We’re all guilty of it. Those days when everything seems to be in slow motion. Despite our best attempts to get laundry done, clean dirty dishes, and get the kids down for nap at 12:30, we end up with a disaster of a house and hungry and wild kids at 1 p.m.
You may be feeling like you’re living in survival mode and maybe even failing at that. You’re not alone, mama! Give yourself grace and work toward change. In this article, I’ll show you why routines are important for young children and how to create a daily routine that fits your family and your lifestyle.
Why are routines important?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, “Children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent.” Children don’t always have a concept of time, but they usually can remember the order of things if it repeats on a frequent basis (as any mom who has heard the question “Is dinner ready yet?” over and over can attest).
For children, every day can be an explosion of new things to explore. Imagine how exhausting it would be if every day you woke up and where you lived and what you ate was massively different from the previous day.
That’s why children can be so insistent on reading the same story for the thousandth time or only eating peanut butter and jelly for every meal. So much is new and exciting in the world around them that they crave consistency in the areas they can control.
As parents, we can help create consistency by following routines that we repeat on a daily or weekly basis.
The difference between a routine and a schedule.
When you were pregnant, you may have picked up a book that advocated strict schedules, only to pick up the next book which encourages no schedules at all. So often, we hear about the two ends of the spectrum without hearing about the whole array of possibilities.
A routine is a set of tasks that are done in a particular order. Getting up, eating breakfast, putting on clothes and brushing your teeth is a routine.
A schedule, however, is a routine that takes place at a certain time for a certain amount of time. Getting in your car at 8:45 so that you can drop your kids off at school at 9 a.m. sharp is a schedule.
The routine of getting yourself ready will most likely happen on a consistent, daily basis. But as stay-at-home moms, it could happen anywhere from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. It may take 30 minutes one day and two hours the next.
Do young children need a schedule or a routine?
Both. Young children thrive on sleeping and eating about the same time every day. If you’ve ever been out on errands and as a result, lunch ends up being half an hour late, you know this. Children thrive on having a pretty consistent schedule when it comes to eating and sleep.
For everything else, there’s routines. Let’s say you plan to go to the park for your daily activity and turns out it’s so nice, you end up playing for an hour longer than you expected. Allow for that. Or on the contrary, say you planned an interactive activity but your child became bored after only five minutes. Allow for that too.
Focus on blocks, not pinpoints.
When creating a daily routine for your child, allow plenty of opportunity for flexibility, making mistakes, and yes, tantrums. We don’t want our children to be so scheduled down to the minute that we have to rip them away from an art project they’re engrossed in just so we can make it to story time at the library.
How to create a daily routine for young children
1. Create an hourly calendar
On a piece of paper, write out every hour from when your child wakes up in the morning to when he or she goes to sleep. Give each hour one to two lines.
2. Block out scheduled items
Block out times when your child sleeps and eats. Also include scheduled tasks that help you prepare (such as preparing lunch or getting ready for bed). Allow enough time in the preparation blocks, just in case not everything goes according to plan.
3. Add daily routine blocks
Create big blocks for things like getting ready, playing independently, going out to an activity, etc. Leave lots of buffer room.
Some things might work from the get go, other things need to be tweaked. You won’t know if the routine works for you and your family until you get knee deep and take action.
I personally strive for one “special activity” per day, usually in the morning. This could be meeting up with friends or going to the library or even having dedicated one-on-one playtime. Any more and overwhelm creeps in, both for me and my child. You may find you need more or less activities.
Do you follow a routine or schedule? What works best for you?
I’d love to know in the comments below, do you follow a routine or schedule? If you have more than one kid, does it work for all?
Want to learn more about my stay-at-home mom daily routine and to see a sample? Click here to head on over.
Further reading: American Academy of Pediatrics, “The Importance of Family Routines”