Routine Reminders

Photo by Kanko*

We have only one clock in the house. It’s a little Timex alarm clock that I’ve had since I was five, and it sits on my desk. Most of our daily tasks are guided not by the clock but by everyday objects that have knit themselves into our routine.

A cup of tea to prod my sleepy morning self to wake up already. The bed made to remind myself not to get back in it.

The tote bag with snacks that signals to drop what you’re doing, because we’re about to go somewhere fun.

The white blanket that tells my young daughter yes, it is in fact time for a nap, when otherwise saying it’s two in the afternoon is meaningless. (And if your child associates an object with nap time, by all means, buy two.)

The dinner candle that entices to come sit at the table and eat. (If Lane eats well then she gets to blow out the candle, so meal times have become much easier now.)

The bedtime cookie that soothes the bedtime routine and finishes the frequent stalling and delays.

The clean kitchen at the end of the day to agree my work day is over and I can call it quits for now.

These common things that we use every day turn routine into ritual and make us feel at home. What objects do you use at your home to guide your day from one moment to the next?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. The mealtime candle totally worked for my 3-year-old, Matthew. Thanks for the idea! Brilliant! (I blogged about it here – and here –

  2. I don’t have kids, but i still really enjoy reading how you’re working little rewards and fun things into your day with your daughter. My best mate has two little ones, and always impresses me with the way she works positive reinforcement into their day to get through things they might complain about otherwise. Neither of them liked having their teeth brushed, so she made up a little teeth-brushing song and now they love having it done! Your ideas are just as awesome. :D

  3. I use music. It singals my little one it is time for his naptime – or bedtime. Both my little ones go to bed listeneing to soothing music and night.

    Karisa´s last blog post..Como empezar a salir de deudas: El plan – Parte 2

  4. Lindsey says:

    Good morning! We use a blanket for all three of my kids that signals nap or bed. When I say, “Where’s your blanket?” Even my youngest knows it’s time for sleep :-) I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now but I can’t remember how I found you… Anyway, I just love reading your posts and wanted to let you know you’ve made a positive impact on me and my family :-)



  5. What beautiful ideas.

    Yes, all three of our little people have special objects they are attached to. It’s amazing that when they see them, thumbs go into mouths and everyone starts to settle down (and yes, we have two of each!)


    steadymom´s last blog post..Accepting Our Children, Accepting Ourselves

  6. Here are mine:

    Bed made in the morning
    Of COURSE the special blankets at nap time
    Tea in the afternoon
    Clean kitchen at night


    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..Italian Herb Bread

  7. My life can’t operate functionally without some sort of routine. Each time changes comes along, I adjust and just make a new routine for myself. But I am a clock watcher, a lot of the time my routines are based off of order and timing. If one this gets delayed, it seems everything is thrown off also. Gotta learn to let it go … especially with a little one coming in a few months … LET IT GO girl!!!

    Philippa´s last blog post..What Else You Got … Bring it On

  8. We definitely have the blanket for my son. (And he does have two, follow her advice!) Signals nap and bedtime! I love the dinner candle idea!!! Awesome post! Thanks!

    Chele´s last blog post..Feeding Time – Redemption and Blasphemy

  9. My son has a stuffed puppy and a blankie (we have two of each – one for home and one for the sitters so that we don’t have to lug them around and risk forgetting/losing them!). At bedtime we also sing a tidy-up song we works wonders! He helps clean up his toys and then runs straight for the tub. Trying to skip the song and go directly to the tub is never a good idea! LOL I think I will the candle idea in mind for down the road!

    Great post!

    Jen´s last blog post..Fix, Freeze, Feast and Toddler Firsts

  10. I love the picture of calm and peaceful order you’ve painted. I’m not sure I have that. Though, my heart leaped at the mention of the clean kitchen at the end of the day. It does make me feel “complete.”

