Are Routines Important for Preschoolers?
This summer my husband had eight weeks off from work. To a stay-at-home-mom of four children between the ages of six and one, July could not arrive fast enough! However, within two weeks of our summer holidays starting, the kids were having meltdowns, tantrums, arguments, etc. The relaxing, happy summer holiday I had envisioned completely vaporized before I could sit down and finish a hot cup of coffee on my deck. What was supposed to be the happiest summer holidays was becoming a disaster. I had my husband – partner, best friend – at my side. I was not going to be alone in parenting! What had happened? Why were we so miserable???
I found the answer in August when the kids began swimming lessons. ROUTINE. In July we had stopped our routines! The daily habits we had painstakingly developed, practiced, and put into place, were no longer there. The routines that were holding this family together had ceased to exist. Oh, we were still doing things out of necessity, but they were all out of order and no longer consistent. I didn’t realize this mattered until reflecting on it during my quiet time a couple of days after swimming began. Every morning at nine o’clock the kids had to be at the pool. This meant up and dressed with breakfast in their tummies at a predictable time. A routine was back. Needless to say, that very afternoon I had a whole cup of hot coffee on my deck.
Random House dictionary (2016) defines routine as:
“Commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly; typical or everyday activity”
Ugh, tasks, chores, duties – these do not sound like regular activities I want to build into my day. However, putting on clean clothes, eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, and wearing boots outside when it’s -40 are all tasks, chores and duties that make my life happier. The regular activities that we build into our day at home (and at preschool) will help support our children in their learning. Routines help develop a strong foundation for reading, writing, speaking, viewing, and listening skills.
However, before our kids can become successful learners in the classroom, they need to feel comfortable. Following predictable routines helps children trust the people who are taking care of them. Our kids need to feel relaxed so they are free and happy to explore the world around them.
Routines and Learning
- Establishing routines with your children will provide two of the most important ingredients necessary for learning: relationships and repetition.
- Our little ones don’t understand time, but they can understand expectations and the order of events. If they consistently see what happens after a behaviour or an event, they learn what they are supposed to do and where they are supposed to be. Daily chores and duties provide consistency and clear expectations. This helps kids feel safe to explore, becoming independent and confident, because they know what their role is. They are relaxing into it and having fun.
Routines and Interactions with Others
- Interacting with adults and peers activates our senses. This is important because children are learning to recognize how they can take in information – listening, watching, hearing, touching and tasting. Some of these methods are appropriate with others and some are not. Interacting with others helps children learn appropriate social behaviour. For example, you probably shouldn’t taste the kid next to you in preschool.
- Routine interactions help build communication skills. Reoccurring social situations allow children to practice social cues like taking turns, listening, not interrupting, helping others, and sharing.
- Providing routine social situations helps build our little ones sense of self and develops their self-esteem. Children will begin to know how to positively communicate with the people they are interacting with.
Routines and Transitions
- Preschoolers and transitions can be like sailing through rough waters. Any crewmember may go overboard at any second!
(No one went overboard on this boat ride)
- Routines can help us through transitions, especially when we are transitioning from one caregiver to the next. By giving our kids a “five minute warning”, using a song, book, game, rhyme, or visual timer, it allows our kids to prepare themselves to say goodbye or wrap-up their play. They know that there is going to be a shift in activities and they know what they need to do. We are not expecting them to drop everything and go to the next unknown person or activity. We are helping them prepare and to take the next step together.
- By creating routine in our transitions there is security in our movements and behaviour. Helping to establish transition skills can help strengthen our relationships with our kids as we are building certainty and predictability into our everyday activities with them.
Routines and Power Struggles
- Children can be stubborn and uncooperative when they are told what to do. This behaviour is more likely to happen if kids do not know how we want them to do something or why we want them to do it. Establishing the how and the why through routines will equip kids to behave appropriately when given instructions. Routines can also help us as adults stay calm when kids are uncooperative.
- If our behaviour is predictable, children will come to understand that when they are uncooperative the guidelines will remain the same. This process often takes time, but if our reactions are consistently loving, gentle, secure, and predictable we are providing stability even when the child feels unstable.
Routines make our life easier and happier. This fall some of us go back to school and there will be new and old routines that we will once again put into place. They will ground us, stretch us and help us thrive in our day-to-day activities.
Written by Karla Lysak
(2010, February 20). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/223-creating-routines-for-love-and-learning
(2013, August 6). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from http://www.education.com/magazine/article/importance-routines-preschool-children/
(2015). Retrieved July 16, 2016, from http://www.kidspot.com.au/parenting/toddler/toddler-development/why-routine-and-structure-benefits-your-toddler
routine. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved July14, 2016 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/routine