To start with, some minds are made for creating systems and order. For example, they love coming up with spreadsheets that detail out every hour of their day. Other brains were created to maintain an existing system or order. Give them that pre-made spreadsheet and they go to town!
However, Ask a systems-creator to actually maintain their brilliant system and you might find that they are all gusto in the first week, and then quickly peeter out, unable to keep up with the demands of their awesome way of doing something. Furthermore, ask a natural-born "maintainer" to come up with a brilliant system for making the day go (albeit theoretically) smooth like silk and you might find her eyes welling up with tears because the task seems insurmountable. The bottom line here is that most of us stink at order, though we all long for it.
So might I suggest a gentler way to "schedule" your day with your preschool kiddos.
- First, find a fixed point in your day that pretty much happens whether the sky falls or not. How about lunchtime.
- Next, decide on something that you would like to see happen every day, like picking up toys before naptime. If your brain works like mine, it gets all excited and goes crazy at this step, so let yourself dream about the wonderful things you could accomplish with your kids if there was a schedule, but then hold back and PACE YOURSELF!
- Talk about it with your kids. Say, "starting Monday, we are going to..."
- Start super slow. Finish the sentence you started above with, "...spend 5 minutes picking up our toys," even if you know it would really take a solid 15-30 minutes.
- Add chunks of time or tasks as the weeks progress. "Starting on Valentines Day we are going to spend 10 minutes picking up the toys." Then, "Starting in March we are going to keep working until the whole place is clean!"
- Continue to build around that fixed point. "Spring Break is coming, kids" (like your preschoolers have any idea, but you get my drift, right?) "and starting then we are going to do one chore each day before lunchtime."
- Stay positive and fun. Make games out of things as they adjust to the demands of the schedule. If one day is a disaster, focus on what did get done and start fresh tomorrow.
Now, I don't care if your house is clean before naptime or if your kids are doing chores, but can you see how I am building around a fixed point (lunch), and doing things in small increments in order to create a routine? You are not overwhelmed at the task of maintaining something impossible, and the kids are not overwhelmed by a sudden major shift in their day. This is also a great way to establish a bedtime routine, get kids ready in the morning, accomplish homeschooling tasks (I might imagine), establishing a quiet time when naps are no longer part of the day, or...I have been working off of this principle since January 1, 2008. I started super small, like I described, with just '4 minutes of reading the Bible after lunch.' Now it is early February and the kids and I have sucessfully added the following things to our after-lunch-and-when-mommy-gets-home-from-work routine:
- Recycle the under the sink pile
- Feed the cat
- Pick up the baby toys that the (now napping) baby pulled out that morning
- Do one extra chore, for example laundry (I have to think ahead on that one and write in on my kitchen dry-erase board the night before or during breakfast.)
- Read a couple pages in The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes.
- Practice our weekly verse (supplied for us by our Sunday School class)
- 40 minutes of Bible Quiet time (even the baby participates in this: I place him in his crib with lots of toys, binkis, and his favorite CD...we have been slowly working up to this with him!)
- A quick snack
- And then the big reward: 30 minutes of some beloved show we have TiVoed (one of these days I think I will post something on the virtures of digital video recorders).
For more great tips and other Works For Me Wednesdays, visit Rocks In My Dryer.