Schedule / Routine

How to Build Cooperation, Independence and Listening Using a Printable Schedule for Kids

Inside: Whether you’re looking for a toddler schedule or school-aged routine, this printable daily schedule for kids is customizable and can work for any age!

“What time do your kids go to bed at night?” a friend asked.

When I responded with 7 pm, her jaw felt straight to her pregnant belly.

I half-smiled because on the inside I knew she thought — if for only for a brief moment — that I had it all together.

Oh, far from it!

I said, “Well, I start the bedtime routine at 4:30 pm. If you start 2.5 hours before they need to be in bed, you’d be surprised what you can accomplish!”

And then she thought I was totally crazy.

So, of course, I had to break it to her that I was joking.

Real life (or sanity) doesn’t have time for 2.5 hours dedicated to nightly bedtime routine.

Moving books for military kids going through PCS move.

Then I revealed my real secret.

Once we started using a set of printable routine cards with the kids, the nagging, yelling and reminding 7,457 times every day cut waayyyy down. The kids started following their routines all on their own (many times turning it into a fun game) and they felt more in control and independent and I felt a whole lotta less stress.

This printable daily schedule for kids…will change your life.

I’m going to walk you through my super simple step-by-step process for getting your child started with a printable daily schedule. This can immediately shift your morning, bedtime, and mealtime routines from chaos to peace.

Here’s what’s included.

The printable daily schedule cards that we use are totally customizable making them perfect for a wide-range of parents, teachers and caregivers. Here’s what is all included:

  1. One set of 40+ pre-made cards for toddlers / preschoolers with names and pictures already done for you. Just print, cut and use.
  2. Second set of 40+ pre-made cards with school-aged kids in mind.
  3. One set of 40+ blank cards without the names. We left that part blank so you can write in the word you use at home. This works especially well if your kids speak a language outside of English.
  4. And then…there are two editable templates included for you create customized cards. This way if any card is missing, you can create your own cards to specifically meet the needs of your child. (All you need is Microsoft Word or Mac Pages).
Graphical user interface of editing the routine cards on the computer.

Here’s just a few of the ways past readers said they used them:

  • Preschool visual schedule for the classroom (we offer a licensed copy for teachers).
  • Autism routine chart for kids with special needs (see the reviews here).
  • Daily routine for preschoolers at home.
  • Printable daily routine for school-aged kids.

Check out this review from a mom who used this printable daily schedule with her son…

Graphical user interface, text, application of review of routine cards after purchase.

Step-by-step guide to start a printable daily schedule for kids.

In order to get started you’ll want to print the cards using cardstock or matte photo paper. You can use your home printer or have a local copy store (e.g. Office Max) print them for you.

sheets of daily routine cards for kids printed on 8x10 paper

Then cut them out. If you use a ruler cutter like this one from Amazon, it’ll go about 90% faster. Hello productivity.

routine chart for kids and preschoolers cut out

You can also laminate them using these sheets if you’d like. This feels like an extra step, but it’ll keep the cards lasting much longer and save you from having to print and cut again in a few weeks when your kid tries to eat it or draw all over it using marker or stick it in peanut butter.

Once you print, cut and laminate, you’re ready for the next (and most glorious) part: teaching your kids to use the cards all on their own.

Step 1:

I love to show the cards to the kids and let them hold and touch them. I’ll usually say something like, “You’re going to learn how to get yourself ready for bed all by yourself. You’re going to get to make some decisions. This will help you be more independent!”

If there is another routine you are working on, exchange “ready for bed” with “at dinner time” or “at playtime” or “in the morning.”

Child holding bedtime routine cards in hand.

Then focus on ONE routine for one to two weeks, allowing your child to gain more and more independence as you coach them through it. I found the most success coaching my oldest using a Language of Listening® approach.

Language of Listening® is a basic three-part coaching model, which always goes like this:

  • SAY WHAT YOU SEE®. Describe exactly what you see without questions, judgement, fixing or teaching.
  • If you see something you like, name a STRENGTH (something the child did well).
  • If you see something you don’t like, name something the child CAN DO instead.

Step 2:

Put your routine in the order that works for you all and tape it to the wall in an area that is easy for kids to see.

(Note: you can hang the cards up each day and have your kids pull a card from the wall and place in an envelope after finishing. I find we are more likely to follow through with the routine if we just leave it up all the time! If your cards are laminated, your kids can use a dry erase maker to leave a big check mark on each card completed.)

For the first several days, you’re going to have to offer coaching and guidance. “Show me the first step in your routine. Yep! That’s right! You knew the first step. You didn’t even need my help! Okay, show me the next step…”

Child pointing to printable routine cards arranged on the wall.

A great phrase to use when communicating with kids is “Show me” and have your kids teach you how to do the routine. They love this!

Related: 10 Must-Try Tricks for Independent Kids

Step 3:

Name any amount of cooperation that you see from your kids when doing the routine. “You put your bowl in the sink after eating. You knew that!”

In Language of Listening this is naming STRENGTHS. And it will set your kids up for success. The more you name the behaviors you like, the more your kids will show you those behaviors.

Step 4:

If your kids get off track, offer them a CAN DO. “Looks like you’re not finished with your routine yet and you want to play instead. There must be a way you can finish your routine and have fun!”

