© Patrick Barry | Dreamstime.com
Some crayon time, an episode of Peppa Pig, a backyard swing session, some trike time or a bookworm hour, and your day is filled.
During the school year, children thrive in their routines. And then, along comes summer with its looser to-do lists, sun-warmed carafes of tea poured over ice, flip-flops, and sunscreen. Not to mention endless, open days for idle kids with hours to fill.
Research tells us routines are helpful to young children, and can be building blocks for learning self-control. A steady, predictable routine helps kids understand the flow of a day, the sequence of self-care tasks, and the fun that starts when little eyes pop open until bedtime stories and a kiss goodnight. Understanding the pattern of a day leads to the sense of independence that comes from playing a role in executing the routine. Kids feel involved in the action, agents in their own existence.
Visual aids can help
A great way to launch a home routine, especially once our little ones become toddlers or preschoolers, is to make some kind of visual representation of the day. Create a chart for your child, using a white board, poster board, or another art-friendly material. Recruit small hands to help add color to the daily timeline. As you go, talk about what you’re doing together. “This block is when we get out of bed and have our breakfast. This block is the first outing, and this one is lunch.” Use a marker, like a magnet or post-it note, to show the current time as your family strolls through the day from activity to activity.
With naps, meals, snacks, preparing for an outing, unloading from another, much of the day fills itself, which is great news for parents. If you’re lucky enough to have an older child who still naps, this serves as a hinge on which the day pivots. Add a morning outing to the library or pool, and an afternoon excursion to the farmers market or park, and you’ve not got much left to plan. Some crayon time, an episode of Peppa Pig, a backyard swing session, some trike time or a bookworm hour, and your day is filled. The great part about routines is that the whole thing is duplicable. What works for Wednesday can help you finagle Friday, too.
Routines answer ‘What comes next?’
Having a charted routine has other benefits for the busy modern family. Routines help you avoid grumpy feelings when time gets tight, and can change the tone of conversation. As parents, it really is exhausting to be the one always asking “Did you brush your teeth?” “Did you put away your toys?” With children invested in their own schedule, the question becomes “Where are we on the chart?” This also casts the child as the foreman on the task, which is a role their brains thrive on. The sense of being in charge of the flow of duties builds confidence and boosts your child’s accountability for his or her own good behavior. Give creating a routine chart a try.