This time of year, traditions are front and center: annual parties, sentimental ornaments and decorations, Hanukkah and Christmas meals and treats, that pair of socks that are always in your stocking year after year. We all thrive with the consistency and anticipation of traditions—and children are no different.
Looking beyond the holiday season, routines and traditions are the foundation of a healthy, happy, and content family. When children know what to expect, they are less anxious and more secure (and parents are too!). Read on for some practical and fun routines and traditions to try with your family year-round.
1. Charts for morning and bedtime routines—and after school if you have a school-going kiddo.
Make this a team project—sit down with your child (from about age 2.5 and older) and make a list of the essential steps for morning and bedtime routines. Then, make a poster to hang in their bedroom or bathroom! For younger, pre-readers, use photos or drawings to illustrate the list. You can cut out images from magazines, or take photos of your child doing each task, and print and paste those on your poster. For older kids who can read and write, give them the drafted list you made together, and assist them as they write and illustrate their own posters with their tasks. They’ll feel accomplished and will have taken ownership of the list—and are more inclined to follow their own directions when it’s time to get ready for bed or get going in the morning.
TIP: As the guide for bedtime or morning routines, you can say, “what’s next on your list?” and let the list be the neutral guide—you’ll see you have fewer power struggles in the morning rush!
- Some ideas of tasks to get you started:
2. Anchor activity to start your family’s week in a calm and collected way.
On Sunday afternoon or evening, follow this great guidance from Emily Ley, creator of the Simplified Planner: plan meals for the week ahead, tidy up for a clean slate on Monday, and enjoy what matters most. In our family, that means we turn on some music or set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes and everyone works together to tidy up for the week. After that, I poll my family for some meal planning input, and then we finish the day with a simple snacky dinner while we watch a nature show or family favorite (Shaun the Sheep!).
TIP: When you do your nightly or Sunday tidy-up, carry a trash bag through the house and throw away whatever is trash, and grab a laundry basket to fill with things that need to go back to their home (also great to keep a laundry basket near the stairs for toting things up at the end of the day). Kids love to make things a game, so turn it into a competition–Whoever picks up 10 things and puts them away first gets to pick our show for tonight!
3. Finish the work and school week with a cozy, reliable family fun night.
Every Friday night at our house is movie and “fun” dinner night. We take turns selecting a movie, either from a streaming service, our own collection, or from RedBox, and then we decide on a fun dinner to have while watching—usually make-your-own pizzas, a taco bar, or some local takeout. Most weeks, dad makes homemade popcorn on the stovetop and there might be a special drink too (for the kids and the grown-ups!).
TIP: Draw names on the Sunday night a week ahead to see who gets to choose the movie and a favorite fun dinner! Then, before movie night begins, help the kids craft movie tickets and make the family room cozy with extra throw blankets and pillows. The movie tickets can just be simple strips of paper with some scribbles from the 2-year-old or they can get really involved with those older 7- to 9-year-olds who love to create projects—hole punches are a fun way to “check in” as you enter the movie watching space.
How do you anchor your family with routines and traditions? Share your favorite with our community!
Heather Price is an integral part of the Baby+Company Nashville education team. Formerly a high school English teacher and district-wide mentor for a Middle Tennessee public school system, she is now a trained childbirth educator and labor doula. She completed her childbirth educator training with the International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) and is certified as an ICCE. She has also recently become a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. Teaching and learning course through her veins, and she is an enthusiastic and compassionate facilitator in the classroom. A most useful part of her training so far has been that of preparing for, birthing, and mothering her own two little ones.