Pop into any moms’ Facebook groups and you’ll hear:
“My child fights bedtime. What can I do?”
“My son doesn’t listen in the morning and I’m always late for work. What helps you get out the door?”
“My daughter has epic tantrums after school. What is going on?”
These are all really typical childhood issues. They have one thing in common:
They occur at transition time during the day: morning before school, after school, and right before bed.
So I often have one question for moms in my Facebook groups:
“Have you tried a routine chart yet?”
Usually, the answer is no. So if you’re looking to transfer some responsibility to your child or your child is having challenging behavior during daily transitions, check out these printable routine charts for children.
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Routine Charts for Children
I have 9 free printable routine charts for children:
- Morning routine chart
- Toddler and preschooler morning routine
- After school routine
- Bedtime routine
- Night time potty chart
- Stay in own bed chart
- Winter break routine
- Spring break routine
- Summer break routine
I’ve experienced the power of routine charts for children. Every parent and child should have access to them and that’s why so many are free. So scroll down to find several free routine charts.
But you do have to fill out to the form for each free chart. If you want to save time and grab the Ultimate Routines Printable Pack here. It has 10 daily routines with loads of variations so you can find one that’s right for your family!
Using Routine Charts for Children
The biggest mistake parents make is giving the child the chart and expecting it to immediately work. It won’t for most kids.
You still need to help your child learn how to use a routine chart by doing these three things:
- Teach each step
- Increase their independence
- Build motivation
Teach each step
Routines are a series of tasks. But your child needs to know how to do each individual task.
So you still need to teach your child how to do each step.
This means if making bed is the first thing on the morning routine, you either need to have very low expectations for what a made bed looks like – or you need to teach each step.
Increase their independence
If you’re nagging your child to do each step, it defeats the point of the routine chart. So you need to teach them how to use it independently.
My best hack is to start with the simplest routine possible so your child can be independent and experience success.
If you want to do a morning routine for your child, start with just one step. Praise your child as they do it independently with no prompt.
In short, you want them to develop a habit where they can do that task. Once they are successful with one part, add a second task like:
- Make bed
- Eat breakfast
This is called scaffolding. Teachers use it often to provide step-by-step support in order to get students to be independent.
I don’t know many children who are intrinsically motivated to brush their teeth or make their bed.
I am totally in support of giving rewards but for many parents that slides into bribing (yes there is a difference!). So I suggest you have built-in motivation for completing the routine.
Currently, my daughter likes playing Mario Run on my husband’s phone. So we’ve set the expectation that she does the first three steps in the morning routine (make the bed, eat breakfast, and get dressed) then she can play for 5 minutes.
So a fun, rewarding activity that we already would allow her to do is built into the routine. For your child, this could be watching a show, getting down the Legos to play, snuggling on the couch with you, or high-fives and hugs.
Routine Charts for ADHD
Children with ADHD struggle with executive functioning even more than typical children. Executive functioning is the part of the brain that makes decisions and executes those decisions.
Routine charts for children help children with ADHD by:
- Supporting working memory
- Reducing need for impulse control
- Demonstrating planning and sequencing
Supporting Working Memory
You know how when you have a bunch of tabs open in your browser, you get distracted or your device slows down. It’s the same with the brain.
When a child with ADHD tries to keep too many things in their memory at once, they will forget the tasks. Some children gets so overwhelmed that they just give up.
Routine charts remove the need to keep steps in their brain.
Reduces the Need for Impulse Control
When a child with ADHD has to make decisions, they need to use impulse control to make the right one. When you’re faced with eating chips or carrots for a snack, you use impulse control, too.
For all people, once a routine is well-established there is less of a need for self-control. So a routine chart helps your child eliminate any decisions in order to just accomplish the tasks
Demonstrates Planning and Sequencing
Planning tasks and sequencing them in a logical order can be very hard for children with ADHD. A routine chart for children shows children how to plan a set of tasks and execute them in a logical order.
So teaching a child with ADHD now to follow a routine chart sets them up for completing a thesis paper in college or project management in corporate America.
The first behavioral recommendation I’d suggest for any child with ADHD is simple routine charts because they teach so many important skills.
Routine Charts for Autism
Children with autism struggle with executive functioning, too. Using a routine chart to reduce demands on working memory, support impulse control, and teach sequencing is so helpful for autistic children.
In addition, routine charts for autism help:
- Reduce demands for language
- Support difficulties with flexibility
- Provide predictability
Reduce Demands for Language
At its core, autism is a social-communication disorder. Receptive and expressive (listening and speaking) can be harder for autistic children than neurotypical children.
A routine chart eliminates the need for spoken language. Using words and pictures takes the place of oral directions.
- Related: Routines for Your Children
Supports difficulties with flexibility
Autistic children tend to have more challenges with being flexible. But your morning routine probably isn’t the best time to build flexibility when you’re stressed too.
If the routine chart is clear, it will be easier for both your child and you to follow. If it has their special interests built into the routine, it will be even easier.
