Every new day is filled with changes, unfamiliar territory and potential stressors for a child. However, when approached strategically, these daily occurrences can be a chance for children to grow. Routine sits at the heart of this strategy. It’s a way to provide children with a sense of ‘control’, despite what new changes may come their way.
Humans have thrived on routine for millennia. It makes us more efficient, it gives our lives structure, it helps us get things done and – perhaps most importantly – it gives us more of that most valuable resource: time.
For children, routine has been linked with better self-discipline, a sense of safety and security, and higher emotional intelligence. In fact, a study on instilling routine for childhood development found a 47% increase in the odds that children would have “high social-emotional health, which indicates good emotional and social skills”.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD DAILY ROUTINE?
There’s no denying routine is a positive influence on a child’s development, but what is actually involved in a ‘good routine’? There’s no one-size-fits all solution for every child. Rather, it’s important to customise a routine based around the child’s needs as well as the family’s regular life.
Having said that, all effective routines share three key factors. They are:
Well planned: Research online, speak to other parents or even seek out expert advice for ideas about building a productive routine – one that will stick.
Consistent: Without consistency, even the most well-planned routine can fall flat. Some days will be harder than others, but with time the routine will become inherent – and make your life much easier.
Predictable: Routines need to be easy for children to manage. Make the structure fun and predictable so they aren’t surprised by any unexpected changes.
SIMPLE ROUTINES FOR BABIES, TODDLERS AND PRE-SCHOOLERS
For babies, a quality strategy to apply is the EASY routine:
Eat: Feeding about six times daily (until they are on solids), make sure to factor in cluster feeding and dream feeds at night.
Activity: Stimulating your baby mentally and physically will help for the all-important next step: sleep.
Sleep: Sleeping is hard to predict and will depend on your baby, however routine can directly influence consistency of sleep and (hopefully) sleeping through the night from an early age.
You: Managing a newborn is tough going, so be sure to build ‘you time’ into the daily routine. Babies feed off others’ energy, so deliberately focusing on yourself can reduce your – and your baby’s – stress levels.
For toddlers and pre-schoolers, a more in-depth routine that plans out their day will be more effective. Consider breaking down this routine into specific times, for example:
7:00am: Wake up
7:15am: Playtime and reading session with parent
8:30am: Independent play in toddler’s room OR time for pre-school
1:30pm: Nap time
3:00pm: Nap time ends
3:15pm: Small snack
3:30pm: Play with parent OR home time from pre-school
7:15pm: Get ready for bed
7:30pm: Reading with parent
8:00pm: Lights out
Your particular routine may have more or fewer stages, but the most important factor is that the routine is consistent and predictable for your child to follow.
Here’s an example of a typical Toddler Room routine at Heritage House:
7:30am: Centre opens. Family grouping in Crèche
8:30am: Transition to Toddler Room and free play
9:00am: Pack away and transition to the mat for group time
9:15am: Sunscreen application and transition to wash hands
9:30am: Morning Tea (progressive) and free play
10:15am: Nappy Change and prepare for outdoor play
10:20am: Outdoor free play
11:15am: Yoga and transition to inside
11:30am: News and group time
11:50am: Transition to washing hands
12:30pm: Nappy change and prepare beds for rest time
12:40pm: Rest time and quiet activities
2:30pm: Pack away beds and sheets
2:45pm: Music appreciation – singing, musical games, dancing
3:00pm: Sunscreen application and transition to wash hands
3:05pm: Afternoon Tea
3:30pm: Outdoor play
5:00pm: Afternoon snack
5:15pm: Transition to indoors for free play
6:00pm: Centre closes
CREATING ROUTINE AS WORKING PARENTS
Many families don’t have the luxury of either the mother or father staying at home while the child is in their early years. For working parents, routine is perhaps even more important – not only for your child’s sake, but for yours as well. A well-regimented routine means less stress for parents because everything that needs to be taken care of is!
Consider a routine such as:
Night-before tasks: Get backpacks prepped and sit them by the front door, and lay out clothes for the next day.
The morning of: Set an alarm (or two, if you need!) so you don’t have to rush from the get-go. Schedule breakfast, bath and shower times with enough of a buffer.
Out the door: Consider on-the-go breakfast options if you end up running late. Make ‘preparedness’ a game for your children where they use a checklist to make sure everything is in their backpack.
WHAT DOES ‘ROUTINE’ AT HERITAGE HOUSE LOOK LIKE?
At Heritage House we understand that every child learns in different ways. It’s why we focus on play-based activities to stimulate the body and mind in addition to traditional learning strategies.
However, we also understand that routine is critical for a child’s development, as it helps boost their confidence and self-sufficiency. Our specialised approach to childcare and early learning sets us apart and assures parents that their children are receiving the highest level of care and education.
Each Heritage House centre applies routine in a way that best accommodates the children – routines are also different according to each room and age group. So while some centres may focus on standard routine through the year, others may apply seasonal routines that take effect in summer or winter, for example. Ultimately, we regularly reflect on whether a current routine is working at an optimal level and then implement small changes – as necessary – to make it work better.
The bottom line is that routine is a learnt skill, and one that must be practised every day. Only through consistency can children understand the power of routine and receive all the positive benefits of a structured lifestyle.