Schedule/Routine with 4 little kids

Hi all! I just had a general question about a daily schedule/routine with little kids. I have 4 kids: 5, 4, 2 and 7 months. We are having a challenging time establishing a routine.

What do your days at home with little kids look like? How much “free time” would you give kids this age? I know unstructured play is necessary for kids but mine really don’t seem to do well with “free time.” They seem to just get in trouble and do everything they aren’t supposed to.

Not much free time at all. Unstructured play doesn’t have to mean no routine. If it’s “block time” or “dress-up time” or “outside time” etc…, they still get to determine a lot about how they play with an assigned item or an assigned environment. I used to make out a list of everything we had that could be made into a “time” (puzzles, play-dough, painting, math manipulatives, lacing beads, going for a walk, read-alouds, dolls, cars, lincoln logs, duplos, rescue heroes…) and I used to rotate those. Some things rotated daily, some weekly.

I thought of “anchors” in my day like meals, a simple chore time (or a couple of short “pick-up” times), times for me to read to them, afternoon rest time (older ones not napping got to look at books, listen to stories and play with legos, or other quiet activities), and built on that. True “free play” time was about 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. Those that no longer slept for naps had some choice in rest-time activities, within boundaries. After dinner we had family time, bath time, stories & bed–so the evening was pretty structured too.

If we went out to the park with friends or on another outing, we just picked up with wherever we would have been with the routine when we got back, or I made slight adjustments to make the day work.

With little ones, routines are going to look messy for awhile. Start small and simple, and build on that. Give yourself time to see what works, and add another structured activity or two into your routine each week until you have the right balance for your family. I found if I tried to change too much at once, it tended to flop, the kids derailed the plan, and I just wanted to give up! So, train with one or two things at a time, and when they’ve got that down pretty well, add in another time, and so on.

HTH some!


I am loving your reply! I have 5 kids 9,8,4,2 and 5 months. I feel like the more structure and schedule I put my kids is better for the whole family!! I haven’t been as scheduled as I would like to be since adding #5 but I really, really need to change that. Do you have any sample schedules or any other tips you would recommend - especially including what mom is doing - like laundry, prepping for dinner, dishes. I would absolutely love more help/advice on this. Thanks!

Thanks so much for the reply. I think that sounds absolutely awesome. My biggest struggle is trying not to do to much at once. Like you said, things usually flop and then I give up. I know I have to work on training and teaching my expectations. I am working on getting a good morning routine established( breakfast, chores and Bible time together) and slowly that seems to be getting better! I also would love to see a sample schedule!