How a before and after-school routine helped us.

Feb 2, 2015

When my daughter first started school, everything was new and fresh, everyone was eager and keen, and getting all that we needed done for the day wasn't difficult. She eagerly checked off all the items she needed for the day in her schoolbag and I dutifully re-checked and packed everything each afternoon and morning to make sure nothing was ever missed.

As time went on though, and we all settled into the routine of the school weeks, things started not running as smoothly as they had in the beginning. As my daughter took on more age appropriate responsibilities during the year, I found myself in an almost daily battle of trying to ensure everything had been done. Asking multiple times to please put a jumper or a lunchbox in a bag, having to drive back to school to deliver missed lunch-boxes and asking 5 thousand times to please put your school shoes on! (I'm not alone, right?) Between that and wrangling a toddler intent on finding any way possible to delay us, it was becoming increasingly difficult to make it to school on time each day.

After school wasn't much better. After all the busy morning caper and then a full day of school, it was no wonder that as the year went on, Maddie got more tired and by the time we made it home from school, it was another struggle to get our reader/homework done, the general responsibilities accomplished and have time just to play and be a kid!

Something needed to change and for us, it was as simple as writing a before and after-school routine that outlined everything that needed to be done in a day, in a logical and manageable way.

Why have a written routine?

Having a written timetable/routine that my daughter could read, follow and refer back to as needed, was just what the doctor ordered. Ever since putting it in place, our before and after-school experience has definitely improved.
My daughter (who was 5 when we first started this) loves knowing what to expect. It gives her a sense of control. Reading, referring to and actioning her own special list also gives her a feeling of responsibility, and only needing to use the phrase, "what's next on your list?" has helped my stress levels as well. It has helped us get to school on time each morning and by shifting around the time we did readers/homework (from before bed time to during the afternoon), our afternoons run much more smoothly too.

Here is what our before and after-school routine looks like:

How we implemented a before and after-school routine

Obviously this wasn't something that I could provide a printable for, as each family will have different things that need to be done and a different way or order of doing them. I made our timetable just as a simple document in Word.

After sitting down and carefully considering all the things that needed to be accomplished each morning and afternoon, and writing it all step-by-step in a logical manner (that works for us), I printed off and laminated (for extra durability) 3 copies.

Along with my husband, we sat down and went through the list with our daughter, so that everyone was on the same page and we all understood and had the same expectations.

I stuck a copy in my daughter's room, a copy in our kitchen on the pantry and another floating around for us to grab as needed. (By the front/back door could be another good place to keep one)

When you first implement your new routine, continually refer back to the list and go through each step with your child if needed. From there, try to stick to your routine as best you can for consistency. If certain things aren't working, go back and reevaluate and make changes as needed until you find a smooth flowing routine that works for you. Our routines often change and develop further as time goes on so it's important to allow a bit of flexibility and be prepared to switch things around to work best for your family.

We started this new school year with our routine already in place and it has been great. I do still have to remind my daughter here and there to check her list and see what's next, but otherwise, everything is getting done, we're easily getting to school on time and there are no battles over homework in the evening. With everything running more efficiently, without arguments and nagging we are finding ourselves happier and with lots more time for play!

For pre or beginning readers, some printable routine picture cards (from Childhood 101) would work well and get your child used to following a routine while practicing some simple, useful words. When you have a more confident reader, adding in extra text as well as using a list format is great for them to practice and develop their literacy skills further. Adding in some rough timings allows your child to also practice reading and telling the time.

Further reading

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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