The Importance of Routine

Mummy! I can’t find my shoes? I don’t want to wash my face! Brush your hair! Eat your breakfast! Hurry up or we’ll be late!!  I forgot my bag.

The above should sound familiar to many families rushing to get themselves and their children ready in our ever busier mornings. Rather than struggling through the same sprint everyday there is an easier solution to the morning chaos. By working with your child to create and complete a simple routine morning time can become much more successful and less stressful for both you and your child.

Children are creatures of habit and are happiest when things stay the same. Although variety is part of day to day life, household routines are important for helping children feel safe and secure as well as loved.  Consistency in routines or activities that happen at about the same time and in about the same way each day provide comfort and a sense of safety to young children. These routines can help prevent tantrums, misbehaviours and distress. Regardless of whether it is time to play, eat, sleep, or time for Mum or Dad to return, knowing what to expect next gives children a sense of security. This helps them learn that caring adults will provide what they need and leaves them free to focus on the most important work of all – playing, exploring, and learning about the world around them.

Visual Aids can be useful to help your child get ready in the morning. A simple picture schedule with a few removable  icons for key activities like brush teeth, wash face, comb hair, get school bag will gradually help your child become  more independent with their self care routine  and time management. As your child becomes more independent other activities like ‘make bed’ can be added to the list.

Bedtime is another time when cooperation from your child is of particular importance to end the day on a positive note. When the bedtime routine is predictable it helps children to settle down to sleep. This requires creating a short routine before bedtime that involves quiet activities occurring in the same order every night. An example of such a routine could be snack time, dress for bed, brush teeth, use the bathroom and read one book. It is important that this routine remains the same every night as it will provide your child with cues that time to sleep is approaching.

Though routines are important, this does not mean that you must be a slave to them. There are some benefits to children experiencing some changes to routine from time to time. Such minor modifications will help your child to cope with bigger changes when the inevitably occur. Of course, how do you go about introducing bigger changes to a child’s routine? Changes in routine are made easier if you and your child can prepare for them in advance. An example of preparation for a change may involve the arrival of a babysitter. Preparation might involve making a babysitter picture magnet with your child, this is a magnet with emergency contacts and important information such as allergies that the child could have or information the child wants the babysitter to know like what bedtime story to read. An hour before the babysitter arrives you could have the child place the magnet on the chart and you can both talk about this change and what it will mean.

Visual schedules and routines are not instant cure-alls and it may take a little time for your child to become comfortable with moving to the next ‘job’ on her list. Also, just like us, our children can fall into old habits and poor choices especially for the sake of an extra 5 minutes in bed in the morning. However, the benefits of a structured routine far outweigh the negatives.  By maintaining the routine your child will gradually become more independent with self care and this will help both of you save time in the morning. Additionally, a consistent routine with small changes that arise naturally will help your child become more accepting of larger changes as they inevitably arise.

 With thanks to Incredible Years for the pictures used in this article and hoping that the routines and visual schedules help you and your child enjoy happier morning and bedtimes.

Bedtime Routine IY Bedtime Routine IY2 Afterschool Routine IY Morning Routine IY


Provided by ABC Start Right Limerick