As my life has entered a new stage because of being a grandmother, I am now seeing the benefits of using a schedule in the next generation. Not only is a schedule helping my granddaughter, Abigail, with her daily life, but her mommy, Melanie, is developing the pieces of her schedule beyond what I learned to do with mine. Because our daughter-in-law was recently on pregnancy bed rest for many weeks, the Maxwell ”girls” have been part of the team that takes turns going in to take care of Melanie and Abigail while Nathan works. This has allowed me to observe Melanie’s scheduling of Abigail’s time and the results in Abigail’s life. Because I regularly get questions regarding what one might put on a preschooler’s schedule, I thought you might like a glimpse into the one I am most familiar with right now.
Mealtimes are on the schedule: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Since the time Nathan arrives home for dinner varies some, dinnertime is ultimately based upon when he is available. Before meals, Abigail, who turned two in May, has some simple jobs that she helps with, such as setting the silverware and napkins on the table, making salads (the ingredients are prepared in advance), and helping Mommy get things out of the cupboard. Although her “help” at this age probably slows Melanie down, it is productive use of Abigail’s time. It is teaching her to work, and it is training her for jobs that she will soon be able to accomplish independently. After the meals, Abigail again has some chores that she does while Melanie is cleaning up. She can clear her dishes, wipe her high chair tray with a dishrag, put a few items away, and sweep in the kitchen with her mini-broom.
Melanie chose to try baby potty training, so Abigail has been going potty on the toilet since she was quite young. She is just beginning to be able to consistently communicate to Melanie when she needs to go, so she is still on scheduled potty trips. This happened every hour at first and now every hour and a half, involving five to ten minutes.
Not only does Melanie include Abigail in her kitchen chores, but she also has scheduled a daily chore time after breakfast. Abigail goes with Melanie (or whoever is the current bed rest helper) as she tidies up the house, helping to put things away. She has a little broom to use when Melanie sweeps the kitchen floor, swishes her feather duster as Melanie does her dusting, puts dirty clothes into the washing machine, and moves clean wet clothes to the dryer. Making Abigail part of Melanie’s daily work productively occupies Abigail’s time, teaches her how to work, equips her with skills she can build upon as she matures, and keeps Melanie and Abigail together.
Midmorning following breakfast and chore time, both Melanie and Abigail take a break. They call it naptime, but it is more of a slow down since neither of them actually sleeps. Abigail drinks a small bottle and then cuddles on Melanie for ten minutes. After that time is up, Melanie spends the remainder of the half hour reading out loud to Abigail.
Abigail has twenty minutes in the morning schedule called blanket time. For this, Melanie puts a blanket on the living room floor with several toys on it. Abigail is to play on the blanket alone with the toys but not get off the blanket. Because Melanie started working with Abigail several months ago and taught her to stay on the blanket, when Melanie says it is blanket time, Abigail knows just where to go and what to do.
Last in the morning, Melanie has scheduled school time for herself and Abigail. During this half hour, Melanie does simple preschool activities with Abigail. The ones I have observed were stringing large beads onto a thick string and putting designated objects on a mat that had big numbers on it. They also work puzzles together and are practicing colors and letters.
When school is completed, the next time block involves making lunch, eating, and cleaning up, and after that it is naptime. This includes preparation for the nap, which means going potty, getting a diaper on, and drinking a small bottle. Abigail’s nap is scheduled for a certain amount of time, but if she wakes up early, she is allowed to get up.
After naptime on the schedule comes snack time. Abigail participates in getting the snack food out in addition to enjoying the eating time with Mommy. Melanie is always looking for little tasks that Abigail can do to be a “helper” girl. It would be easier for Melanie to do the work herself, but these are the formative years when good habits are being instilled into those little lives.
Weather permitting, when the snack has been eaten, Abigail has a half hour of outside playtime. This might mean a walk with one of her aunts plus Grandma and Grandad, or it could be playing in the backyard with Aunt Mary or Mommy.
Once Abigail comes inside after her play-outside time, she has a read-aloud time with Grandma two days a week and her Daddy CD the other days. I have collected a bag of toddler and preschool reading books that I tote over to Melanie’s house to read to Abigail. Abigail looks forward to “read books,” and it is wonderful grandmother and granddaughter time.
The Daddy CD is a CD that Nathan recorded of him talking to Abigail, sharing his heart with her, and teaching her things he wants her to learn. Abigail spends this time in her crib with special toys that are put in the crib with her that she only plays with during her play-alone time. Melanie, or whoever is helping, takes Abigail to her room for her Daddy time. They turn on the CD together, get out the toys, and put Abigail in the crib. When the CD ends, we know it is time for Abby’s play-alone time to be over. (For more information on how to create a Daddy CD, Steve will be writing about it in his next month’s Corner.)
There is time in Abigail’s schedule that is called “playtime with Mommy.” During this half hour each afternoon, Melanie sits with Abigail on the floor near Abigail’s toys and plays with her. It is a designated amount of time so that both Melanie and Abigail know Melanie is going to be giving Abigail playing attention. This helps free Melanie from feeling like she needs to continually play with Abigail, and it also keeps Abigail from always asking Melanie to play with her.
The evening is somewhat scheduled, but dinner is flexible based on when Nathan can get home from work. Nathan’s evening schedule can be found in Steve’s newest book for men, called Redeeming the Time. After dinner there always seems to be something to do, but Abigail has a set a bedtime to which they adhere. That means that family Bible time, evening bottle, teeth brushing, and getting jammies on are scheduled in the proper order just before bedtime.
This structure brings stability to Abigail’s day. It allows her to learn the day’s schedule and anticipate each activity that will be happening. It helps Melanie meet Abigail’s needs and have time for those teaching and relationship activities that can easily be pushed aside in the rush of the day. It also allows those who step in to help when Melanie is on bed rest or just not able to be up as much as normal to know what to do with Abby. Melanie has to make a decision each day and throughout the day as to whether she is going to follow the schedule or do other things.
There is a special peace that comes from the productivity and efficiency of using a schedule, not to mention the building of relationships that can be part of the scheduled activities. I am not implying that every mom’s schedule would look like Melanie and Abigail’s. However, I am encouraging you to prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you do each day and then develop a schedule to help you move toward that goal.
For more scheduling help, we recommend Managers of Their Homes.