Why Routines Are Important For Children
Are routines overrated?
There is a great deal of importance given to it in every pregnancy and child care book you pick up. Almost like a universal law that hovers around every new parent. Being a mom to two children and reading countless articles and blogs on baby routines, I can confidently say that my babies never fell into those peaceful and too good to be true schedules. Two 3-hour naps in a day? Yeah, it didn’t happen.
But that’s when they were babies. As they grew older and reached the toddler stage, I could finally see the rewards of all my efforts. And ever since, I have been a firm believer in routines for children and there has been no turning back. But what exactly is the definition of a routine, is there a best kind or example to follow and most of all how do you get your kids to fall into one? Read on to find out.
Are routines important?
For children? I’d go with absolutely yes. There is a lot of discussion on whether routines make life monotonous and dull for adults. Maybe. It’s debatable. But for children, it offers consistency and security. Starting with babies and continuing even much later into childhood years, routines are not only important but enjoyable for children. Having a brief idea of what the day is going to be like, helps children ease into and out of activities much easier than if we were to just lug them along without a plan.
When we speak of routines, we often think of watertight schedules that are absolutely rigid and leave no room for flexibility. This would be difficult to keep up with and end up being more stressful than helpful. Leaving some free unscheduled time will help children relax rather than keeping up with a strict schedule that leaves little time for anything else. Children do need little pockets of free time to rejuvenate, create, ideate and even get bored.
With an ongoing pandemic that has left many children with online classes that may not be entirely scheduled similarly to regular school hours and more free time than usual, it seems tempting to go about the day with no fixed plan. However, having a routine will help them utilize their time better and more importantly help them shift back to regular routines once schools reopen.
What are the benefits of routines?
Knowing what to expect and when:
From a child’s perspective, they seem to have little control over how their day goes. Having a routine helps children know what to expect from their day, a sense of comforting familiarity. This can help them feel more in control and even prepare them for the next activity in the day. E.g. knowing how long they have screen time and understanding there is a limit on it because they will have to move on to the next part of the day.
Make time for everything:
A family routine that is well planned, regular and planned can help the family make time for what’s important to them as a unit. If you factor in having a meal together every day, reading time or time outdoors every evening, this helps strengthen your bond as a family. Routines can help parents organize and plan activities that are enjoyable and nurturing for the whole family.
Knowing what to expect makes children more at ease and secure in their environment. As much as we’d like to think contrary to it, children apparently don’t like surprises. Having a clear idea of how their day will span out makes them feel less anxious about being caught off guard. Knowing that there’s snack time after a nap or playtime every evening makes them feel comfortable and even look forward to moving on from one activity to the other.
Makes it easy to implement habits:
Think of it as practice makes one perfect. Going over the same routine every day can make children better at certain practices. It could be brushing teeth first thing in the morning, getting dressed for the day soon after, eating fruit for a midday snack, brushing teeth before bed or reading after dinnertime. If you practice these every day or as regularly as you can, these habits become second nature to them. And as kids gain more practice with a certain skill, it also makes them better at it, thereby fostering independence. It’s a simple way of establishing good habits in your kids.
How do I create a routine for my child?
No one approach fits all when it comes to setting routines for your child. You must work around what suits your child and your family. A few tips to keep in mind while setting your routine
- Allot sufficient time for and between each activity.
- Pick the non-negotiable activities and then leave space for flexibility. Depending on their age, you might want to set time for play, schoolwork, family dinner, chores, reading etc.
- A good routine is well planned and most importantly regular.
- It must be adaptable. Routines must be sensitive and adaptable to the needs of everyone in the family. Keeping it adaptable leaves space for spontaneity that can keep the fun factor rather than feeling tied down by a routine.
- Give children time to adjust to a routine. Expecting children to fall into a new routine overnight will only leave you frustrated and disappointed. So be patient while staying as consistent as you can.
- Make sure to factor in special and fun times. While a routine is mostly enforced to cater to important activities in the day, ensure you also set aside time to bond and have fun with your child. It could be five minutes of cuddles in the morning, ice cream on Friday nights or a walk to the park once a week. All work and no fun would make a routine too dull.
- Reset after disruptions. Family vacations, a holiday season, special events might wreak havoc with your routines. But gradually just pick up where you left off when you can and with some time, you can get the family back on track.
Remember, as much as there is information everywhere on what makes a good routine, there are no rules. As a family, spend some time understanding and planning a routine that will work for your family and caters to your specific needs. And when a routine doesn’t work out as expected, despite your best efforts, be open to change.
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