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According to an article from Aha! Parenting, children need routines “because routines give them a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline.” This idea is especially important if you have a child with ADHD or who just struggles with paying attention, give them a regular routine and they will thrive because they know what is coming next and they can focus on one thing at a time.
In The Life-Giving Home, Sally Clarkson writes, “Routines are often difficult to establish and may need to change through the seasons of life, but when cultivated carefully they promote life, love, regularity, and security amidst the constantly changing stresses of contemporary life.” That is exactly what young children with attention difficulties need in order to be successful.
But creating a routine in the first place can be stressful and it can be hard to stick with, I have personally tried to create routines for my family multiple times but I never found a system that helped the rest of the family follow what was in my head...until now.
I have started using a visual schedule for my boys to follow on a daily basis (well, Monday through Friday) so they know what the plan is for the day and nothing comes as a surprise (like chore time). I also need a set routine to help with my anxiety, especially postpartum. I’ve been creating daily schedules/routines for myself since elementary school. I would type up a morning routine for myself on the computer and it would be precise down to the minute. I’m nowhere near as strict now but I definitely do best when I have a routine to follow. We also only use a visual routine Monday through Friday, weekends are focused on family time and church and we don’t always have a plan for the day ahead of time.
One of the biggest things motherhood has helped me with is being flexible, it used to totally mess me up and shut me down if something in my day changed without warning but with kids you have no choice but to be flexible because you never know what they will throw at you next (sometimes literally). It’s still hard for me to deal with a changed schedule but I know that if I am flexible then it will help my kids learn how to be flexible and not rigid in a routine. Because a strict routine is just no fun after a while. So, I encourage you to make a daily routine that is fluid and can change with the day. Our days look very different depending on what day of the week it is so I have created a daily routine schedule that can easily be changed and each day has its own routine.
A Visual Routine
While you’re children are young, they will greatly benefit from a visual schedule since they most likely can’t read yet and having it out in front of them to constantly look at will sort of ingrain itself into their brain so that when they are older things like cleaning up before daddy gets home become a habit. Even though my kids can’t read yet, our visual routine also includes words because I figured it will help language development if they become familiar with the words and have something visual to associate it with from the visual routine.
How to Create Your Own Visual Daily Routine
Creating a daily routine doesn’t need to be stressful. Follow the steps below to etch out your family’s daily routine. To help you create your visual routine, I have made a free printable pack that you can grab under the “Mom Life” section in the free resource library. The printable pack includes times from 6am to 11pm and pages of activities that you can print and cut out and put into your daily routine. More on them, below.
1. What does a typical day look like for your family? There may be days that look totally different and that’s okay, we are just looking for a starting point. I then like to break my day up into morning, afternoon, and evening. Write a list of what needs to be accomplished during those blocks of time or what is happening.
2. On a piece of paper, write the times from when you wake up to when you go to bed, in half hour increments, in a list down one side of the paper. My visual routine is just for the kids, there are times in the day where they are playing or napping and I am doing something different but on the visual routine I just focus on the kids’ tasks. Looking at what needs to be accomplished in the morning, afternoon, or evening, choose time slots for each item. Not everything needs to happen in 30-minute increments, you can block out a one- or two- or three-hour (or whatever you need) block of time for tasks.
3. Now that you have your typical daily routine created, look at those days that look a little bit different from your typical day. For example, say your child has an appointment every Thursday from 12:30pm to 1:30pm, that day would be different from your typical day but you will want to use your typical daily routine as a template. Write out your typical daily routine again but this time pull out the times affected by this appointment and put the appointment into it’s time slots. What did you have to pull out of your routine to fit that in? Is it anything that needs to be moved to another time (such as lunch or naps)? Adjust your routine to fit in anything that is affected by the appointment but still needs completed. I have an example for you below where you can see a typical daily routine and then beside it, how I adjusted it to make space for this appointment.
Repeat this step for each of your un-typical days (for us we have a set playdate every Tuesday morning over the summer, William has occupational therapy every Thursday, we have church Monday evenings, and one evening a week my husband works late so each of those days has an adjusted routine based on that typical daily routine template).
4. Grab a pocket chart (often used in classrooms), [affiliate link] this is the one we bought, and print out the daily routine printable from my resource library. Print out the daily routine papers and cut them out.
5. Slide the times into the left side of the calendar and add in the activities beside the appropriate times. Show your kids the schedule and explain how it works and that everyday it may look a little bit different but they can always look there to see the plan for the day. I hung our daily routine chart in the kitchen, at a level where my kids can see it well but the side of the wall I put it on isn’t seen when you walk into the kitchen, you have to turn a corner, so it keeps the kitchen from looking like a classroom.
When introducing my boys to our visual routine, I showed them each part of it and explained that every day we will have new things on the chart. I told them that if they want to know what we are doing during the day, they can always come and check the chart and they can see the order of the activities.
My almost-two-year-old could kind of care less about the visual routine chart but my four-year-old loves checking it throughout the day because he can see what’s coming up and what he’s supposed to be doing and when.
In my free resource library you can find the printable visual routine papers and print them out to use in your home. The times are broken up in half-hour increments but there are a few 15 minute increments in there just because I needed them for our routine so I threw them in with what I created for you since they were already made. There are about a dozen activity slips for you to print and cut out, ther are multiples of some activities because they may be used more than once a day (like playtime or screen time). The time slips are 4”x2” and the activity slips are 7”x2”, I created them to fit into [affiliate link] this pocket chart but they should fit in any other chart that has slots that are about 12”x2”. If you need shorter slips of paper you can always trim up the papers. If you don’t yet have access to the free resource library, you can sign up for my email list here and then you will receive the password to sign into the library and download the printables. If you’re already on my email list, the password is on the bottom of every email you get from me.
If you create a visual daily routine, I’d love to see it! Share a photo on Instagram and tag it with #iamajoyfulhomemaker and be sure to tag me as well so I don’t miss it (@abbybarstow).