Now I know routines and schedules can be a little…. well… controversial.
A lot of people think that you are either such a schedule fanatic that you are a slave to your schedule, or you have no routine at all and you basically let your kids decide what happens at what point during the day.
But I don’t feel like either of these extremes is best for moms or for kids.
So when I was creating my routine for my girls, I strove to find a happy medium.
In this post, I’m going to go over why routines are so great for moms to have. I will show you How to create your own schedule that you can customize for your needs. And I’m going to show you my routine from when I had a newborn, my routine from when I had 6-month-old, and what our routine looked like when we had a toddler and a 4-month-old.
In this post we’ll cover:
5 Reasons You Want to Have a Routine
How to Create Your Routine
The Newborn Routine that I Use
The Routine I use when I have a 6-12 Month-Old
And My Current Daily Routine with a 6-Month-Old and a 3-Year-Old
Let’s go ahead and get started on why it is so valuable to have some sort of routine or schedule in your daily life.
And if you prefer to watch instead of read, here’s the video:
Why Every Mom Needs a Routine
1) Routines Make You Confident
The first reason I love routines is that they make you so much more confident as a mom.
When you hear your baby crying and you have a predictable routine, all of the guesswork is taken out.
You don’t have to wonder if they are hungry, or tired, or if they need to be changed.
You know exactly why they are crying… at least most of the time… because you know where you are at in your routine.
Whereas if you don’t have any sort of schedule, every cry becomes a guessing game. And you just have to keep trying new things until you figure out what it is that they actually need.
2) Routines Help You Stand Up for Yourself
The second reason I think every mom should have a routine is that the confidence you gain from your routine, helps you stand up for yourself when other people think they need to chime in and tell you what your baby needs.
When you are a new mom, almost everyone will have some sort of advice for you. And everybody seems to think that they know what it means when your baby cries.
And almost every time someone else told me what my baby needed… they thought the baby was hungry.
But when you have your routine and you know if that is a tired cry, or a hungry cry, or if they are just crying because they need a diaper change, it can give you a lot more confidence when you are dealing with other people who think they know your baby better than you do.
I had so many people tell me when my first daughter was born, “oh she’s hungry” or “that’s a hungry baby.” And I was able to confidently say, “No, she’s not, she’s actually just tired because this is her nap time.”
And I could put her down, or I could put her in her car seat if we were out and about, and she would go to sleep and take her nap.
Because of the schedule, I wasn’t constantly trying to guess and figure out what was wrong… especially when I was under pressure from other people to make my baby stop crying.
3) Routines Help Your Baby Sleep Better
Most sleep experts agree that having a predictable daily routine leads to better daytime sleep at nap time and better nighttime sleep.
Now, I wish that I could tell you that there is just one amazing sleep book out there that will solve all of your problems… but unfortunately, there isn’t. Or at least there isn’t one by itself.
When I was a nanny I read just about every sleep training book I could get my hands on because I had one little guy in particular who wasn’t a big fan of sleep.
And what I found was that I needed to combine the principles in three different books to create something that worked really well for him.
On Becoming Babywise is essentially a handbook for how to create routines that teach your children how to sleep for the first 12 weeks of their life.
I love this book because using the principles in it, both of our girls slept for 8 hours straight at night, when they were 8 weeks old.
The Dream Sleeper is another handbook for teaching your children how to sleep from ages 4 months up to 2-3 years of age.
If you follow this books advice, your kids will be sleeping for 12 hours a night (can a get a hallelujah!).
Bringing Up Bébé is a story about a woman who moved to France and realized that all the French kids were eating and sleeping really well and she set out to crack the code.
So it’s a really fun book to read that also has some gems along the way for how to teach your kids to sleep better.
4) Routines Teach Kids To Eat Better
When kids snack all throughout the day, they don’t tend to eat very well at mealtimes.
And even if you can get them to take a few bites, it generally won’t be the healthiest food that they are willing to eat… because they just aren’t that hungry.
But if you can have specific mealtimes for your kids, even at a very young age, it teaches them that it’s actually ok to be a little hungry in between meals. And it also teaches them which times are for filling up your stomach and getting full.
And the last reason that I think everyone should have a routine is that it actually makes it easier for those days when you don’t have a routine.
This one is kind of ironic to me because we had so many people tell us before we had kids “Don’t stick to a schedule or your kids will never be able to be flexible” and “you’ll be a slave to the schedule and it will make your lives so much more difficult.”
