Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Planning Your Schedule for Multiple Children

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I think one of the most difficult things about having more than one child is the need to plan a schedule that works for each child. You need to meet each child's specific needs while trying your best to not let one child's needs interfere with another child's needs.

I thought I would outline how I go about making our schedules. Everyone's brain works differently, but this method works really well for me.

Step 1: Make a List
I start by making a list of everything every child needs to do. 

I have done this where I take a piece of paper and put three columns (one for each child) and write each child's daily activities in each column. 

My current method is to simply list every activity that needs to happen in the day, then next to it I write who will do that activity. So when recently planning our summer schedule, I wrote down a list like this:
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner (I still keep "eat, wake, sleep" in my head :) )
  • Get ready for day
  • Chores
  • Independent play
  • Sustained Silent Reading
  • Sibling play
  • Outside play
  • Piano practice
  • Music time
  • Learning activity
  • Family time
  • Go for a walk
  • Nap
  • Rest time
  • Get ready for bed
This is just a free-write, meaning you write what comes to your head. Don't try to organize it at this point (though if you are like me, your brain will try to do it anyway)--the point is don't try to organize it yet. Just write what needs to happen each day.

I then made a list of all of the fun extras I would like to do on a regular basis (but not daily) that I knew would interfere with our normal routine. Some of these were:
  • Go to the park
  • Go to story time
  • Go to the library
  • Play sports
  • Go to museums
  • Run errands
  • Playdates
Then I made another list of things I wanted to do this summer that would be "bigger" things--not things I would just take the kids to myself but things we would do as a family. This isn't really a necessary part of planning your schedule, but I wanted to track my ideas for the final product.

Step 2: Outline Day
You can do this on paper or in a spreadsheet. I opened up Excel. In the left column, I typed up times starting at 7 AM and going every 30 minutes. 

Step 3: Add the People
Next, I labeled the top of a column for each person in my schedule. So column one had times, column two had "Brayden," column three had "Kaitlyn," and column four had "McKenna." 

I also added an "other" column at the end (column 5). This lists anything I know will be a weekly disruption. Story time is at the same time and same place each week, so I put in that column, at the appropriate time "Story Time Tues." 

Step 4: Start with Necessities
I started by putting in the activities that were absolutely necessary and that fell at a certain times in the day. One is "wake up." Another is each meal time. Another is nap time. The final is bedtime. 

Step 5: Leave Room for Flexibility
As you are adding your activities in and deciding how long to allot for each activity, make sure you leave plenty of time so you don't feel rushed from thing to thing. That is why I do 30 minute intervals. Some things aren't going to take 30 minutes, but if I give it 30 minutes, then we can take our time to move through the day rather than being concerned about exactly what time it is. I want structure, not stress.

Step 6: Add the Rest
Next, add in the rest of the things you want done each day to fill in the gaps between what you already have. 

Step 7: Add Other Ideas
After the "bedtime" row, I have more info. I have my "other ideas" for fun things to sprinkle in as desired and the "big activities" I want to make sure we get in this summer if possible.

Step 8: Color Code if Desired
This is totally optional, but I love it! I broke things down into categories and color coded them. Sleeping/Resting is in yellow (because that is golden time). Structured activities are in red. Chores and duties are in green. Meals are orangy. And free play is in blue.

Step 9: Print/Laminate/Display
Print if you made it on the computer.

Then, if you would like to, laminate it (I am in love with lamination right now). BUT, you might want to consult step 10 before laminating.

And then, display it somewhere. I put it on our fridge. Brayden is old enough to read, so he loves to consult the schedule and see what is next. He helps keep us on track :).

Step 10: Make an Alternate (optional)
Now, summer can get hot, but around here, it isn't hot the whole summer. But I wanted this schedule to last us all summer. So I copied my first schedule and pasted it into a new spreadsheet. Then I rearranged things so outside time was at a better time for hot weather. So for hot days, or days with disruptions in the morning, I have something that works to still get everything in. I then printed this on the backside of the first schedule, so I can just flip it over. 

Here is a visual of it without the details:

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Katrina said...

Thank you! I've been trying to do something like this for a long time now! Also, I love the new layout. Much cleaner and easier to navigate!

Little Becomes Much said...

This is EXACTLY what I have been trying to accomplish with my 2 boys, 3 1/2 and 13 months. Would you mind showing the alternate schedule or giving input on accomplishing an outing that interrupts with nap time? My 13 month old takes a morning nap at 9 - 9:15 but story time or free summer movie time is at 10. How would I adjust for his naptime if we want to go on this outing?

Katie {My Paisley Apron} said...

Oh my goodness, you take organizing and list making to a whole new level! I LOVE it. I am such a list and schedules person - this is fantastic!

Kristy Powers said...

There are many processes I already go through that seem much more clear when I read how you go through them. Your style is exactly what I need to keep things well-organized in my mind. :) Thank you.

Rena said...

Thanks so much for this! We are expecting Baby #2 in November and scheduling is something I'm starting to panic about! My Little Guy and I already have a great schedule so the day runs sooo smoothly. When I think about juggling ANOTHER schedule, I start to stress. But this step by step outline has really quieted some of my fears as far as planning goes. Thanks!

Bo said...

Hello, my baby is 7 weeks old and is breastfed. He feeds at 6:40PM, naps at 8PM, feeds at 12AM, 4AM, and then I wake him up at 7AM to start the day. How can I reduce the night feedings? He is already doing a 5 hour stretch, so I believe the 4AM feeding can be eliminated or rescheduled in there. I don't do a dreamfeed and am concerned about adding it in if he doesn't need it already. Please help!

Plowmanators said...

You are welcome everyone!

Plowmanators said...

Little Becomes Much,

I would say that you would have to plan on no nap those days--it would be a one-nap day. Either that or I would see if you can find someone to watch him while you take your preschooler.

Plowmanators said...

Bo, see the nighttime sleep issues revised and updated post for some help. There are a lot of things you could be doing or not doing. It could also be just that he needs more time to get that feeding out.

Make sure you have the waketime you need in the day as well as the feedings you need in the day.

Bo said...

Okay, I have reviewed that post. It says watch your definition of night...well my baby does sleep 9hours, 8pm-5:30AM, but our awake time is 7AM. So should I be trying to get him to sleep another 1.5hrs or make bedtime later?

also, he is oon a 3.5hr schedule, he sleeps about 2.5hrs for almost every nap, almost. So would it be better to add a feeding during the day or to do a dreamfeed? He is a sleepy baby..

Plowmanators said...

Bo, 9 hours at that age is fabulous. I would just feed him at 5:30, then put him right back down, and get him up at 7:30. See the post "early morning feedings before waketime" for more. You could definitely try a dreamfeed to see if that helped t all.

I wouldn't put bedtime later.

Ryan and Sarah said...

if your kids are up by 7ish, what time does that mean you get up? when do you take care of yourself/get ready?

Plowmanators said...

Sarah, I get up at 6.

aaron&yuka said...

Valarie- thank you so much for your post on scheduling! You are my hero and this is really helpful- an answer to prayer!


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