‘What are we doing today, Dad? I’m bored, I’m hungry, can I play Xbox now?’
A day at home, a weekend, school holidays or a rainy day means organising kids. Whether it’s one kid or 20, trying to keep them occupied, organised and refrain them continually asking for things or what to do because they’re bored, there’s a hack that makes things much easier.
It’s a strategy I modified from teaching classes of kids in primary school. It worked a treat there, so I bought it home to parenting and everyday life.
The magic timetable
What you do is write a timetable. Could be on a piece of A4 paper, could be on a whiteboard or blackboard you have one in the home somewhere, as long as it’s written and visible. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, kids are used to timetables from school, it helps them to know what’s happening through the day and what’s coming next. Secondly and most importantly is that most kids believe things that are written down.
They perceive these as ‘concrete’ and rarely question it. If you think about it as adults, we often read something and then recount that information to others, usually without questioning or checking its credibility. Just think of all those Facebook posts you forward!
Written in concrete
Things just seem to come across as fact if they are written down, (which is a whole other conversation about ‘critical literacy’ that children and adults need to have and should be aware of). Even younger children not able to read will get the idea as you point at the clock and read what’s on the sheet for them. Drawing little pictures or symbols in place of words can help in this regard.
As a teacher, at the start of every day I would have a one side of the whiteboard ruled off with the heading ‘Today’. I would then write the day’s events something like this:
8.50-9.00: Silent Reading
9.50-10.40: English Grammar
2.40-3.00: Pack up, story
Kids would come in, see the board accept it. Occasionally you’d hear a grown or complaint from a couple a couple of kids: ‘Oh no, not grammar, I hate grammar.’ But the point is, they rarely question or argue that it’s happening.
This same strategy can be used at home with the kids. I tend to use it mostly when I know it’s a day stuck at home with no plans, and I just know that I’m going to be asked repeatedly what they can do, when they can watch TV etc. So I grab a piece of paper and write something like this:
8.30-9.15: Walk dog
10.30-11.15: Morning tea
12.00-12.45: Play dough/art and craft
1.30-3.30: Swimming pool/beach/park/outdoor activity
3.30-5.00 Tidy rooms and Xbox when clean
5.00-6.00: Dinner, bath/shower
6.00-7.30 Family movie/TV
Rinse and repeat
Of course you’ll need to modify based on the age and interest of your children, and be flexible when things don’t go according to plan, but the principal is the same regardless and it puts you back in control.