Establishing a child’s routine is one of the best ways to help him or her feel secure moving through each day. Routines also help children understand how to interact with adults, other children and their surroundings.
Children like routines because they set a predictable, understandable pattern for each day. They can be introduced when a child is as young as a few months old.
Routines help a child’s social and cognitive skills develop. As a child begins to understand a sequence of events, their social skills related to patience and self-control grow. They are also encouraged to think about what happens next, fostering cognitive development. Transitioning from one activity to another is easier if a child knows what to expect next. Meals and snacks, naptime and playtime are three areas where introducing routines can be helpful.
- Meals and snacks: Have your child prepare for mealtime by first washing his hands, then taking a seat. Help him learn to take turns and make decisions by offering two options. Ask him which snack he would prefer, such as “Would you like apple slices or carrots?” Keep options simple to help the decision-making process.
- Naptime: Set a routine to help your child prepare for naptime. This could be playing the same song each day or reading a short story before she gets ready to nap. These repeated activities help children adjust from one part of their day to another. The same ideas can be applied for bedtime, too.
- Playtime: Consider setting routines around playtime. For example, your child may have to help clear her place at the table before playtime begins. As playtime ends, help her understand that toys are put away before moving to the next activity. Use words like “first,” “next” and “finally” to talk about activities throughout the day.
Below are additional resources about developing routines for children.
- Zero to Three: Creating Routines for Love and Learning
- Education.com: Routines: Why They Matter and How to Get Started
For more information and resources to help children learn and grow, visit helpmegrowmn.org.