Setting Up a Back-to-School Routine

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Most kids find routines comforting and even empowering. When you know what to expect, there's less uncertainty about what to do. Here are some tips to help you and your kids create your own routines and start the new school year off on the right foot!

Bulletin boards, posted calendars and visible charts are great tools for making sure the whole family is "onboard" with routines. If kids aren't yet readers, draw pictures instead.

Some daily activities that lend themselves to predictability are:

Waking Up. Set the alarm for the same time on school days.

Washing Up and Dressing. Keep to a daily ritual of washing up, brushing teeth and getting dressed.

Eating Breakfast. Set a pattern eating breakfast (before or after getting dressed) and how or if the kids help clean up.

Making and Taking Lunch. Designate a place for ingredients and make lunchbox packing and emptying into a regular task. You could have the kids help pack their lunches the night before.

Setting Out for the Day. Make sure your kids know when it's time to leave for school or daycare. For children who can't yet tell time, it's especially important to give a "five-minute signal" so they can wind down what they are doing.

Placing Items in Findable Places. Designate a place for items (backpack, sports gear, lunchbox, notes) to be taken to school.

Eating Dinner. While eating together may not always be possible, try to create a predictable hour for dinner and make it a time to connect as a family.

Getting Ready for Bed. Bedtime routines are known to help kids get a good night's sleep. Develop a ritual (for instance, bath, then a story) that leads up to an established bedtime.

Some of us have an easier time with routines than others. Children who are disorganized benefit enormously from structure. And kids who thrive on order find routines comforting. Yet routines needn't be rigid. Having clear benchmarks can actually allow for greater flexibility and spontaneity.

Back-to-school marks new beginnings and a fresh start for all of us. That makes it a good time of year to establish some of those routines that we've promised ourselves to set in place but haven't gotten around to yet. Here's to making this school year a productive, happy and healthy one for you and your family.

-Sylvia Barsotti is the Editor of Parenting Content at Highlights for Children. For more thoughts on parenting from Highlights, please visit