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Routine, Regularity, and Order Help Children Thrive

Routine, Regularity, and Order Help Children Thrive

You have heard your child’s teacher comment many times by now on how important a regular routine is in helping them to be successful. We talk about the necessity for arriving on time in the morning or picking a child up at a consistent time in the afternoon, or about the need for regularity in breakfast or dinner routine. We say even bedtime should remain constant.

Regularity is not always possible, and sometimes it is just a challenge getting everyone ready and out of the house in the mornings. Believe me, we do understand. Sometimes it is hard to get ourselves up and moving, and those teachers with children know the challenge even more. We also know how rushing to get to work on time or scrambling to get the room set up will set the tone for the entire day. Each new frustration will build upon the previous one, and we can spend the whole day feeling like we never quite catch up. We have all been there.

Recognizing the challenge it brings to our day, you can imagine the impact it can have on a young child. Maria Montessori wrote about young children’s sensitivity to order, a period which can range anywhere from about 18 months up to around 5 years old, with a peak around 2.5 years (Hello terrible twos!). It is easy to recognize this need for order in terms of everything having its own place, as can be seen on the shelves in Montessori classrooms.

Establishing A Routine at School

As much as you might think that kids love surprises, they really do like to know what is coming up next. At school we keep a regular schedule so that kids always know what to expect. They know when work time, circle time, lunch, and recess is. They even know which days have enrichment activities such as yoga or music. It is that predictability that makes them feel safe and comfortable. Having a routine frees them from uncertainty, so that they can focus their energies on social, emotional, and academic growth.

When children first start in a new classroom, there is a lot of anxiety that comes with being in a new environment, with new children and teachers, and new routines. Who could blame them? It would be intimidating for any of us. They get regular reminders from teachers about what is coming up next, and what the schedule will look like up until their parents return. These seem like meaningless words at first. It is the repetition of the routine that eases the anxiety in the child. As the child begins to see the patterns and accept the regularity of things, they can begin to fully acclimate to their new class. This regularity and routine is important at home, too.

Establishing A Routine at Home

Establish a routine at home with these three steps:

  1. Create A Schedule

    Children respond well to visual aids. Create a schedule with moveable pieces so your child can engage with the schedule and participate in planning their days. You can use items you have around the house to make your schedule such as Velcro, clothes pins, Popsicle sticks or heavy cardstock.

  2. Set A Timer

    When you have trouble getting out of the house on time, set a timer and explain the purpose to your child. Let them know what happens when the timer goes off and what the next step will be in your routine. Be sure to account for load time when trying to get out of the house. Transitions sometimes take longer than the actual trip.

  3. Conduct Family Meetings

    Family meetings give you the opportunity to come together and celebrate the successes of the week. This is also the best time to make adjustments to your schedules. In your meeting, have an open dialog with your child about how their week went. Find out whether they feel that their schedule helped them stay on track.

Children Thrive in An Orderly World

It can be hard to remember how sensitive children can be to very minor changes in their routine. As adults we learn to adjust ourselves to accommodate unexpected bumps and turns in the road. Children do not yet have these tools. Regularity helps them to feel safe. It eases their anxiety. It allows them to grow, to learn, to be happy. Of course life can get in the way sometimes, but that is for us, the adults, to figure out. As inconvenient and challenging as it may be for us, the children thrive in an orderly world. Help them to see that consistency every day, and you might be surprised at what they can accomplish. You also might just find that it helps you, too!