How to Set a Family Schedule When You’re Out of Routine

Life with kids can be busy and chaotic. This chaos is only amplified when you find yourself in a new place or situation that takes you out of your regular routine.

Whether it’s summer vacation, an unexpected snow day or even just a busy weekend, a family schedule can help to bring some structure and flow back to an out of the ordinary day.

If you’re looking for some tips on how to create a family schedule that will work when you’re out of your normal routine, read on!

The benefits of creating a family schedule

There are tons of amazing reasons to start using a family schedule. A schedule can help you to:

  • Reduces decision fatigue: We have a finite amount of decision-making capacity in a day. A well-planned family schedule can help reduce the number of decisions you have to make and you can save your capacity for other things.
  • Increases efficiency: When you have a schedule in place you don’t have to waste time thinking about what you should or could be doing. You already have a plan in place so you can just do it.
  • Clarifies expectations: A schedule helps to get every family member on the same page. The plan and expectations are literally written down for everyone to see.
  • Reduces stress:  For kids, too much change and inconsistency can lead to feelings of anxiety and stress. I would argue the same is even true for adults. When everyone knows what to expect it’s easy to plan and prepare and it makes everyone feel more in control of their day.
  • Helps to increase good habits:  while simply having a schedule won’t force you to exercise or make your kids do their homework, it is a helpful tool in reinforcing good habits. When you’ve scheduled outdoor time/exercise time from 1-2 p.m. you’ve eliminated the “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse.
  • Helps to reduce bad habits: a schedule helps to prevent you and your family from spending the day being inactive or sitting in front of a screen. By having a plan in place you’re less likely to just sit around wondering what you should do.



General tips for creating a family schedule

By now I hope you’re convinced that having a family schedule is a great idea. I mean, look at all of the benefits. Now let’s get into some general tips about how to create your family schedule.

Get your supplies together

Gather up a whiteboard and markers or a big piece of poster board and think about where you want to post the schedule. It should be somewhere central so that it’s accessible and easy to see like on the fridge in the kitchen.

Make it a family affair

Since this is a family schedule every family member should be involved in its creation. Make sure everyone gets a chance to have their say to ensure that there are no big schedule surprises! This will hopefully result in less resistance when it comes time to follow the schedule.

Tips for what to include on your family schedule

It’s up to you to decide what you want to include on your family schedule but here some different things to consider.

Activity time

Whether you have young kids or school-age kids it’s great to include some structured activity time. You can add some example activities such as experiments, reading or certain crafts. By thinking of some activities ahead of time you can make sure you have all of the materials that you’ll need. Also, when your kids come to you and say they’re bored you can tell them to go and look on the schedule for some things to do!

Schedule outdoor time

Every good schedule should include some outdoor time. When you have small kids this is essential to help release some of that toddler energy. A trip to the park or a bike ride will help everyone sleep better. Getting outside will give you a dose of vitamin d and, as an added bonus, your kids won’t sound as loud when they’re out in the wide-open air.


Incorporate snack and mealtime into your schedule to ensure that no one goes hungry. No one wants to deal with a hangrey (hungry/angry) child!I know it’s easy to opt for quick options when you’re away from home or out of your normal routine, but try and stick to nutritious foods. A good meal plan can help you to prepare ahead of time so you aren’t scrambling and turning to junk food.

Nap/relaxation time

A bit of quiet time gives everyone a chance to replenish their energy, and it gives mom and dad some necessary time to clean, eat or do anything else they haven’t had a moment to do.

With young kids sticking to scheduled nap times helps to ensure that they actually get the sleep they need. With older kids, you can implement an hour of quiet time where they can read, do homework or even watch the iPad.

Incorporate chores

This is more relevant for older kids but even toddlers have things they can help with. Include different chores that your kids can do throughout the day. For example, in the morning make bed, brush teeth, etc. At mealtimes, put your dishes in the dishwasher and at bedtime put your dirty laundry in the hamper. By having the chores listed on the schedule this makes everyone aware of what is expected and hopefully reduces any arguments or negotiations.


Set a bedtime. It doesn’t have to be exact, you can have a range, but it’s important to stick to a general routine when you have kids so they don’t get overtired. All parents know, an overtired child makes bedtime miserable. If you’re away from home try to replicate your normal nightly routine the best you can.

If at first you don’t succeed…

If your first go at the schedule isn’t a great success, no problem. Nothing is set in stone, this is a work in progress. But, a few things to consider before you scrap your first iteration and replace it.

Give it time

When you introduce a new schedule it will take a few days or even a week to adjust and get used to your new routine. People generally don’t like change and it will take everyone time to adapt.


If after a few days or a week you feel like something isn’t right, adjust. Your schedule is a work in progress. Get the family back together to discuss what’s not working and then readjust.

Be flexible

When you’re out of your normal routine there’s a certain amount of flexibility required to get through the day. If you mess up and don’t follow the schedule one day, don’t worry. Just try to get back on track the next day.

Now it’s time for you to create your family schedule

While to some, a schedule might seem rigid and unnecessary I find it helps me and my family to make the most of our days. Rather than wasting time trying to figure out what to do we all know what to expect. The family can prepare for the days ahead and I can ensure that we have everything we need to enjoy the activities and meals that we’ve planned.

Happy planning!

–By Jessica Martel

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