There’s a reason that teachers display the class schedule prominently in their classrooms. Even when I was a toddler and twos teacher, we had a picture schedule that we displayed for children. A daily schedule helps to establish consistency, so children feel more secure and in control of events. What your schedule looks like will vary depending on the age of your children, whether or not you are working from home and if you have the help of a parenting partner. No two schedules will look the same, so try not to compare yours to the ones your friends might be posting online. Here are some general guidelines to take into account:
Provide a balance of active and quiet periods. If you are asking your child to do quiet play while you are on a call, make sure you get them moving for a bit before they sit down for snack later in the day.
Allow for blocks of free play. All young children are capable of and need independent play so don’t feel like you need to be engaged with them all of the time. If this is new for your child, you can support your preschooler by helping them create a play plan. This gives them something to reference so they remember what they want to do during this time. It also helps them independently sustain attention on what they're doing and redirect their attention back to their chosen task.
Take movement breaks throughout the day. After sitting for a bit or when you just notice that they are getting antsy, get up with them and do some stretches, go on a bear crawl around the house, or go run around the block.
Include times for reading aloud. Including read-alouds on your schedule will let children know that there will be opportunities to have some special, snuggle time together.
Plan around your “fixed” times of day. If you have a standing conference call at 10:00, plan to be doing something active with your child prior to the call and then getting them transitioned into a quieter free play time by 10:00.
Schedule time for giving undivided attention. It is amazing how 10-15 minutes of truly undivided attention (put down your phone, walk away from your computer) can help child regulate their emotions and behaviors in positive ways; it is like you are recharging their positive batteries!
Give children notice before a transition. At least five minutes out, tell them that you’ll be eating lunch/cleaning up/getting ready for a nap/doing quiet book reading…whatever it is, children need notice to prepare for a transition (since very young children don’t understand the measurement of time, you can be specific, “Mica, you have enough time to finish one more puzzle and then we will be cleaning up.”).
Be flexible! As a preschool teacher, we always used to say, “Plan for possibilities.” Things change, unexpected situations arise. The important thing is that if you have a schedule and place and you follow your routines most of the time, then when things do change children are more able to adjust.