Routines are healthy for all humans, however, children especially benefit from a schedule. Toddlers and school-aged children need to have this structure, as a wider world of experience can be overwhelming. When a child doesn’t have an answer or experience with something new and has no routine to fall back on, it can be a trigger for a meltdown, fear, anxiety, or withdrawal inward. With a daily, weekly, or monthly structure, a child can thrive, as they’re allowed to explore the world within a familiar scaffolding.
So how do you set routines in early childhood, and specifically why is consistency important for a child? Let’s take a look.
Importance of routine in early childhood
Kids crave the ability to explore, but without a routine and structure to fall back on, it can get to be too much. Routines in early childhood set them up for better coping and working strategies later on in life. Routine also has a wide range of other developmental, social, and self-esteem benefits:
For example, if your child has homework, then designate a specific time for homework. Understanding that 3:30 is homework time – before tv, tablet, or playing with friends – lets them know what the expectations are.
Develops anchor habits
Anchor habits are those positive habits around which you can build a healthy life. Things like daily exercise, brushing teeth, taking a bath or shower at specific times – these are daily, habitual actions that we don’t think twice about, yet are powerful. Repeatedly doing the same thing creates stronger neural pathways for that activity, which makes it far harder to ignore doing it in the future, and far easier to build other good habits around.
Children who understand what is expected of them and can anticipate what comes next have a stronger sense of self and self-confidence. Children with more self-confidence and faith in their abilities will form stronger, healthier attachments, including being less afraid of being away from you and more resilience in the face of change.
How to establish routines for children
It’s extremely likely – especially during lockdown – that a daily schedule has become something of a wayside consideration. That’s very common and you shouldn’t feel bad, especially because it’s entirely possible and relatively easy to re-establish healthy routines.
1 – Start with anchor habits
If your child has a morning and evening routine engrained in them – usually dinner, followed by quiet time, then bath, brushing teeth, and bed – this is the best place to start building new routines. Immediately following their morning habits with whatever you want to start routinely doing. This can be exercise, or reading with them, or really whatever you want. The same for your evening routine – if you want them to start picking up after themselves, cue them with you starting dinner.
There will be pushback for a few days in most cases, but if you stick with it and don’t lose your temper, you can get them to realize that this is how it is and they’ll naturally go with it.
2 – Reinforce their integration into the routines
If you want to set an evening-into-bedtime routine, reward your child with more one-on-one time. Read an extra book, or watch an extra cartoon, or simply sit with them and talk for a bit. Children crave attention from their parents, and when it’s given in conjunction with something they can be proud of – like sticking to the routine you establish – it makes them feel especially good.
3 – Be patient and stick with it
Establishing a routine can be hard for both of you, but it’s incredibly rewarding for your entire family. Stick with it and practice calming yourself, and your child will follow suit.
Schedule and routine are critically important to children
Understand that, especially when most of life is remote, routines are more important for kids than ever.
- They help your children perform at their best
- Routines take away the space to argue about what they should be doing at set times
- Kids with routines are generally more confident and have better self-esteem
If your child needs extra help with their routine or other difficulties that developing littles tend to run into, give Infinite Therapy Solutions a call. We offer speech, behavioral (ABA), occupational, and physical therapy for families who need a bit of extra help. Our staff is here to help give your children the tools to excel and offer you parenting advice for children who need special child care. Contact us today and see how we can improve your family’s daily life one session at a time.