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Stable Routines for Well-Adjusted Children

by Dr. Susan Canizares | December 10, 2015 | Child Development

Stable Routines for Well-Adjusted ChildrenEvery morning, we get up, brush our teeth, take a shower, get dressed—it’s our morning routine, and every step of the way, we’re ensuring that our day gets off to the right start.

It’s the same for young children. Research shows that even the youngest infants are healthier and show stronger executive function and self-regulation skills when they have stable routines at home and at school.

For young children, stable routines are repetitive, they’re predictable, and provide a sense of stability and security. Knowing what to expect helps children feel certain that their needs will be met—not just today, but every day, because the routine we follow today is the same one we followed yesterday and the same one we’ll follow tomorrow.

In our classrooms, we pay particular attention to the importance of routines to help create a stable, consistent learning environment for your children. We tailor our daily schedules, classroom expectations, and other routines to each individual classroom’s needs so that every child walks in every day knowing exactly what to expect from their school day.

At home, you can use the same approach—not just with wake-up and bedtimes, or lunch and dinner, but also for other parts of the day. Will your children wash their faces and brush their teeth first, or have breakfast first? Following the same routine every day creates a sense of stability and reduces conflict and confusion! If children know what’s expected, there are fewer arguments, because you won’t need to tell them what to do—you’ll only need brief reminders!

Consistent routines mean, for example, when you say it’s time for dinner, your children know it’s time to clean up their toys, wash their hands, and come to the table.

And the more consistent your home routines are, the more secure your children feel at school, too, because every part of their day is grounded in stability and what’s normal for them.

Sometimes things do need to change, though. Maybe there’s an eclipse you’d like your child to see—so bedtime needs to shift back a few hours so your child can have that rare experience. Maybe you’re going on vacation, or someone is coming to visit, and daily routines will temporarily be different. In those cases, embrace spontaneity and new experiences!

But always remember it’s important to explain to children what’s happening and what to expect. Then they’ll be able to adapt—and slide back into the regular routine more easily afterward.

Consistent routines take commitment, time, and effort, but it’s worth it to reassure our children that they can count on all of us for stability—families and teachers alike.