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How to Be Intentional with Planning Activities for Your Kids

I want to be engaged with my children but I don’t know where to start.

This is a common sentiment I hear from parents. As I wrote in my post 30 Delightful Ways to Connect With Your Child, I often find myself doing lots for my children but little with my children. When I fall into these parenting ruts it’s often because my plans get derailed, other things seem more important, and I’m busy.

Also, to be completely honest, I avoid engaging because I’m nervous to do so.

Yes, I said it.

Sometimes I’m scared to engage with my children. I worry that I will be overbearing in their play; I fear that I won’t be as “fun” as their dad; and I fret that I won’t be able to give them my complete attention. It’s ridiculous, I know. When it comes down to it, all they need is time with me and activities that will enrich their development.

If you’re struggling with how to plan your children’s days here are some tips on how to be intentional with planning activities for your children.

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Evaluate your schedule

Take a look at your schedule and seriously evaluate it.

* When do your days begin?

* When do your days end?

* What times/activities are the same almost every day?

* What classes/outings appear regularly on the calendar?

What would you like to achieve?

What do you want to achieve with your children? What are your motives? What’s your parenting vision?

* What activities would you like to do throughout the day and week? Consider all aspects of your child’s being. Consider what they will need socially, physically, intellectually, creatively, emotionally, and spiritually (S.P.I.C.E.S.).

* Record all of your ideas and inspiration.

Start planning

Take a piece of paper and jot down all the things you would like to do with your children.

* There are natural things that occur every day… for instance, we read the Bible every night before bed.

* Consider alternating quiet activities with more active activities.

* Make sure to take into account the times for meals and snacks.

* Consider having something quiet/focused for your kids to do while prepping snacks and meals (colouring, reading, or an activity tray is ideal for those times).


A non-school day for us may look as follows:

Breakfast (7:30 am)

Read our Bible together (Spiritual)

Go for a nature walk and collect items (Physical)

Explore nature items at home with magnifying glasses (Intellectual)

Snack (10:00 am)

Free play

Make a 3D sculpture with nature items using clay as the base (Creative)

Lunch (12:00 pm)

Rest time

Snack (3:00 pm)

Listen to a book together while snuggling on the couch (Intellectual/Emotional)

Free play time

Colouring (creative)

Dinner (5:30 pm)

Play a board game (social/intellectual)

Free play time

Snack (7:30 pm)

Bedtime routine

Read the Bible (spiritual)

I find that when I’m in a “rut” I need to write things down to keep me accountable. After having a few weeks of success I might be more spontaneous. However, even when planning in this kind of detail, I refer to it as a rough guide (not as a set “to do” list). The one thing parenting continually teaches me is that I must be flexible.

Here’s a sample of what I might plan for the week:

Do you want to be intentional with planning activities for your kids? Check out these tips and get a FREE printable resources with 54 activities for kids!

Alternatives to detailed planning

If putting your activity ideas into a schedule or calendar isn’t your thing, then maybe you’ll like this idea.

I have my core activity ideas on index cards. They’re laminated and on binder rings. I have a set for physical activities, a set for creative activities, and a set for intellectual activities. If I get stumped for ideas, I’ll look through the cards with my kids and select an activity to do.

Do you want to be intentional with planning activities for your kids? Check out these tips and get a FREE printable resources with 54 activities for kids!

Do you need some ideas?

Are you still in need of some ideas? I put together a list of 54 kid’s activities on a FREE downloadable resource that I made especially for you! Subscribers can access the download from the exclusive Deliberate Mom Printable Library. Not a subscriber yet? I invite you to become one using the form below!

Please note, I’m a former early childhood professional and many of my ideas are gleaned from my experience and training. However, I need to emphasize, I’m by no means an expert on play. I struggle with spending intentional play time with my children and so I share these ideas not just for your benefit but for my benefit as well. As I’ve shared before, I’m not THE Deliberate Mom, but rather I’m striving to become the deliberate mom I long to be. 

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Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, Deliberate Homeschooling and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care. 

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48 thoughts on “How to Be Intentional with Planning Activities for Your Kids

  • Janine Huldie

    Some great ideas and seriously always looking for stuff to plan and do with my girls. So, can’t thank you enough for sharing this here today, Jennifer!! Have a great week ahead, too my friend xoxo :)

  • Amanda @ Growing Up Madison

    These are all really great ideas. I have to admit that I don’t engage as much as I would like due to my job. Good news is that in less than 2 weeks I’ll be retired and I’ll have all the time in the world, so I’ll be taking a few of these tips and implementing them in my day schedule with my 3yr old. Thank you for the printable too, I’m sure I’m going to need it. Here’s to a fab week!

  • Renee

    Wow…I have to say, I have never planned activities. I guess I am just spontaneous. Far too often I drop chores and cooking to engage with my children. We have a great time, build memories and make huge messes. If anything, I do that too much and let other things slide.

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      I wish I could be more spontaneous Renee – unfortunately that’s not me. I often need plans and/or schedules because without them I’m lost and I fritter away my time. When I waste my time instead of being intentional, I feel some guilt. So, as I’ve shared here, these are some of the strategies I use to plan intentional time with my kids.

      Plus sometimes I think the adult needs to lead in this area because sometimes kids don’t know what to do with their time.

