Structure- A nine letter word that some people find to be a necessity in their lives while it makes others feel trapped. As a mother to two young ones I’ve come to learn that structure doesn’t have to mean “drawing within the lines” or a strict routine. It doesn’t have to stifle creativity. It doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone, but I do personally think that most young children need it. Naturally as they get older and develop wants and opinions of their own it’s easier to let things slide, but most still need the consistency that structure provides. I know for certain that my 5 year old son, Jakob, needs structure in his life to feel secure and prepared for life’s daily adventures. Here’s a kid who does so well at school because he knows what to expect. He’s one of those kids that amazes me with how differently he acts at school versus at home. Transitions are hard on some kids, but if Jakob has advanced warning and knows what to expect of his day he does much better.
This summer has been the biggest test of my patience, energy and ability to structure something out of nothing. I knew we wouldn’t make it through without creating a routine for all of us. I remembered during a visit to Jakob’s classroom that his teacher used pictures on the calendar to show what was on the agenda for the day. The wheels started turning and I decided that we needed some kind of schedule for the day and why not use pictures?! The best of both worlds is when I can provide unstructured activities within some kind of structured routine- it’s all about finding a balance. I involve both of my children as much as I can when planning our day. Ada is only 2 1/2, but she’s benefiting already. Sometimes the timeline changes and cards need to be moved around, but for the most part I get less resistence from Jakob throughout the day and it helps with a smoother transition from one activity to another.
Start by making a list of activities you might encounter each day. Our cards range from generic activities like running errands, reading and playing outside to specific things like a card for Grandma Elly, Legos and Will, who is one of Jakob’s best friends. Search for free clipart on Google Images and use a word document with a few columns to insert your newly found images and make little cards. I happen to have a laminator at home, but if you don’t you can just use heavy cardstock. I found awesome, thin wood boards at Michael’s for a few dollars. You will want something long because chances are your day will have at least 10 cards on them, if not a lot more. Purchase a roll of velcro from your local craft store and simply put one long strip on the board and cut little squares for the cards. Our schedule board moves around the house, but mainly rests against the wall on a cabinet so that everyone can see it.
Structure and routine doesn’t have to be oppressive. It can provide sanity to a mother who feels she’s lost control and help prevent power struggles. This mommy loves what having a schedule has done to her household!