But we’ve actually found the opposite to be true.
Our girls are very flexible on the days when we do go off of the schedule.
For example on days when we are hiking and we eat lunch much later, or if we go out to brunch and brunch ends up being 2-3 hours later than their normal breakfast time, they are able to wait because they are used to waiting for their food.
Now I will say that this does work best if you are using a Weekly Rhythm as well. That ensures that your kids have some simple days where you are sticking with the routine, in addition to having some days where you let yourself go rogue. You can read more about how to create a weekly routine here, or watch the video about it here.
How to Create Your Own Daily Routine
Now that we know why we should have one, let’s start building one.
And to show you how it’s done, I’m going to use the exact newborn routine that we used.
1) Set the “Meal Times”
The first thing that you want to do when creating a schedule for your baby, is to set the meal times (aka, the nursing or bottle feeding times.)
When my girls were 0-12 weeks old, our feeding times looked like this:
Now for us these were approximate times because I knew that I would be staying home with the kids, so if they woke up anywhere between 7:00-8:30 am, it was ok with me. I just adjusted the rest of the schedule accordingly.
If you know you are going back to work though, you might want to wake your baby up at the same time every day to help them set their internal clock.
2) Write in the Nap Times
Now once you have the feeding times figured out, write in their nap times.
And if your baby is a newborn, they will be taking a nap in between each feeding.
When our girls were 0-12 weeks old, this is what their nap schedule looked like.
3) Determine Your Blocks
The next step is to notice where the start and end of each block will be.
If you are creating a newborn schedule like we are in this example, your blocks will begin at the start of each feeding and end at the end of each nap.
So if you are using the 3-hour feeding schedule like we did, it will look something like this:
4) Write in Your Laundry Routine
And once you have these blocks set, you can start building in the rest of your daily routine.
Because, if you’re not careful (especially as a new mom!) laundry can really pile up on you (haha, no pun intended) and before you know it, you’ll be out of clean clothes for you and your baby to wear.
My schedule with my laundry routine looked like this:
5) Write in Your Cleaning Time
If you’ve seen my simple cleaning routine, you know that I prefer to clean a little bit every day, as opposed to doing a lot of cleaning once a week.
In order to make sure that they cleaning gets done though, I need to write it into my Daily Routine.
For this example, I’m going to put my Cleaning Time into my second block of the day.
6) Determine Meal Prep Time
It’s really hard to make food while you are carrying a baby.
But if your kids are anything like mine were, all they want in the evening is to be held.
And it was really stressful if I was trying to cook a meal at that point.
So I found it was a lot easier to make dinner during one of the girls’ nap times when they were little.
Typically I did this during the nap that happened just before dinner time.
So I found that it was very helpful to decide ahead of time which block I would use for setting appointments, running errands, and basically anything else that had to do with leaving the house.
It is also helpful to know which block of your day works best to skip naps and be away from home when you are setting appointments.
When my girls were little I much preferred to sacrifice the morning nap and get errands done early in the day. That way I could be sure I was getting that naptime break for myself in the afternoon when I really needed it.
Be sure to check out this post if you want more tips for how to get out of the house on time!
8) Decide If and When You Want to Workout
Working out and staying fit is really important to me, but I know if I don’t schedule it in, it isn’t going to happen.
So I make sure that I have one block dedicated to taking time to exercise.
So here is what my final routine looks like:
9) Morning Routine
Now you may have noticed that I don’t have anything about a morning routine on this schedule.
And that is because when my girls were newborns… I didn’t have one.
My only goals for my morning routine at that stage were to get myself into real-people clothes and brush my teeth. And as long as I did those two things, I called it a success.
Especially when your baby is still waking up during the night, you should get all the sleep you can.
The only exception to this is if you are an introvert who seriously needs that alone time. Then absolutely get up and have that time in the morning 🙂
If you want any tips for creating a morning routine, check out this post.
Our 6-12 Month Daily Routine
Now if you want another example of a routine for when your child gets a little older, this is what we used from the time our girls were about 6 months old until they were between 12-18 months (it was different for each of them :).
From 4-6 months I would say our schedule was fairly flexible and seemed like it was changing constantly because… well… babies.
Most babies go through periods when they are dropping naps, but they still need those extra naps sometimes.
