Balancing School and Family, Health and Wellness, Parenting

Crafting an Extracurricular Schedule For Kids

Weekly schedule drawn onto graph paper.

 

Whether you’re studying, commuting to work, or working from home, you may be wondering how you can structure your children’s schedules. Maintaining a schedule can help your child prioritize their school work and extracurriculars. Some of these steps you may find apply to older children, but you can build a simple schedule for younger children as well:

 

Step One: Organizing the Environment

  1. Tape/place a paper copy of a completed weekly schedule near your child’s study area. Keeping a physical copy of a schedule can benefit both you and your child.
  2. De-clutter the physical environment – children can often be overstimulated by overwhelming colours, clutter and unstructured settings.

 

Step Two: Creating the Schedule

You may keep reminders in your electronic calendar, but using a printed copy of a weekly schedule is best, especially for young children (Picture schedules are awesome for toddlers, preschoolers and visual learners). Keep it simple, you can start blocking off these times:

  1. School hours
  2. Cross out times for meals. Depending on your child’s eating preferences, they may need more hours for specific meals.
  3. Draw two lines across the weekly schedule: one for waking hours and another for sleeping hours.
  4. Block off time for commuting to and from school (this can be one of the most stressful times for children)!
  5. Homework hours: When does your child work best? Knowing their work habits will help you schedule productive homework hours for them. Personally, I find that difficult assignments can be accomplished more easily in the mornings. You may disagree and find that your child completes their homework more efficiently right after school. In the latter case, a 10-minute break before starting homework may help your child focus.
  6. Extracurricular hours: block off time for commuting to and from the activity as well as the length of time for the extracurricular itself.
  7. Take a step back and look at the overall picture: For many extracurriculars, such as learning a new language or playing the piano, your child needs to practise outside of class. As well, extra homework may be assigned to them by their teachers. Try to find times within their schedules that would work best, based on your knowledge of their energy levels throughout the day and the previous day’s activities.

 

Step Three: Keeping to the Schedule 
Often we prepare schedules but aren’t able to commit to them! Although children need freedom to explore, they thrive in environments with routine, structure and predictability. Here are some tips on maintaining a schedule throughout the school year:

  1.  Prioritize and Be Flexible
    • In life, there is always an opportunity cost, hence, if you wish to add anything in, you must give something else up. Try not to overwhelm your child with extracurriculars, as they need time to relax and take it slow sometimes. If they have swimming, skating, and piano lessons scheduled on the same day, they will be exhausted by the end of it!
    • You can adjust the schedule according to their energy levels and their priorities. Try to note down when your child is most active, what they enjoy doing the most, and what type of tasks they find easy. Then incorporate the changes for next month’s schedule, for instance, tasks they find easy can be finished later in the day, while tasks they enjoy can be saved for when they’re most active. Allow them some time to adjust to the new schedule, and see if this agenda is better for your child’s physical and mental health.
  2. Stick to the Schedule – for as long as possible.
    • Try to keep to the schedule for at least one month. Sudden changes can cause confusion and disruption, as well, your child may be less likely to pick up the routine later on.
  3. Encourage them to Have Fun!
    • Children love to explore, and sometimes they just need a day off. When does that happen? You can decide, but try to treat them after they’ve accomplished something. For instance, my brother loves pizza so my parents would buy pizza after his chess tournaments, no matter his score. (After all, chess as well as any other extracurricular activity, takes hard work and dedication!)

 

Thank you for reading. I hope that you’ll utilize some of my tips to build and maintain your child’s work and extracurricular schedule this school year! Which ones do you find helpful or useful? Let us know in the comments below!