The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Routine
The experts say it all the time; “routine is key”; and it’s true.
Here at Kids & Company we know routine is important, not only for the success of your child, but for your sanity as a parent. We interviewed Jennifer Comber, one of our own experts and Area Directors, on the importance of routines for young children and how to realistically use routines in your life.
“Having routines provides structure that infants and children can count on - in turn creating a sense of reassurance and safety.” Jennifer noted. Following certain patterns means a child is physically and mentally prepared to transition to new activities like eating, playing, sleeping, reading and creating. Routine empowers children because it allows them to know what comes next and feel confident in how the world around them will work.
Jennifer advised it is critical to stick to a routine as much as possible. We know, that can sometimes be tough. Let us clarify what that means - the time of day isn’t as important as the order of the usual activities. Come home from dinner an hour late? It’s not the end of the world! Continue on with your usual evening schedule and try to minimize changes or rushing through the routine: young children are not so much aware of time but they are aware of disruptions in routine, and that can lead to more meltdowns than a later bedtime (as long as it’s an exception).
Kids & Company tips for establishing and maintaining routines in your home
1. Pinpoint the most important parts of the day: figure out what are the really important parts of the day for maintaining calm and keeping children engaged but not over stimulated. These activities will include sleep, meals, bathroom breaks, quiet time, play and preparing for bed. Build some structure around what order these activities happen in to land on a good routine to follow.
2. Be Flexible: Though a regular schedule can mean smooth days, keep in mind that you won’t always be able to adhere to the schedule perfectly. Be open to some changes so your children can develop adaptability as well. Balance is key. If you never deviate, you’ll be stifled, while if you deviate too much, you’ll be overwhelmed.
3. Order, not timing: Timing is less important for routine than simply the order of doing things. Skipping routines to meet timelines only makes sense to an adult and not a child. Losing the anticipated routine will likely cause breakdowns for the child that will actually take longer than following a version of the routine that provides anticipatory power to the child.
4. Provide Warning: To allow for children to prepare for the change in activity, give a warning that you will soon be moving on to something else. Preferably one to three-minute for youngsters and a longer timeline for before and after school children who are starting to recognize the movement of time.
5. Ask for Help: Involving your children in any tasks such as cleaning up a craft, choosing what to eat for dinner, or setting the table are ways to help involve them in the steps of routine. Children naturally want to be helpful and feel valued for their contribution.
6. Give Choices: Even though a parent is in control of so many things, choices for a child are imperative to empowerment and interest in following a routine. For example, a parent will ultimately decide when and what we are going to eat, but a child can be given options as to where they will sit, how much to serve themselves, what bowl to use. Or even before bed, let your little one pick pyjamas or stories. This allows them to explore independence within a routine and gives them a feeling of control (and don’t we all want that?).
7. Get Visual: A chart of daily routines with the use of pictures can be a great way to accomplish parts of your day. Put it at eye level with the child and use it each day. Setting up the chart from left to right also reinforces the early literacy skills important to their development at preschool age.
8. Create alignment between childcare and home schedules: Work with your childcare provider or other caregivers to create some alignment between what is happening in your home and what happens elsewhere. It is fine for children to have some differences depending on where they are and who they are with, but two totally different schedules and complete lack of structure can be challenging mentally and for their bodies.
All in all, routines can be useful for establishing boundaries and guidelines, as well as teaching good habits and improving efficiency. We can build routines into our day so that they happen without thinking; allowing us and our children to devote energy into more important things.
Check back for our next post to find out how Kids & Company adheres to the importance of routine and incorporates them into daily activities in our classrooms.
Ali has a B.A. in Communications and Culture from the University of Calgary and a Diploma in Public Relations from MacEwan University. Her work experience includes the City of Edmonton, The Canadian National Sportsmens’ Shows and The Town of High River (where she oversaw a team of day camp counsellors).
Fun facts about Ali: She’s getting married next September, loves to travel, is obsessed with her new Bernedoodle puppy, and appreciates a good bowl of real Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
She is always happy to chat about anything and you can reach her at email@example.com.