We all know that routines are important, but sometimes we don’t really consider just how important routines are for children. Even babies thrive on routines and the need for them only gets stronger as they grow into toddlers and beyond.
Why routines are important for children.
They help children feel a sense of control in their world. Without routines, change tends to happen to them, not with them.
Routines help a child with the development of executive functioning (such as planning skills, time management) and other life skills. Routines mean lots of repetition – doing the same things daily – which not only helps to provide structure to children, but repetition is a requirement for learning and mastery tasks. This means that those routines are helping children learn the steps involved (e.g in getting ready for school) so that when they are ready they can take over and do it all themselves.
The components of any given routine won’t be the same for every family, however, there are specific routines that most families will establish. If you haven’t instituted one of these routines in your family, you may wish to start now. The most common daily routines include preparing for school, mealtime, and bedtime. Then there are weekly routines like family nights or having special 1:1 time with your children.
Each routine a family implements is special and important because when children know what their parents expect of them on a daily basis it reduces the likelihood of power struggles.
Let’s discuss some of the common routines for children:
When you and your children wake up for day you will often have a routine for how the morning flows. Maybe it is breakfast first, then teeth brushing and getting dressed. OR maybe it is a snuggle in bed with both parents every morning before officially getting up to greet the day. The exact morning routine will likely evolve as the years go by and your children get older. You may direct a lot of the morning routine while your children are toddlers, but as they grow up, they’ll likely take the wheel by themselves.
Preparing for school routines
Preparing for school is a necessary routine in many households. The time between wake up and leaving for school is often short and means being goal-oriented is immensely important. It will take time for your children to get used to the steps involved in preparing for school and it can be helpful to be as prepared as possible the night before, to help make the school routine as stress-free as possible – prepare backpacks, have jackets and shoes easy to access and even have the clothes chosen and laid out. And if your children wear school uniforms, like my sons, you’ve got one less thing to worry about!
We all have routines that happen around mealtime. One big one in our family is that we all sit down to eat together as many times a week as possible. This means that we can enjoy each other’s company and discuss our days. It can be great to ask each family member about their day. You can even come up with your own way of doing it e.g. each person says one happy thing, one funny thing and one not so good thing. This will provide your children the opportunity to bring up anything that worried or upset them.
For older children, mealtime routines may include opportunities to help out. They may set the table or help with meal preparation.
As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant bedtime routines are a high priority. Not only have studies shown that they can promote literacy (if you choose to include book reading) they can also teach important life skills (including the importance of bathing and teeth brushing), but they also provide an important sleep cue to your child that sleep time is coming. This actually helps with preparing their mind and bodies or sleep.
There is also another reason to love bedtime. It is a chance to spend special time with your children. Time to snuggle on the bed. As children get older the bedtime routines can also be a useful tool for establishing boundaries and guidelines in your home around bedtime. This can help with bedtime battles.
Routines are wonderful components of family life. We’d love to hear about some of the routines in your family! Please comment with your favorite routine and what you include in it.