      I wonder for curiosity sake, if this is something that large families don’t struggle with as much? I wonder if more children of varying ages does naturally lends itself to more child-led opportunities to play? I know my girls, if left to their own devices, would be bouncing off the walls, fighting, and aimlessly wandering around not engaging with anything.

      Interesting to ponder.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Renee!

  • Jessica Dimas

    Ahhhhhh AMAZING!!! Thank you so much for sharing all of this, seriously it was even more than I could have expected!! So much great advice and I really like your suggestions for writing it all down. I do that for everything else to get a clear vision for what I want, I should write down more specifically all of my goals for what I want to do with my kids. I also thought that was a great idea to write down honestly the wake and sleep schedule your kids are on, etc instead of changing your schedule to something that likely wouldnt pan out because it wouldn’t be realistic or would be too much of a change. ALSO the list of activity ideas, SO AWESOME!!! I can’t wait to check it out…so many amazing suggestions in one post.

  • Tawnya

    Ok seriously this makes me feel like the worst mom ever… we basically just free play all day long. I need more structure in my (our) life! Thank you for sharing these! I’m signing up for your newsletter STAT! xo

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      Nooooo, Tawnya, please don’t feel that way. Free play is a good thing! I need a schedule and structure and so do my children. If they don’t have it, they’re lost, unfocused, and kind of miserable.

      If free play all day works for your daughter then don’t change it… and if a spontaneous schedule works, then go with it.

      I’ve had a number of mommies asking me how to structure a day and choose intentional activities for their kids – this post is for those who need it but by no means should everyone do it. You know your sweet little girl best. <3

  • Shecki @ Greatly Blessed

    I don’t schedule out my kids’ playtime, but I do like the idea of making it more well rounded, with activities from different areas of life.

    I do think that larger families tend to have more organic variety going on. Sometimes I will direct play (like the post I did about making a block zoo for their beanie baby animals), and I do “school-y” activities, but I think there’s value to plain old playtime, too.

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      I have unstructured “free play” time for the girls but as for intentional, planned activities, I like to have some structure (and also make sure I encompass all the areas of development within our day).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Shecki.

  • Michelle

    I couldn’t live without structure. . . and as a teacher, I think most children would rather have it than not. I gives security in a lot of ways to some children. Free play, an absolute must in any child’s day. Call me old-fashion, but running outside, playing with friends, building, constructing, crafting, riding bikes, etc. now that is free time. Let them use their imaginations, something getting a bit lost in all the social media and technology. Good post!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      I agree! I think many children crave some form of structure. I know, I’m completely lost without a schedule.

      As for free play, I hear you… this is the type of “free play” I endorse too – running, playing in the yard, bubbles, make believe play… yes!

  • Tiffany

    Jennifer, you always have the most amazing ideas! I always feel like I’ve lost my creativity, therefore my activities won’t be as fun as the ones A does with her nanny (who is like off the charts creative). But I know she’ll love because she’s doing them with me. These are really great ideas!

  • Tabitha Blue

    I just love this Jennifer!! I’m a homeschooling mom for the first time this year… and I feel like I’m failing most days!! Although I went into it knowing that… knowing that those feelings were the norm, especially in the beginning. Great post, and tips and ideas. I think I need to work at making a better schedule with more intentional categories at least ;)


  • Charlee

    This could not have come at a better time. Thank you so much for sharing how you plan activities. I have never heard of S.P.I.C.E.S before. I can’t wait to get started! Glad I’m a subscriber for the free activity list, too!

  • Jen@JENerallyInformed

    You are amazing! I have to admit that the last sculpting project we attempted was eaten by the baby. That did not go over well with the 7 year old. She has now taken to calling her sister Godzilla!

    I love your idea though for writing things down, because that really does help us as parents to focus and be more accountable for both our time and other resources. I find that days with even just a quick sketched out plan go much better.

  • ali

    you’re spot on, getting the just right balance is key. I’m getting better at knowing when to observe and when to join in. It’s easier as they grow up. though

  • Carolina Brenes

    Thanks for this post! Now that I’m slowly returning back to my old self after being on bed rest I would like to start planning more activities for my daughter and was feeling a little overwhelmed by it. I love SPICES! I’m going to be using that.
    This also made me realize how bad I need to schedule things out. Haha! I usually just wing it. Oops!

  • katy allred

    I LOVE this! I’m always pinning activities I find on Pinterest, and then feeling like I have no idea when or where to fit them in. Something about thinking about the different dimensions you listed is really resonating with my GTD-obsessed brain. I feel like now I’ll have a framework to intentionally plan them in, thanks!

    Also, I love that you focus in on the importance of setting an intention. Even if it isn’t as structured as a schedule, taking the time to recognize how we really feel about both the big (what kind of parent do i want to be?) and the little (what are we going to try to do today?) ensures that we are parenting consciously! bravo!

  • Holly

    I’m very deliberate with my parenting so this was an awesome read! I will definitely hold on to this for the summer months! Thanks for linking up with Waiting on…Wednesday! Hope to see you back tomorrow!

  • Jelli

    Great ideas! While I don’t feel like I’ll be able to fit in so many activities, just having two planned each day will feel monumental to me. Thanks, Jennifer.

    • Jennifer Post author

      Two is great! Since I homeschool, I try to do a little more (especially for my youngest, who doesn’t really get much “book work” yet). Plus I plan things into the natural rhythms of our day.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Jelli!