Top tips for establishing a routine for young children
15 May 2020
Establishing and maintaining a routine can be tricky for families struggling with young children in a confined space without the usual schedule centred around nursery and school. Julia Gaskell, Head of Consultancy and Training and a Norlander has compiled her top tips to help families create a new routine or adjust an existing one as restrictions evolve.
Establishing a routine during these challenging and uncertain times can be beneficial to our health and wellbeing. Our brains don’t always cope well with uncertainty and we can often interpret change as a potential threat. We thrive on predictability because then our brains don’t have to work as hard to keep us feeling safe and secure.
“This is especially true for children because a routine can help them to feel safer, especially during times of change, and will help them to orientate themselves throughout the day. Being able to predict events can be comforting and helps us to be more ‘in the moment’ as we are not worrying about what might be happening next.”
Routines for babies and young children has been much written about and there are many theories out there about the best ways to approach instigating one. This article is going to consider young children, whose normal routine of going to school or nursery has already been disrupted and now may be facing further change as restrictions evolve.
Here are my top tips:
- Think about the important stuff first. What time does your child generally wake up? How much sleep do they need? What are their mealtimes and bedtimes? Consider the healthy habits you wish to encourage such as brushing teeth and washing hands. This will form the template for your routine. It is easier to establish a routine that follows your child’s natural rhythm.
- Now make a list of other things you want to fit into your and your child’s day. If your child is old enough, include them in your planning so that they have a voice within the process.
- Do not worry too much about timings as these can be flexible. The order that you do things in is more important than how long they last as it is this bit which helps your child to predict what is happening next and helps them to feel more secure.
- It might be too difficult or unsettling to do everything all at once so you might want to introduce the routine gradually.
- Give your child time to move from one part of the routine to another via a five-minute warning or playing music in order to indicate a transition. This gives your child time to adjust and prepare for the change.
- You could use symbols, objects or pictures to represent activities on a timeline so that your child can see where they are within the routine and what is coming next, especially whilst it is new. You could create these objects or pictures together.
- Think about how you deal with change yourself. It can affect our behaviour and children are no different. It can be scary and challenging, but a routine can help us all with this. You are always a role model for your child; how you cope will give them a narrative for their own approach.
- Remember to try to make the routine fun. It’s meant to be a positive thing, not a list of chores to be completed.
- Don’t worry about adapting or changing the routine if needed. Make changes in a structured way by preparing your child for the change and involving them in the process either by talking through what will be changing or asking for suggestions of what you can do differently. Try giving them a choice between two options so that they feel involved and can express their growing autonomy.
“Start where you are
Use what you have
Do what you can”