Schedules and routines help guide all of our actions throughout the day. Think about brushing teeth, making coffee, watching a favorite show after dinner — all these routines define how we spend our days, and the same applies to our children, too.
Though we might not realize it, the routines and schedules we establish for our children play a big role in the way they understand the world around them. Daily routines can give your child things to look forward to throughout the day (like family reading time), while cultural routines like holiday celebrations or family gatherings can help solidify their sense of identity and wellbeing within their family and community.
The Importance of Routines
Routines can bring balance to a child’s life. As children begin to learn about the world and all that’s in it, it’s possible to develop a fear of the unknown. While change is always happening around us, it can also create a stressful environment for a child to navigate. Having routines can help relieve stress and provide a sense of safety and security. They also give children a sense of control, as they learn what to expect, what will happen next, and how to navigate their day successfully. If a child can predict what will happen at different times, it helps to encourage feelings of safety and confidence, and allows them to focus on other tasks at hand.
Routines and schedules are important for parents and families to follow as well — even when the early stages of childhood can be challenging to navigate! With routines, you can lessen power struggles, feelings of overwhelm, and decision fatigue. If possible, continuing with a routine from before parenthood, like date night or weekend walks, can also help to relieve the stress and lend a sense of normalcy for parents of young children.
Benefits of Setting Routines
Aside from being important for a child’s growth and development, routines can help prepare children for the future. They can teach them about following a future school-day schedule, and also introduce them to the concept of time management (for example, cleaning up toys now to be ready for music time later). Practicing routines early in their life can help a child to better stay on task, and recognize the benefits of being organized with their own time down the road.
Routines that involve the family, such as game night, can also promote a sense of joy that can be retained through times of sadness or hardship. A child can remember the positive emotion he or she felt in those times, and use it as an anchor to move out of the negative emotions felt in a different moment. Routines can also encourage confidence and independence by giving children opportunities to anticipate what is coming up, and react accordingly.
Setting Up Family Routines at Home
It can be helpful to give your child opportunities to take part in simple home routines, such as helping to set the table for dinner, or cleaning their toys before bed. As they repetitively do these actions, they become more familiar and easy to accomplish. Home routines can also serve as a way to stay connected with your children and build your relationships, like doing a clean-up party or brushing teeth together. Though they may not show their appreciation, the time and energy you share with them when participating in routines can have a positive impact down the road.
You can also encourage lots of educational and physical activities as a part of your child’s routine! A book before bed, a walk after dinner, or even jumping jacks to get out the wiggles in the afternoon –these are all positive routines to get your child moving and learning.
Setting routines in your home can take time, so be patient with yourself and your child. If you miss a day, don’t dwell on it. Simply pick up where you left off the next time. Routines don’t have to be perfect to be effective. Your child will learn from your dedication to your family’s schedule, and also your ability to shift, adjust and go with the flow when something changes. Afterall, we all experience change, and a routine of flexibility can be helpful for everyone’s mental health, too!
Additional reading: How to Use Visual Schedules to Help Your Child Understand Expectations (Español)