    FishMama@LifeasMOM´s last blog post..Guest Post: Too Many Kids

  11. Wow! I am ashamed to say that my whole life revolves about my watch. I only take it off to shower. As you can imagine – I am stresses and over caffinated most of the time. I think I am accomplishing so much, but I am actually missing more than I am accomplishing. Help!!! I don’t want to be like that!!!! I don’t want to do that to my child. How do I break the cycle?

    • Hey Kimmie, there’s nothing wrong with using your watch. But if you’re feeling stressed then start by letting your to-do list be a little shorter. Easier said than done, I know, but only list about three or five most important tasks for the day.

      • Try going watch free on weekends. I too am through the week very time oriented but to give myself some time to decompress I try to go watch free and intentionally don’t wear it on weekends. Small steps help. Good luck.

  12. It’s funny how kids are the biggest supporters of routines, especially their favorite ones. My son loves anything having to do with food, so usually, the first thing out of his mouth when he wakes up in the morning is “Mik!!! Mik!!!” He loves his glass of milk to begin the day, so I usually give him that before we get going at all. The next thing is usually a banana.

    Other than that, we don’t have tons of routines, though I’d like to have more. We have a pretty basic series of things we do when Eli goes to bed at night, including brushing his teeth, putting on his sleepsack, and giving him his stuffed cat and tickling him before we pray.

    Life from the Roof´s last blog post..Hear, hear

  13. I wish those little routines would work on teenagers! I miss the days of bedtime stories and blankies.

    Andrea´s last blog post..Extra Large Reusable Produce Bags – Set of 3 bags – XL

  14. We have three kids and are homeschooling and work hard at time-management. We need to know what time it is! I try to build in flexiblity, though, so that if we’re having a great discussion, say, we don’t feel compelled to move on to “the next thing” just because of the time on the clock. With evening commitments, too, it is not feasible to entirely stop clock-watching. My youngest appreciates bedtime routine of pj’s, snack, story and a favorite CD.

  15. You really have only one clock? wow.

    Taryn´s last blog post..Homemade Chocolate Chips

  16. I’m impressed that you only have one clock!
    Neat post :)

  17. I look out on my balcony and see all my potted plants. In the morning, they signal the start of the day and I actually look forward to watering them early every single morning right after I get myself up! In the late afternoon, they signal meal time and nourishment as I decide what to pick for dinner. Then I also water them in the evening, which relaxes me and gets me ready for sleep!

    Mary R´s last blog post..Challenge 23: I think I’m turning Japanese

  18. I love this post. You got me thinking: I would never have said so, but we don’t function to a clock either… We have a clock but one of my kids dropped it as we bought it home from the store and it’s never worked. The microwave has a clock but it’s always on 00:00!!! Needless to say our days are filled with little pointers towards the next event and we seem to have a rhythm that gets us from one day to the next pretty much in tune with each other!

    se7en´s last blog post..This Week (22 June) At Se7en…

  19. Morning coffee, clean dishes in dishwasher put away, breakfast with kids and talk about the days events. Afternoon I try to sneak in a cup of tea while I insist on quiet time (since both my kids ages 2 and 5 don’t nap). Does anyone have any tips for having a successful quiet time? For the evening, a clean kitchen upon going to bed is a must for me and the signal for end of the day. Also, I was wondering about your bedtime cookie routine … can you tell a little more about that?

    • For the bedtime cookie, Lane gets into her pj’s and then she sits at the table and eats a small tea cookie, usually a macaroon. Then she brushes her teeth, drinks some water and jumps into bed! Nothing big.

      Here’s an idea for quiet time bins.

  20. I teach during the school year, so we have set routines that help us function somewhat sanely. Being home for the summer has yet to settle in and we are taking days as they come. The Bird’s nap time is off and we have too many lessons or events scheduled, but I’m weeding it down though and plan on getting control. Thanks for your post it encouraged me.

    Kim´s last blog post..Father’s Day

  21. What a great post! thanks for getting the wheels in my brain turning on how to turn off and relax!

    Cherry Tree Lane´s last blog post..props for the “just a mom”.