Creating New Routines for Your Family During the Coronavirus

Posted by Jason Novak on 3/19/20 11:48 AM

As remote learning becomes a reality across our country and the world, it’s important for all of us to be thinking about how children thrive and what they respond to each day. 

We know that children thrive with structure and that classrooms often provide many experiences that respond well to this need and the ongoing development of children. The CDC names three key essential ingredients in creating structure and a sense of routine—consistency, predictability, and follow-through. A few examples of the daily structures we uphold at school include various experiences such as:

  • Assigned and rotated weekly leadership roles
  • Morning meeting to set the tone for the day and review the schedule
  • Time for recess, play, and making choices
  • Learning structures and academic time 
  • A variety of experiences that support all aspects of children’s growth, including dance and creative movement, physical education, music, technology, and art 
  • Designated times for snack and lunch
  • Structure and unstructured social-emotional experiences 
  • Daily journal prompts 

Creating Structure for a Day at Home

As families face the reality of trying to balance work expectations and children’s learning at home, it’s important to consider creating a schedule and structure to support everyone’s needs. Allowing children to play a role in designing a schedule gives them a sense of voice and ownership, establishes the importance of routine and organization, and also allows them to be a part of helping the whole family.  

Making a Schedule as a Family

A great activity to engage in together as a family is creating a flow chart of how a day might be set up. This activity can be done using paper and makers, a whiteboard, or creating magnetic labels that live in a centralized location like the kitchen refrigerator. You might also consider posting the schedule in a public space where everyone can reference it like on the back of the front door. Depending on your need and where your children are developmentally, you might choose to create a schedule together one day at a time, or map out a full week. 

Establishing your daily or weekly schedule together creates the all important consistency and predictability that the CDC talks about. Sticking to the schedule might take some work in the beginning, but you will reap rewards from following through.  

Here is one example of how you might structure a day for your elementary school child. It draws on some of the strategies we use during the school day.




Breakfast and First 5

"First 5" are things to do consistently at the start of each day, including brushing your teeth, combing your hair, making sure your home work space is ready, etc. 

8:00 Free play
9:00 Get dressed

Activity #1

  • Art or Music
  • Cooking
  • Drawing
  • Independent reading
  • Journaling/Writing

Learning Time #1

Together, check the learning activities from your child's school.


Get Moving!

  • Take a walk around the neighborhood
  • Jump rope or do jumping jacks,
  • Shoot some hoops or kick a soccer ball
  • Climb a tree
  • Practice yoga

Lunch and choice activity

Time to refuel!


Learning Time #2

Is there anything that needs to be reviewed or completed from the morning session?


Activity Time #2

  • Art or music
  • Cooking
  • Drawing
  • Independent reading
  • Journaling/Writing

Virtual Playdate

Can't play with friends? Chat on the phone or have a virtual playdate!


Games or Puzzles

This is a great opportunity for children to create their own games and teach each other. There are also many board games that are fun for the whole family.


Free play, afternoon snack

Time to relax and take a break.

5:00–8:00 Dinner and evening routine


Family Roles and Responsibilities

As a parent, you will need to clearly communicate which activities you can be available for and which activities are independent activities for your child. This will help to set important boundaries for everyone. You have  responsibilities that you need to attend to, and so does your child. Your children will grow in their independence as they make decisions and manage their time.   

Social Connection

Setting up play dates with peers over the phone or via video conference calls may also be helpful and can add to pieces that children will look forward to in their day. You can also consider setting up these types of points of connection with family friends and distant family members. No doubt grandparents will enjoy seeing the kids and staying connected.

Making It All Work

Remember that any structure you implement will be a helpful first step, and that leisure time and downtime are also very important in resting our minds and our spirits when we face many unknown realities at once! 

Title Image: ID 99953246 © Olexandr Bychykhin |

Looking for a school for your child?

Lowell School is an independent school in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, DC, that offers Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School programs. It offers a rigorous and hands-on curriculum that nurtures each child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, and supports the development of individual voice and self-reliance. For more information, please call 202-577-2000, email, or follow Lowell on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Topics: Parent Resources for Remote Learning

Jason Novak

Written by Jason Novak

Jason Novak is the director of Primary School at Lowell School. He received his BS in music education, K-12, from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, and his MA in educational leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University, NY. In addition to his work as a music teacher and school administrator, Jason has also worked closely with educational and child advocacy groups such as the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS), the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators, the Human Rights Campaign, the Friends Council on Education, and local and national chapters of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association.