Time’s Up: The Importance of a Routine in Early Childhood

Introducing your child to a regular schedule can add ease to everyone’s life

Raising young children requires flexibility and a willingness to adapt and evolve to their ever-changing needs. In the case of babies and toddlers that includes moods, whims, hunger, an inability to communicate, developmental challenges, and an irregular sleep schedule, to name a few. Understanding the importance of establishing a routine for your child will help with these.

The benefits of a routine

Life with young children can feel like a blur. Obviously, having a daily routine can calm some of the sense of chaos, but the benefits go beyond that. Having a predictable rhythm for each day is reassuring – not only for the parents but also for the child. Introducing and following a routine can help a baby or toddler make sense of their day-to-day life, which can lead to feeling safe and help establish trust with their caregivers and surroundings.

Young children don’t understand the time and organize their day by events versus hours. Therefore, a regular schedule of recurring events lets them know what to expect and allows them to develop a greater sense of confidence in themselves and their world. Even the smallest changes to daily life can result at the beginning of a routine, so work on introducing the following suggestions to your days.

Regular mealtimes

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are an easy place to start by bringing predictability to each day. Work on creating continuity around mealtime, such as the time, place, and fashion in which food is served. Try to have one distraction-free meal that the family eats together each day to look forward to.

Order of events

Help your child understand the natural rhythm of each day. Work together to choose and print pictures of daily events such as brushing teeth, eating meals, taking a nap, bath time, and bedtime and make a schedule outlining a typical day.

Advance notice

Encourage easier transitions between events by making your child aware of upcoming changes. “We’re going to go inside and have lunch in ten minutes. I am setting the timer, and when it beeps, it’s time to clean up.” Make definitive statements about what will happen next but give your child time to adjust to the idea.

Sleep routine

Bedtime can be a trying time of day for everyone. Ease into it gently each night with an established pattern of actions. For instance, taking a bath, reading a story, tucking your child in, saying goodnight, and leaving the room. Set up similar patterns for naps and waking up. Outlining these simple steps can help your child understand what’s about to happen and why.

Creating a plan for each day doesn’t automatically mean smooth sailing, but it can make it easier. A predictable routine helps children become more independent, encourages responsibility, and improves behavior – on top of making your days as a parent more peaceful and productive.

The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.

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