How to Make a Daily Schedule for Your Family

Sisters making chore list on whiteboard in living room
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A daily schedule benefits both younger and older children by providing a structured environment. While it's unlikely that you'll follow the same schedule every day, year in and year out, having a weekday schedule for the school year can make a positive difference for your kids and family life.

If you spend any time in a kindergarten classroom or elementary school, you will likely marvel at the teacher's ability to organize the children's day. For elementary school students, providing a reliable structure is a critical part of developing a sense of security and mastery.

In older children, attachment looks different than it does in younger kids, with shared communication and objectives replacing some of the physical closeness that typifies attachment in the early years. But the schedule fulfills the same purpose for older kids, providing a sense of security and predictability while supporting independence.

The daily schedule communicates the family's shared goals and allows children to contribute and achieve a sense of accomplishment. Each time they follow the schedule, your child has a small experience of mastery of their environment, and these moments add up and build upon each other.

How to Create a Daily Family Schedule

While every family's schedule will look a little different, the basic process of creating it is standard. Use this plan to get started, then personalize it to meet your needs. Include every part of the day from waking up to bedtime routines. Follow these simple steps to create a consistent daily plan for your family.

Analyze Your Day

Do a simple, but comprehensive time study for each task or activity that needs to happen for each person in your family. The easiest way to do this is to create a daily calendar, either on paper or digitally. Note what each family member is doing at each time of the day. Look for any challenging times. Think about how the schedule can be structured to eliminate problems related to behavior, stress, fatigue, hunger, and disorganization.

Brainstorm What You Want

Think about your ultimate goals. You may be hoping for less confusion in the morning, homework completed by dinner, children in bed by a certain hour, family playtime, relaxation, and/or a clean house.

This is the time to think about what you want in your family life. Focus on a balance of activity and rest for your family. Take an honest look at both parents' and children's needs and priorities. Weigh doing the activities everyone wants to do with not being overscheduled.

Write It Down

Get a poster board and a marker or a whiteboard and write down your schedule for all to see. Post it in the kitchen. Tell the kids that you will now be following it. You may want to have a family meeting to introduce the schedule and go over it in detail.

Refer back to the poster often. You may get some opposition, particularly if there are any big changes, such as an earlier bedtime or less screen time. However, it's key for parents to stand firm and provide consistency. Make sure that any caregivers who come into your home are also following the schedule (ideally, involve them as you create it, as they may have insights on when and where things are going smoothly—and vice versa).

Follow the Schedule for a Week

Aim to give your schedule a solid try to see how it's working before starting to adjust it. Check the schedule often, and let it guide your days for at least one week.

Instruct the children to check the schedule and follow it. If you must remind them, do so. However, your goal is for the children to learn to take responsibility for their part of the schedule, as much as possible based on their age and readiness.

Giving it time and consistently following the schedule will help it to become habit for both adults and kids.

Tweak the Schedule

After the first week, take a look at what is working and what isn't. Consider how the schedule needs to change to address any issues you notice. Make changes in the schedule, and write it on a new poster. Continue to follow your daily family schedule until it is second nature. In a few weeks, you'll likely marvel at how this simple tool has changed your family life for the better.

Of course, there will be times when the schedule simply won't work. Emergencies, illness, special events, traffic, and even weather can put a monkey wrench into the best-laid plans. But even if you get home late or need to buy take-out instead of cooking dinner together, try to regroup promptly.

Do your best to jump back into the schedule as soon as is feasible. In other words, a traffic jam or getting sidetracked at the grocery store doesn't need to stop your family from getting to bed on time.

A Word From Verywell

Creating a family schedule is a great way to organize and streamline your family life. Routines offer consistency, comfort, and predictability for children—and a helpful framework for parents and caregivers to follow. Aim for a schedule that helps your life run more smoothly, and that you can adapt over time as your needs change.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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