Sunday, 21 September 2014

How to establish helpful routines for your little one!

You may have heard over and over again how important routines are for your little one but may not know exactly why they are beneficial or how to put them in place in the best way for your child. This post will explain some of the benefits of routines and hopefully give you some useful tips on implementing them!

Why are routines so important?

  •  Stability - Just like us adults, children need routines and stability. Having a predictable routine allows them to feel safe and in control in a world where they don't have much control over anything! Lots of changes and unexpected events happen on a regular basis for children and having routines helps them to handle these events and feel confident and secure. It also helps avoid tantrums or power struggles as they are just as aware of what is going to happen as you are. Instead of just being told to do something, their routine means that they know this is the time they do 'x'. 

  • Developing important skills - Routine and structure help children to put their day in order as they do not yet fully understand the concept of time. While saying they will play outside in 20 minutes may mean nothing to them, explaining that they will play outside after they have had their snack will make sense to them. They can then prepare themselves for this. A routine also gives your little one a great opportunity to make predictions about what they will do, using concepts such as before, after, next and later. Having a repetitive order of events gives children the chance to develop organization and self-discipline skills as they will learn to be patient and look forward to activities. It also helps develop independence as the more a routine is practiced, the more they will be able to manage on their own. This is great for their self-esteem and for learning a ton of new skills!

Top tips for establishing routines

This is what we all really want to you've got the theory but how do you put it in place? 

  • Be flexible -  Routines shouldn't be rigid or impractical, it should be a guide to help structure the day which works with both your needs and those of your little one. If there is a change to your routine, explain what is changing and why. This helps them to prepare for the change and understand what is happening, which will make them more able to deal with changes in the future. 

  • Don't try and start too early - infants will often develop a routine that suits them, which will change as they grow. Once they are a bit older, you can start to establish a routine that fits in with both your and your baby's needs. 

  • Create a bedtime routine - Having a routine order of events that your child associates with bedtime (eg: bath, pyjamas, brush teeth, bedtime story, sleep) will help your little one calm down and prepare for going to sleep. This will hopefully avoid bedtime squabbles and mean they will go to sleep earlier, giving them a better quality of sleep so they have more energy the following day!
  • Have a visual timetable - This is a winner and something I have used in all my nurseries and schools. Make it together with your child, using pictures that they can easily identify with particular activities. Each day, put the activities in the order you will follow and then go through it with your child. Use an arrow or marker to indicate which activity you are currently doing and ask your child to help you move it along the line as you transition from one activity to the next. This is great for learning concepts of before, after, next and later and also gives them the opportunity to chat about what they are going to do, developing their communication skills. It is also great as your little one can revisit the timetable at different times of the day to see what is coming up, giving them control over their day.

  • Transitions - Giving your child a warning about moving from one activity to the next is very important. Sudden transitions can be confusing and stressful for children so give your child a countdown, for example - at the end of the song we will be tidying up so we can go and play outside. This will give your child time to finish their activity and get ready to start a new one.

These are just a few ideas that I have used successfully, I hope you find them as useful as I have!

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See you soon!

 Katie is an Early Years specialist in Dubai, where she 
manages an EYFS nursery. She has a special interest 
in psychology and early childhood development.


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