But by the time were at 6 months, we were pretty solidly on a 4-hour block schedule that looked something like this:
Now if they took that evening nap it looked like this list… but if they didn’t take the possible evening nap, they would eat at 7:00 and go to bed around 8:00.
6-Month-Old and a Toddler Routine
And I thought it would be fun to add in our routine that we used when the girls were 6 months old and 3 years old:
My oldest daughter and I had a nice little rhythm in our life.
When my second daughter was about to be born, I figured this new addition was going to shake things up a little bit.
Everyone told me that having a toddler and a newborn is no joke. They warned that I should say goodbye to my schedule because our routine was going to get rocked in a big way.
They would give me those “aren’t you adorable” and “you’ll find out soon” looks when I would say that I wasn’t too worried and I knew we would find our rhythm again.
So when my younger daughter was born, I braced myself for the worst. Expecting our life to be turned upside down.
Only… it wasn’t.
Sure, there was a lot more nursing, changing, and napping going on in our house, but our basic rourtine stayed the same.
How is that even possible??
Block scheduling is the best friend of productive minimalist moms. Why?
Because it’s simple.
It provides you with the predictability and structure that you and your children crave, while simultaneously giving you the freedom and flexibility to live a stress-free life. Block Scheduling will make your life easier in the good times… and in the tough times!
Do you feel like there are never enough hours in a day? Like you’re always trying to keep up with the clock?
There’s a Block for that!
Feel like you are always running but never get anything done… while your never-ending to-do list just keeps getting bigger?
There’s a Block for that!
Do you never know when to schedule appointments and your kids end up napping at different times every day?
There’s a Block for that, too!
Do you want to spend more quality time with your family instead of feeling like a bystander watching them enjoy life while you clean up after dinner?
There’s even a Block for that!
Every curve ball that life can throw at you, you can tuck neatly into one of your blocks.
This system has worked for us when I was working outside the home, when I was a stay-at-home mom with a newborn, when I was a stay-at-home mom with a toddler, when I was a stay-at-home mom with a toddler and a newborn, and now that I am a work-at-home/homeschool mom with a toddler and a preschooler.
And it’s even working for us currently with my husband working at home full-time as well (Coronavirus, anyone?).
So let’s get into how you can create your own block schedule!
And if you prefer to watch instead of read, you can check out this video:
What is Block Scheduling?
Block Scheduling is where you take your day and divide it into neat little sections.
It isn’t too different from any other daily schedule, except for one major thing:
Instead of focusing on individual hours, you focus on blocks of time.
Why does this change everything?
Because blocks give you enough time to get things done without feeling rushed.
They provide breathing room between activities instead of making you feel like you are scurrying from one task to another.
And the blocks provide predictability. When you need to schedule something, you already know where it goes.
Here’s an illustration about the difference.
Picture Christmas Morning. Your children have a pile of gifts to unwrap and they are excited. You are excited too and you want them to enjoy them all as much as possible.
So you decide to let them open them all right away. One right after the other until they are finished.
They are, of course, elated about this and proceed to open each gift as quickly as possible!
Only, they can barely be excited about the one before it is time to open another. And when they are all opened, they aren’t sure which one to play with first, yet they are reluctant to share until they have finished their “job” of playing with everything until they are “done.”
No picture that same Christmas again. The same presents and people are there. But there is one small change.
Instead of opening all the presents at once, they are spaced out to allow each gift to be fully enjoyed before moving on to the next one.
They receive on gift first thing in the morning on Christmas Eve and play with it all day. Before supper on Christmas Eve they get to open another.
On Christmas Day they open their stockings in the morning, then wait until after breakfast for another present. All through the day, they receive one gift at a time until they have enjoyed them all.
Which scenario sounds less stressful?
The one where there is time to be in the moment instead of rushing from task to task.
The occasion was the same, the gifts were the same, and the people were the same, but the feeling was different.
How to Create a Block Schedule
Ready to dig in? Get a notebook and a pen, or you can grab my Autopilot Workbook if you want to use my block schedule template and get your entire house running on autopilot!
1) Divide Your Day Into Blocks
The first thing to do when you are building your block schedule is to… wait for it… divide your day into blocks!
Do you prefer to have fewer, longer blocks in your day? Or shorter, more frequent blocks?
Do you work outside the home? Then you may need a couple of long blocks with some shorter ones sprinkled in.
Do you want all of your blocks to be the same length?
You can divide your day into as many blocks as you think would work for your routine and life. But I recommend that you try 4-7 blocks to start with. (I personally use 5 in my day.)