“You’d much rather play in the living room with your toy than do this routine. You can do the routine really fast and that will leave a lot more time for playing!”

Related: 10 Powerful Ways to Respond to a Complaining Child

How to stay consistent with a printable daily schedule for kids.

Once you’ve got one routine down with the kids, add in the other visual schedules or routines you’d like from the printable set. Adding these ones in later is much easier because the kids already feel super confident that they CAN do one routine all on their own.

Image of routine cards printed and cut out in a pile on a table.

I find this works much better than incorporating all the visual schedules into your daily routine at one time. For kids that can feel like a huge challenge with lots of change. Breaking it down smaller and focusing on success with one routine can make a huge difference!

If it feels hard at first, stick with it.

The hardest part is really getting that first routine down and staying consistent. After that, kids start to learn and use these printable routine cards as often as they demand a snack five minutes before dinner 🙂 So if you can commit to doing one routine for at least two weeks, the rest can fall into place.

Keep the daily printable routine out.

If you have a board or a wall that you keep the cards on, try keeping them out. I find in the busyness of everyday life that putting them up and taking them down leads to not using the routine cards.

Keep it fun or make it a game.

Play is the work of a child. So the more you can turn your printable daily schedule into a fun game, the more kids will enjoy completing it. In the past, my kids have chosen different silly shapes to draw on each finished card (we use a dry erase marker on the laminated card).

We’ve also done it as a race to see how fast each kid can finish their routine. I usually let my kids choose the game to help them feel in charge of their own schedule. See what your kids come up with! They’ll likely think of something really creative.

Sample Routines for Kids.

I regularly get requests for a daily routine outline from morning to bedtime. There are several that we’ve used in the past for a variety of ages.

Daily routine for school-age child.

  • 7:00 am – kids wake up, get dressed, come down stairs, read or color while waiting for breakfast.
  • 7:30 am – breakfast.
  • 8:00 am – free-play. Check out open-ended toys if your kids need help.
  • 9:00 am – start schoolwork for the day.
  • 11:00 am – I make lunch. Kids continue working.
  • 11:30 am – lunch.
  • 12:00 pm – read to the kids + 10 mins of silent reading time on their own. Sometimes I will read for as long as an hour! But 30 mins is the goal, and sometimes that’s all we do.
  • 12:30 pm – Continue school OR independent play in their rooms. They do this for about 20 minutes while they wait for screen-time.
  • 2:00 pm – Continue school OR 1 hour of screen-time per day. The kids each have their own Amazon free time account on their kid’s kindle. This allows you to limit everything to your child’s age and time allowed. It literally stops working after the time is up. If your child breaks it, Amazon will replace it. Another thing I love is that it allows the kids to decide if they want to play a game, read a book or watch a cartoon.
  • 3:00 pm – snack.
  • 3:30 pm – run errands, do an outdoor activity, head to the park, etc.
  • 4:45 pm – chores and prep dinner. The kids have a little job bag they pick from and do 2-3 jobs each day. We use these chore cards for kids (No charts! Yay!) They also pick up the toys around this time and we avoid the bedtime toy battle altogether. Check out setting limits for your strong willed child for more on this. If dinner prep has simple things the kids can do, they help cook the food alongside me. I’ll also put out veggies to stave off the hangry howls.
  • 5:30 pm – family dinner at the table. If you having trouble keeping your kids at the dinner table, check out these conversation starters here.
  • 6:00 pm – clean up dinner – the kids help, then kids free-play
  • 6:30 pm – bath/shower time (possibly only two days per week), pajamas, bedtime snack, reading or play with the kids. We don’t do all of this; just pick what you can fit in.
  • 7:00 pm – bedtime. Kids are allowed to play in their room quietly. Our only rule is that they need to stay in their rooms.
  • 8:00 pm – lights out.

Sample routine for 2 and 3 year olds.

  • 7:30 am Wake up. Read and play.
  • 8:15 am Breakfast
  • 12:00 pm Lunch
  • 1:30 pm Nap
  • 3:00 pm Nap ends
  • 3:15 pm Snack
  • 5:45 pm Dinner
  • 7:15 pm Get ready for bed
  • 7:30 pm Reading with mom or dad
  • 8:00 pm Bed

Find Additional Sample Schedules HERE: 

child looking down at routine cards with converse sneakers next to him.

You can turn chaos into peace.

If you’ve ever thought, “Well, if I start the bedtime routine at 4:30 pm, that’ll give me 2.5 hours to accomplish what I need before the kids bedtime,” then just think of the possibilities!

Think of how enjoyable and peaceful morning, bedtime and mealtime can become. Powerful!

Grab your set of printable routine cards here! 

Want more on parenting?

Graphical user interface of printable routine cards set up on fridge and wall for kids to use. Text: 20+ printable routine cards for kids.

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  1. Just want send a quick note that when talking about special needs, the kid always comes first. Example: Kids with special needs. Some may be hurt or offended by saying special needs kid. Slight change with a big impact. Love your blog

    1. This is not necessarily true. If you are referring to autistic people or children the vast majority of us use IFL (identity first language) because it is an inherent part of our identity that we don’t wish to be separated from. It’s great that you are paying attention though!

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