Routines for Your Children – free printable charts

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“How do I get my kids to listen to me?”

This is the #1 concern I heard from parents when I was a teacher.  I still hear it today – from friends and in parenting Facebook groups.  My first question is always “What are your routines for your children?”

I totally get the frustration.  You give a direction to your children, and then after a few reminders, you end up raising your voice and losing your temper. I have been there.

The good news is it does not have to be this way.  If you want to have independent children, quit yelling at your children, or have a less chaotic household, there is an answer that is both easy and effective: create better routines for your children.

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Routines are Important

I taught 2nd and 5th grade for 11 years prior to becoming a mom.  I’d spend the first few weeks of school developing and teaching routines to my students. It’s the key to making sure there is enough time for learning – children need to automatically know how to turn in their completed work, gather necessary supplies, and pack up their backpacks at the end of the day.

It’s the same at home. Routines are the key to efficiency. When children know what to do next and have internalized it, everything flows better. You’ll feel less guilty that you’re not constantly barking orders.

Another reason that routines are powerful is they make children feel secure. The predictability reduces anxiety and stress for children. Instead of living in fear of yelling and through the chaos of misplaced items, they gain trust things will happen in a manageable way.

Similarly, routines build independence and competence. When children are able to take care of small chores like making their bed and self-care tasks like brushing teeth, they believe they are capable and can develop more responsibility.

Next, routines are powerful because they free up mental bandwidth for bigger challenges. For our children who struggle with big feelings and emotional regulation, having routines for daily tasks reduces the demands on their self-control. Thus, routines allows them to direct all their brain power towards developing frustration tolerance or problem solving skills because they aren’t struggling to recall what comes next.

Last, routines are so powerful for developing creativity. Routines get a bad reputation for inhibiting spontaneity but in truth, routines reduce decision fatigue. Instead of using mental energy figuring out what to do next or tracking down lost shoes, routines allow our brains the capacity to think freely. When a child’s brain can go on autopilot for routine tasks like getting ready for school, other areas of their brain can be at work for imagination.

Routines are powerful for families: they build independence while reducing stress.

Printable Routine Charts for Children

Routines are great, but they don’t automatically increase independence. In order for a routine to be really effective, it also needs to have a visual support – this means it needs to be written down.

Your children get distracted easily, right? It’s because they lack executive function, a group of skills that include recalling information, managing impulses, and creating and executing a plan.  Executive function is control by the prefrontal cortex and that part of the brain doesn’t finish developing until 25 years old! Simply put, a child’s brain is not ready to independently remember a routine.

Furthermore, all our brains are less effective at recalling spoken language than words or pictures. According to Psychology Today, “the part of the brain used to process words is quite small in comparison to the part that processes visual images.” Thus, your child has a lot less brain power to deal with words than with pictures. So using printable routine charts will help.

This is why I created and share free several routine and skill charts for children.


Using the Printable Routine Charts

First, you can conveniently download all the routines from my shop. It will save you time to download them all at once in one file!

Or you can go to each individual blog post (see below), enter your email address, and then the freebie will be sent to your email.

I want these printables!

Next, to use the printable routine charts, you’ll just need a few supplies.



1. Laminate the printable chart either with a laminator or use self-sealing pouches.  You can also just place the chart in a dry erase pouch.
2. Place the chart on a clipboard.
3. Hang the clipboard in your home in a highly visible area.
4. Teach your child each step.
5. Mark off with dry erase marker.  (Use washable dry erase markers so you’re not doing hours of stain removal. Ask me how I know!)

Morning Routine

Which looks like your typical morning? Are you leisurely drinking your coffee with your hair blown out and all the lunches packed? Or you are frantically tossing granola bars to your children while you scramble the track down missing shoes and backpacks?

Morning routines are the foundation for the day.  When you start the day stressed and angry, it can be hard for everyone to bounce back and recover.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can develop a calm morning routine by using a morning routine printable to teach your children the steps.

After School Routine

When your children get home from school or daycare, do they some times fall into a sobbing heap? Is your child routinely having meltdowns at home in the afternoons? This behavior is so common it has an official name: after school restraint collapse.

Your child has to hold themselves together all day. It takes a lot of energy and self-control for children with developmental needs or are prone to high sensitivity.  Even typical kids can fall apart from expending lots of energy coping with typical stresses during the school day: there are the cafeteria and recess social challenges, embarrassment when they are confused during math, or anxiety about being separated from a parent.

Having a calming after school routine can eliminate or improve the after school meltdowns in your family.  Use the after school routine printable to support your child.

Bedtime Routine

Maybe after bedtime is your time to watch Netflix or exercise. Maybe you can’t wait to read or need to connect with your partner. You need this time to yourself to be a good parent, and it would certainly help if you could get the children to be cooperative and end bedtime battles.

Everyone is tired at bedtime and has little patience. You’ve worked all day and your children have had to deal with the frustrations at school or home. No one has a ton of energy left for battles or lack of structure.

I made a couple different bedtime routine printables to help make evenings easier.

Troubleshooting Routines with Your Children

There will be bumps in the road when you teach your child routines. A lot of adults make the mistake of thinking that motivation is the problem when their children knows what to do and isn’t doing it.

One benefit of using a printable routine chart is you will be able to quickly identify when your child isn’t meeting your expectations.  Is it hard for your child to get dressed in the morning?  Is homework the tricky part of the afternoon?  Is the battle at bedtime happening when it’s time to put on the diaper, get on the pajamas, or brush teeth?

Figure out what task in the routines is causing your child or you the most frustration. Then discuss the problem with your child. You’ll want to say something like, “Staying in your bed is really hard for you.  What is going on?” Then listen.  And be quiet.

Your child will probably say something like, “I don’t know.” This is an opportunity to tell your child you can work together to solve it.  You can do some guessing like, “Are the sheets bothering you? Is your brother keeping you awake? Are you having some feelings?” Then work together to try a solution.

No amount of printable routines or sticker charts will work if your child has a genuine unmet need.

Recapping Routines with Your Children

You can teach your children independence and get them to listen better when you have good routines and visual charts to support them.

  • Routines help your child learn responsibility through mastering self-care skills and chores.
  • The brain remembers pictures (and written words) better than spoken language.
  • Printable routine charts provide visual support for tasks.
  • It’s simple to print out the routine chart and put it on a clipboard for your child.
  • Morning, after school, and bedtime are common stressful times for families and routines can help.
  • You will need to troubleshoot the sticking points in the routine with your child.  You can work together to find a solution.

Your Children Need Routines

WIth routines, your children will gain independence and competence, reduce their anxiety and uncertainity, and learn how to better remember and complete tasks.  You need routines to be a calmer parent and reduce the stress and chaos in your household.  Grab some of the printable routines and find more peace in your household.

What other routines does your child struggle with?

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