2) Decide on the Length of Your Blocks
The blocks can be any size that fit your life.
I recommend having your blocks be anywhere from 2-4 hours long, but I wouldn’t go any shorter or longer than that.
As a general rule, If your blocks are too short you won’t get everything done that you need to in that block without feeling rushed. If the blocks are too long, you will feel like you have so much time that you procrastinate… and won’t get anything done!
The only exception to that rule is that if you work outside the home or are a student, you typically have a one-hour block for lunch and errands.
If you aren’t sure what size of blocks to have, start with equal three-hour blocks throughout the day.
You can always adjust them if you need to. 🙂
3) Name Your Blocks
Next, give each block a name or a label.
Don’t overthink this, just use whatever makes sense to you.
For example, my first block of the day is named “Morning Block”…shocking and creative, I know.
The reason that I name my blocks is so that it’s easy to remember which activities belong in each block.
4) Divide Your Daily Responsibilities
Now decide what types of activities will go into each block.
For example, our second block of the day is our Out and About Block and goes from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
Here are the activities that would go into this category: Grocery Shopping, Trips to the Park, Doctor’s Appointments, Music Lessons, Dentist Appointments, Play Dates, Trips to the Museum, Going on Hikes, Going on Walks, and anything else that involves us…. you guessed it!… getting out of the house.
(Side Note: If you have a hard time getting out of the house on time, check out this post or this video.)
Beneath each block, write down every activity that will fit into that block.
My Block Schedule
Want to see an example of a block schedule?
I’ll show you mine!
Keep in mind that our schedule works well for us, but your blocks/activities/needs may be completely different.
That’s the beauty of the blocks! They can be tailored for every situation.
And by every situation, I mean every situation!
Alright here is my block schedule:
Block One: Morning Block 6:00-10:00
Our morning block is one of our longer blocks of the day because I get up before the girls do to get started on my Morning Routine.
After the girls wake up, usually between 7:00-7:30, and my oldest daughter completes her morning checklist (if you have the Autopilot Workbook, be sure to use the Morning Checklist for Kids.)
If your kids are home from school right now, this is an excellent time for them to get more involved in household duties. You can check out my post How to Teach Your Children to Enjoy Doing Chores if you need some ideas to get them started.
2023 Update: If you want to see my girls’ checklists a 8 and 5, watch this video!
Block Two: Out and About Block 10:00-1:00
Our second block of the day is when we do things that require us to leave the house or see people.
With the Coronavirus quarantines and social isolation going on, this block is currently changed to the Get Outside | Learning Block.
Here are the things that went into this block Pre-Coronavirus:
Grocery Shopping, Trips to the Park, Doctor’s Appointments, Music Lessons, Dentist Appointments, Play Dates, Trips to the Museum, Going on Hikes, Going on Walks, and anything else that involved us getting out of the house.
Now that this block looks a little different, ith as the following things in it:
I still do my best to get the girls to spend some time outside every single day, even if it is just in the backyard. If you want to get your kids outside every day too, I highly recommend getting some good rain jackets and rain suits which make playing outside in all weather more fun!
Currently in this block are also things like piano practicing, learning games (you can look on YouTube or Google for “fun ways to learn _________” if your children are home from school or if you are homeschooling and want to mix things up.)
Another great activity to do with your kids inside is to make bread! Your house will smell great, you will keep the kids busy for a while, and of course, you’ll have homemade bread!
And there are some things that we do in this block whether we are in quarantine or not.
We also give the girls baths if needed (we don’t do baths every day… it saves water (which saves $$). And they don’t get so dirty every day that washing their faces and hands can’t take care of it.
Block 5: Work Block 7:30-10:30
Once the kids are in bed for the night, we usually get back to work!
We finish up cleaning the kitchen if we didn’t get it done in the previous block, then we grab our laptops and work for a couple of hours.
What to keep in mind as you build your schedule:
1) Give yourself enough time to accomplish your tasks.
2) But don’t make the blocks too long or you will procrastinate!
3) Allow for flexibility: Since no two days are exactly alike, make sure your schedule will work on your busiest day as well as your least busy day.
4) Schedule in Down Time: If you feel like you are always running and never have time to enjoy life, schedule in some downtime. That might be part of your morning routine before everyone else wakes up, it could be at nap time, or it could be in the evening when everyone is in bed.