This article was originally posted March 15, 2020. It was updated January 2021.
What’s the best daily schedule while stuck home during Covid-19?
It’s a daunting feeling looking at long days home with kids, and little to do outside of the house.
Our daily routines with kids are built around schools and work, sports, play groups, and community events. What do we do all day at home? How will time ever pass? Will it start ticking backwards?
We can do this. But it is going to take some adjusting away from our lives before Covid-19 to our lives during this pandemic.
Make some mental shifts for starters:
We are embarking on a new time in our world where family will go back to being the end-all-be-all – we’ve turned back the clocks about 100 years on family life.
But it still doesn’t answer that one lingering question: What will we do all day?
What will a daily schedule during Covid-19 look like?
During this pandemic, with millions of kids out of school, life is going to look significantly different than it did last year.
What we need is a solid daily routine – a schedule – to help us find our footing. In a few weeks, you might not need this as much and you’ll have developed your own routine for the days at home.
But until you come up with your own, here’s my blueprint to work off of.
A few tips going in:
- Instead of looking at large time blocks, make the day into short, manageable chunks (think 30 minute blocks).
- Be flexible! Don’t stick to the time listed in my schedule – it’s more about flow. If the kids are playing nice – don’t stop them because the schedule says it’s snack time. Let it be.
- Adjust this to fit your child – you know your kid(s) and what they need. You know how long they can tolerate certain activities. Adjust for them.
- Don’t rely on screen time to save the day: use screens as your tool and reserve it for when it’s crucial (I’ll talk more about that below).
- If your child doesn’t play well independently, they are going to learn. This is a great time to focus on independent, child-led, free play time (again, more on this below).
Here’s my schedule (you can download the PDF HERE for FREE)
Busy Toddler’s Daily Schedule during Covid-19
7:30 am – Greet kids / clean kid bedrooms
8:00 am – Breakfast / screen time
9:00 am – Clean-up / Free play
9:30 am – Easy indoor activity or school work
10:30 am – Snack
10:45 am – Outside time
11:15 am – Read aloud
11:30 am – Free play
12:00 pm – Lunch
12:30 pm – Clean up lunch, play time
1:00 pm – Nap time / Quiet time for big kids
3:00 pm – Snack
3:15 pm – Easy afternoon activity
3:45 pm – Outdoor time
4:15 pm – Read aloud
4:30 pm – Free play / dinner prep
5:30 pm – Dinner
The biggest take-away I need to point out is the short time blocks.
I remember being a first year kindergarten teacher and wondering what I was going to do all day with 21 five-year-olds. I realized the days moved best with kids when we moved in predictable, short time blocks.
RELATED: If you are looking for visual schedule cards for your kids, check out these from The Military Wife and Mom.
Let’s answer some pressing thoughts:
What about quiet time?
If you have children who DO NOT nap, I recommend having a “Quiet Time” set up during the early afternoon.
READ HERE HOW QUIET TIME WORKS AT MY HOUSE.
For a parent, it’s an important time to have as a break – you’ve worked a long day and you need to sit (you can adjust the length of quiet time to what feels right for you).
During quiet time, your child might be playing in their room, they might be silent reading, it might be another good block for school work. You know your child.
CLICK HERE TO SEE A LIST OF QUIET TIME SUPPLIES WE HAVE AND LOVE.
Children need time to decompress. Parents need this too. If it’s important to you, make it a priority and set up some clear boundaries.
What should you the parent do during quiet time? NOTHING. Take a break. Stay-at-home-parenting means life without a commute, without alone bathroom breaks, eating half meals, and being on all the time. It’s ok to take a break. Don’t worry about cleaning – you can clean at other times in the day (and it’s good for kids to see this so they can appreciate how much work goes into maintaining a home).
What if your child doesn’t play well alone?
Some kids have a hard time playing without an adult involved.
Some kids want us to sit with them.
Some kids won’t play unless we are in the room.
It’s hard. But….
This is a great time to teach the skill. Here are some tips to help get kids playing more (since they’ll be home from school for so long, it is imperative that they learn the play skill. It’s also hypercritical to their overall development as a person…so this is really really good for them to learn).
- Look through the toy bin: get rid of or donate the broken or unused toys (too many toys can be overwhelming and have a reverse effect on kids).
- Push all the open-ended toys to the front (toys like blocks, dolls, trucks).
- Remember that play is a skill – they need to GROW it little by little. Manage your expectations.
- Start the play with them: “Ooooh, what if you did an animal tea party!”
- Make sure you are busy too – we can’t sit on the couch to scroll Facebook while telling a child to go play. Work, do chores, busy yourself.
- Set time limits that they understand: “I’m going to unload the dishwasher. Where will you be playing? I’ll come check in when I’m done.”
- Limit screen time – screens negatively impact a child’s ability to play. Limiting screens can help a lot.
How much screen time during this daily schedule?
I use screen time as a tool.
I control the screens in the house – this is a tool I use. My kids can’t announce they want TV and make the choice to turn it on .
I keep screens predictable: when kids know the routine, they aren’t worried about when they’ll watch something next. I do screen time in the AM while I make breakfast. This works for us. I have friends who instead do it at quiet time in the PM. That works for them. Find a predictable time that works for you.
Safeguard screen time as a tool to use when you need it. Maybe it’s for a work meeting or you’re just overwhelmed by the day… that’s when to use the screen for help. Until then, do your best to guard that time.
Find easy activities to do with your kids – I have tons!
I’ve got tons and tons of easy activity ideas for you to use to break up the day.
- Best Indoor Activities List
- Toddler Activity List
- Preschool Activity List
- Kindergarten Activity List
- One-year-olds Activity List
- Baby Activity List
And I even have a Preschool Activities Program called Playing Preschool if you want even more activities structure to the day.
Quick note on read alouds…
Reading aloud to children, even kids in high school, has massive benefits. Use this new lifestyle as a chance to read more to your children out loud (even your child who can already read).
You can also add in a silent reading or “kids read to you” time for additional reading options during the day.
One final piece of advice: This is SURVIVAL MODE
Remember, this isn’t normal life right now. It’s survival mode and we are all doing our best to make it through a trying time.
Some days will go better than others.
Cut yourself some slack. Cut the kids some slack. Have a whole lot of grace.
Life will go back to normal, eventually, but until then… we can embrace this new normal and give it all we’ve got.