Children thrive on consistency and predictability in their day. They like getting into a regular pattern and knowing what’s coming up. This helps them make transitions from one activity to the next.
Tips for establishing routines
- Build routines for young children around meals, snacks and sleep times. When children have enough of these things, it’s the first step to each day running more smoothly. Tired or hungry children are much harder to manage.
- Plan routines around particularly demanding times in the family day. Before and directly after work and school can be especially challenging times for families. Routines that give everybody something to do – or at least keep children out of trouble while grown-ups prepare the evening meal – can definitely help things run more smoothly.
- Involve children in a discussion about routines if they’re old enough. By the time children are school age, discussions about routines can be a great way of helping them learn important things like how to organise themselves and how to be punctual.
- Consider displaying an illustrated poster of your routine in a prominent place. This could help remind both you and your child.
- Allow down time in your child’s day. Children need time to learn to entertain themselves.
- If you want to place time limits on some activities, you can incorporate limited TV and computer time and video-game playing into your daily routine. For example, children can watch TV, but only between 5 and 5.30 pm (or whatever suits your family).
- Provide reminders to your children to follow the routine. But also watch out for and praise your children when they follow the routine without help.
- Find ways to remind your child to follow a routine without your intervention. For example, put a radio alarm clock in your child’s room. The music can be a signal that it’s time to wake up, time to start getting ready for school, or time to come out of the bedroom in the morning.
Routines don’t mean you and your family are rigid or inflexible. Changes and last-minute diversions are part and parcel of life.