Teaching Classroom Routines at Home

teaching classroom routines at home
Children sitting at a classroom table working independently. How can you practice this skill at home?

It’s the procedures at school that often indicate early success—even more than the actual academic skills. Practicing and teaching classroom routines at home can go a long way in classroom success and your child’s confidence since it’s the procedures at school that often indicate early success—even more than the actual academic skills.

While these skills are particularly important for our PreK and Kindergarten students who are just starting “real school” a review for little ones in first and even second grade can be beneficial given how long most have been (or will be) out of a formal school setting.

circle time
Mini stuffed animals demonstrating circle time.

Circle time: The big challenge here? Saying in your space and taking turns both with talking and touching. Here’s how you can practice:

  • Have your little one sit on a carpet square (or placemat) during their favorite show or—even better—while you read them a book.
  • When you’re on your space, only one person talks at a time.
  • Sit on your space, pick up a toy and look it over for a moment or two, then pass it on. Your child can hold it for a moment before passing it back to you. Put the first item down and repeat with a different toy or book.

Remember, staying on your space means your whole body! No part should touch a neighbor!

teaching school bathroom routines
A glimpse into a home bathroom. How do we teach school bathroom routines at home?

Bathroom routines: It might feel funny to practice this at home, but it’s a big component of the school day. Walk in a line to the bathroom and wait quietly outside the door until it’s your turn. Alternate who’s the line leader! (and remember, even if you go first, you’ll need to wait until everyone is finished.)

meal routines at home
A well-balanced child’s lunch…how can we teach mealtime routines at home?

Snacks/mealtime: Lunchboxes and packaging can be hard! As parents we tend to do a little too much when it comes to the messier stuff, but the classroom won’t coddle! Practice:

  • Sitting at the table and opening the lunchbox and packaging themselves. It’s hard! (Teachers will help, but it’s easier if your child can do most of it on their own.)
  • Having your child throw away trash and pack their lunchbox up when they’re through.
  • Kids are expected to stay at their desk until they’re done—no grazing! If this isn’t part of your home routine, start working on it now!

Quiet work: In all likelihood, in-person classes will look different this year especially in younger grades. Teaching classroom routines can be particularly beneficial for Kindergarteners who may be expected to sit at an individual desk (rather than at a table) and manage their own supplies.

Try practicing:

  • Have your child sit at a table (child-sized is best, but any will work) for a 10-minute stretch to do “independent time.” Don’t worry so much about what they get done. The focus is on sitting relatively quietly and entertaining themselves for a time.
  • Provide a pencil box with crayons, markers, pencil, scissors and glue stick. Your child can get practice opening it, keeping track of and using the supplies independently and putting them away when they’re done. Be sure they have access to paper, too! (Children with more school experience may want a mix of plain and paper with handwriting lines.
  • As your child’s attention improves, you can give some open-ended instructions like “draw a picture for Mimi” “Make a collage.” “draw a picture with markers” “practice writing your name.” “Try and cut up this whole piece of paper.” Remember, initially the challenge is staying put, so don’t ask for an academic skill that’s difficult too!
  • For children who are struggling, try ditching the school supplies to start and fill the pencil case with plastic dinos, little animals or figures or cars. Eventually introduce the paper and art supplies with “draw a road for the cars,” “draw a jungle for the dinos” or another related theme.
hand washing
A child washing their hands…how can we teach this routine at home?

Washing hands/hand sanitizer: These were already an integral component of the classroom, now it’s even more so. At home, practice:

  • Getting them used to you giving a squeeze of hand sanitizer before snacks and meals.
  • Making sure they are washing thoroughly! You can have them sing the birthday song to keep them there longer or tell them to give each finger and palm a “bath.” (You can put a smiley on each fingertip when you start to help them imagine this)
  • Pulling off an appropriately sized piece of paper towel.

Masks: This may or may not be part of the expectations, but it’s worth preparing for just in case. Little ones love to imitate so if you’re wearing a mask, they’ll be much more interested in doing the same. Have a few child-friendly options available for “dress-up.” Creating a tiny mask that a beloved toy wears when you go out and about (your child’s job can be to make sure they keep it on) may also be effective. Masks feel funny. Don’t expect more than a minute or two of cooperation to start and be sure to praise generously. “Great job! We looked the same with our masks on!” “Wow! I could really see the unicorns on your mask when you had it on!” “You look like a superhero (or ninja) with your mask on!”

Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to teaching classroom routines. So whether you’re heading back to the classroom in one week, nine weeks or more, starting now can pay dividends in your child’s confidence and self-esteem when they return.

What classroom routine do you expect to be the biggest challenge for your child?




The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.