No matter the age of your child, you can get your little one on a schedule. Read all about how to get your child on a schedule here.
So you want to start a schedule with your kiddo.
For whatever reason, your child did not have a real schedule as a baby, and now you are trying to figure out how to get one in place.
You might have a foster child, may have adopted a child, or maybe you just didn’t care about a schedule until now.
No matter the reason, you are looking for a solution.
Schedules Take Time and Work
The first thing to accept is that it will likely be a challenge to get a routine in place.
Change can be hard, and I don’t mean just for your child. This will take commitment from you and your child.
You will need to be dedicated.
Your child may resist at first (though he may not!), but after a week, she will likely really enjoy knowing what her days will look like.
Children have so little control in life that they often love having a routine each day; it gives them a sense of control over their day.
Have a Consistent Wakeup Time
One of the first things to decide on is what time you will start each day. If you want each day to look similar, you need to start each day similarly.
Decide what time will be your official start time and stick with it.
In your pre-schedule days, you may have had some days when your child slept until 9 or 10 AM. Unless that is your new wakeup time, those days are past.
Also past will be late nights and the early mornings.
In your deciding on a daily start time, pick a time that is reasonable for your child.
If your child wakes up every day at 6 AM right now, going for an 8 AM start time might be pushing it beyond what is really possible. Everyone has more natural times of day they wake up. Go for a 7 AM instead.
It is important that you keep consistency with your new wakeup time.
If your child wakes early, do not get your child out of bed to eat or watch cartoons or quietly play.
Tell your child it is still night time and that you will get him up when it is time. If your child has a really hard time with this, an Okay To Wake Clock can be very helpful (affiliate link).
Keep your morning wakeup time consistent within 30 minutes. If you say 7 AM, don’t let the child sleep in until 9 AM regularly.
Have a Consistent Bedtime
On the other side of the day, have a regular time for bedtime.
It is good to have your bedtime 10-12 hours before your morning wakeup time. Again, be consistent with this bedtime.
Associated with bedtime is a good sleep routine. Have a routine that is the same each night before bed. This helps set the tone for bedtime and helps your child recognize it is time to sleep.
And if you are struggling with bedtime, see my tips for making bedtime smoother.
Have Consistent Meal Times
Choose a regular time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to happen each day.
If you want your child to have a consistent routine, food needs to be consistent. If your child needs, you might add in one or two snacks along with your regular meals.
Have Nap Times (or Rest Time)
If your child is three or younger, your child will likely need a nap each day. Some four year olds still need naps also.
If your child is not in need of a nap anymore, have a regular rest time each afternoon.
A good time for nap to start when you have one nap a day is typically somewhere around 1-2 PM.
Have this time consistent each day and your child’s body will get used to it. This is a great time for the child to get some rest and for you to have some rest, also (even if it is just a mental break)!
Some children really need consistency with this naptime start, even as they get older. My oldest needed his nap between 1:00-1:10. If it was any later, he would not sleep for his nap that day.
Be Very Consistent
Did you notice a word I used a whole lot?
The key here is consistency.
Even if your child didn’t have a routine or schedule, there is a good chance most if not all of these things happened each day anyway.
Your child woke up each morning. Your child went to bed each night. Your child ate. Your child napped at times.
But you are still looking for a schedule. That means something needs to change.
The key to having a schedule or routine is consistency.
You have a time of day you want these things to happen and you do your best to make sure they do happen at these times regularly. If you really want a schedule in your life, you have to stick to it. If you want a routine to stick, stick to the routine.
As you are starting out on your schedule/routine quest, dedicate two weeks to being super consistent with all of these times.
After that two week period, you can start being flexible and changing things up as needed, but if you start off with two solid weeks, you will be in good shape.
Then your child will have a foundation to return to after being flexible is over. You want a schedule so it can benefit your family. Don’t become a slave to it.
Once you have these things down, you might want to add in more details to your daily routine.
You might get more specific on what sort of play is happening during each playtime time period. You might prefer to have things more open between the meals and naps.
Make your schedule as detailed as works for your family, but start with the basics outlined above.
You might meet some resistance as your child starts out, but before too long, your life will be more predictable from day to day.
You might even call it a schedule.