Many autistic children need predictability. It reduces their anxiety.
A routine chart makes clear what tasks need to be done. If things are done the same every day, it builds predictablity for your child.
Routine Charts for Learning Disabilities
Children with learning disabilities like dyslexia also struggle with language, impulse control and working memory. sometimes to a lesser degree.
So using a routine chart for any child with neurodivergence is a really helpful strategy.
Here’s a rundown of the free printable routine charts for children:
1. Toddler and Preschooler Morning Routine Chart
Toddlers and preschoolers crave independence. A morning routine chart provides that.
However, they need less text and fewer pictures than older children. Focusing on just one thing at a time is the fastest way to gain cooperation and build good habits.
You can grab the Toddler and Preschooler Morning Routine here.
2. School Morning Routine Chart for Children
School mornings are one of the toughest transitions for families. Getting out the door on time for the school bus or to get to work can be a real challenge.
You want to have five minutes to drink your coffee without screaming at your kids. They want to have some time to do what is important to them.
Check out the morning routine for school printable here.
3. After School Routine Chart for Children
After school meltdowns are a well-documented pyschological occurance for chidlren – even more for neurodivergent childrne. After holding it together at school all day, they collapse at home.
This is called after-school restraint collapse. A routine chart can reduce your child’s emotional load by front-loading relaxing and low-stress activities when they get home
4. Bedtime Routine Chart for Children
Besides morning routines, the bedtime routine is the most stressful f0r most families.
Let’s face it. Kids don’t want to sleep. Playing is more fun for them.
But you have a long to-do list and a Netflix playlist calling your name. So check out how a bedtime routine chart can end your bedtime battles.
5. Night-time Potty Training Chart
One overlooked routine is night time potty routine. Many children – especially neurodivergent children – need to be explicitly taught how to go to the bathroom at night.
This is a combo potty routine chart for children and a nighttime potty training sticker chart.
6. Stay in Own Bed Routine Chart
Just like the night-time potty routine, a routine for staying in bed is important for many children. So a stay-in-bed routine chart can be really helpful.
This doubles as a sleeping sticker chart to reinforce good sleeping habits for your child.
Grab the stay-in-bed routine chart in this blog post.
7. Winter Break Routine Chart
The winter holidays are already a time when so many routines are disrupted for children. When toddlers or neurodivergent children rely on those routines to stay regulated, it can be really tough.
But using a winter break routine chart can provide your child with more structure and security. It also helps parents have a better sense of how to fit work, exercise, or chores into the daily schedule.
8. Spring Break Routine Chart
Vacation time from school can be a major routine buster. This can lead to cranky children and frustrated parents.
So if you’re staying home for Spring Break, you’re going to want to check out the Spring Break Routine Chart.
9. Summer Routine Chart
Summer vacation can be filled with sibling fights and “Mom, I’m bored!” But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can be proactive and give your children structure during their summer break for school. All you need to do is provide a loose daily schedule.
You can grab a free Summer Routine Chart in this post.
Supplies for Routine Charts for Children
I either laminate or place the routine charts in a dry erase sleeve. Then I usually put them on a clipboard and hang them up in our hallway.
These are some of my favorite supplies for using routine charts with my children:
When Routine Charts for Children don’t Work
If your routine chart isn’t working, it could be for a variety of reasons:
- Can your child do each task independently?
- Have you built the routine one step at a time?
- Have you waited for your child to develop mastery with one skill before adding another?
- Is your child motivated to do the routine?
- Does the routine chart just not fit your family’s schedule or needs?
If the routine chart for children doesn’t fit your family’s needs you might need an editable kids’ daily schedule template.
It’s best (in my opinion) to just start with an imperfect routine. Don’t procrastinate and wait for the perfect routine or the right time.
Then from that routine, you can edit and adjust to make it work for your family.
Recapping Routine Charts for Children
Here’s the summary for tired parents:
- To do a routine, your child has to be able to do each skill independently.
- Teach the routine step-by-step.
- Wait for mastery of and independence with one part of the routine prior to moving on.
- Build in some motivation for the routine for your child like Lego time or a TV show.
- Routine charts help children with ADHD by supporting working memory and reducing need for impulse control
- Routines model how to plan and sequence which helps children with ADHD.
- Autistic children can thrive with the structure of the routine as it doesn’t require extra flexibility and reduces their anxiety.
- There are several free routine charts available including a toddler and preschooler morning routine plus one for bigger kids on school mornings.
- You’ll find an after school routine and bedtime routine chart because those are common challenges for children.
- Two overlooked routine charts are the night-time potty routine and the routine for how to stay in bed.
- Time off of school can be stressful for kids and parents so the winter break routine, spring break routine, and summer routine charts can be very helpful.
Grab one of the free routine charts for children in this post. Print it out.
Tomorrow teach your child the very first step. Then the next day, ask your child to look at the chart.
Praise and congratulate your child for their independence. After a few days, add another step.
Before you know it, your child will more independent!