DIY Preschooler Morning/Evening Routine Chart

Most of us thrive with routine, but something about the uncertainty of life with the 2-5 year-old set makes a set daily plan of action an absolute necessity. When I learned I was expecting this spring, I started setting some new routines for T, just to give her some additional security and continuity in a time that was sure to be filled with a lot of questions. This Morning/Evening Routine Chart was one of the best things I could've done--it sets her up for success at the two most trying times of the day: getting out the door in the morning and getting ready for bed in the evening.

I'm not saying it's a miracle worker by any stretch of the imagination, but this routine has streamlined our days and really helps me keep my cool when Preschooler Defiance rears its head--when she doesn't want to do one thing, I can simply point to the To-Do List and say "then what's next?"

Step 1: Sit Down With Your Child and Decide What's on the Chart.
This was the real game-changer for us. Because we both chose what made it onto the chart (obviously you have Parental Veto Power), it meant T felt that she had some control over her routine. It also means that I can remind her of that fact if she ever pushes back on completing a task. 

Based on our morning and evening schedules, our lists look like this:
Go Potty
Eat Breakfast
Get Dressed
Put PJs in Laundry
Brush Teeth/Wash Face
Clean Up Toys
Put on Sock and Shoes

Bath Time
PJ's On
Put Dirty Clothes in Laundry
Go Potty
Brush Teeth/Wash Face
Clean up Toys
Story Time

I've found that seven is about the max number of action items that T can handle, in terms of personal responsibility, before her interest wanes. These are all 'jobs' that she can do by herself (or with some minimal help from Bobby or me). If I try to push beyond this, at least for now, I find that she gets overwhelmed, so we're sticking to seven to-do's in the morning, and seven in the evening. Depending on your child's age and maturity, they may be able to handle more or may not yet be ready to take on so much. I suggest trying out the list for a few days before you spend the time making a full chart that lives on a wall in your house.

Remember: The ultimate goals here are independence and a sense of pride in caring for herself (or himself) and her (or his) belongings. 

Step 2: Make the Chart
This is super easy. You'll need:
1 Regular-sized poster board
1 Ruler
1 (full) Roll of washi tape
Images for each action, cut to size
Paint pen
Access to a laminating machine, if you'd like.

Grab your posterboard and find/draw the midpoint (landscape, not portrait). 

Then, depending on how many action items you have, create equal sized boxes for each item. Make sure you have an even number of morning and evening items. 

Use your washi tape to section off each area.

Halve each section, so that there is room for the action item images and text above, then a clear space below for stickers/check marks/however you plan to celebrate the completion of each item with your child.

Write a simple description of each action item. Make it legible and succinct. (this will come in handy when your child starts to recognize letters)

Add images that correspond to the text. I simply googled the phrase I planned to use, along with the words "drawing" and came up with the images below. Use whatever works best for you, based on your chart's action items.

Once you're done, I highly suggest laminating the chart and using re-usable plastic stickers to check things off as they're completed. We've been using our chart for over 6 months and it looks like new.

Step 3: Be like Monica and Ross and Stick to 'The Routine.'

It's amazing how something as simple as seven to-do's in the morning and evening change the way I parent. T doesn't usually fight me on The Routine. If she does push back on an item, I simply allow her to change gears and choose another item that works for her--eventually we make our way back to the missed box. By then, she's felt in control of her morning or evening and is much more amenable to completing the remaining task on the list. 

The more we use the chart, the faster she runs through it, meaning that our oft-frantic mornings and once-drama-filled evenings are now much more relaxed, enjoyable, and on-schedule. 

Do you have a routine chart that works for you, or did you end up making one like ours? Tell me what worked and what didn't in the comments!


Lindsay Sweeting was in the world of Marketing and Publicity in her previous life. These days you're more likely to see her running after her toddler than running a meeting, but she does her best to find time to create new recipes, come up with fun activities for her daughter, and write about the craziness that is life in the Sweeting house.

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