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May 5, 2014

Understanding Routines: Why Are They So Important?

Contributed by Jennifer Horner, Doodle Bugs! IMG_3485.JPGEducation Specialist

Children are born into a world which they have never known. Everything is new, mysterious, and sometimes frightening. One of their first securities is a parent’s voice and warm arms. They start to notice routines around them; the way the world transforms from day to night. As they make sense of the world, they find confidence in the signals that help them know what will happen next.

At Doodle Bugs!, we understand how important routines in the classroom are and how it impacts your family at home. Our teachers follow a consistent routine in the classroom day after day, giving children the sense of security they need to make choices and take risks. Achieving this comfort level opens the door to exciting learning opportunities. Our teachers establish strong routines and expectations that are co-written with the parents, which is the most important building block of classroom community.

A predictable routine allows children to feel safe, and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives. Having this security enables children to take initiative over self-help skills, learning, negotiating with peers, and handling unforeseen circumstances such as a best friend moving away. This predictability sets the stage for children to constructively control themselves and their environments.

Dr. Laura Markham, parenting expert and clinical psychologist, identifies six key benefits of using routines:

  1. Routines eliminate power struggles because you aren’t bossing them around. This activity (washing hands, nap times, putting toys away before bed) is just what we do at this time of day. The parent stops being the bad guy, and nagging is greatly reduced.
  2. Routines help kids cooperate by reducing stress and anxiety for everyone. We all know what comes next; we get fair warning for transitions, and no one feels like parents are being arbitrary.
  3. Routines help kids learn to take charge of their own activities. Over time, children learn to independently wash their hands, put their clothes in the laundry basket, etc., without constant reminders. Kids love being in charge of themselves. This feeling increases their sense of mastery and competence. Kids who feel more independent and in charge of themselves have less need to rebel and be oppositional.
  4. Kids learn the concept of “looking forward” to things they enjoy, which is an important part of making a happy accommodation with the demands of a schedule. He may want to go to the playground now, but he can learn that we always go to the playground in the afternoon, and he can look forward to it then.
  5. Regular routines help kids get on a schedule, so that they fall asleep more easily at night.
  6. Routines help parents build in those precious connection moments. We all know we need to connect with our children every day, but when our focus is on moving kids through the schedule to get them to bed, we miss out on opportunities to connect. If we build little connection rituals into our routine, they become habit. Try to snuggle each child when you first see them in the morning or another “recognition” ritual when you’re first reunited after school: “I see you with those beautiful gray eyes that I love so much!” Rituals like these slow you down and connect you on a visceral level with each child, and if you do this as just “part of the routine” they build security as well as connection and cooperation.
  7. Schedules help parents maintain consistency in expectations. If everything is a struggle, parents end up settling: more TV time, skip washing hands, etc. With a routine, parents are more likely to stick to healthy expectations for everyone, because that’s just the way we do things in our house. The result: a family with healthy habits, where everything rungs smoothly!