Toddlers: The Importance of Routines
Do you have a morning routine?
I do. Having a morning routine keeps my sanity and increases my efficiency. When I know what I’m going to do in the morning (make a big ol’ pot of coffee), I feel somewhat in control and focused about how I go about my day.
When our routines are violated or drastically altered (e.g. the coffee pot breaks or we run out of coffee), how do we feel? Anxious, angry, aggravated…helpless.
Imagine being a toddler. Now imagine being a toddler who doesn’t yet have the words to express his feelings…his thoughts…his needs….his wants….Must be pretty frustrating.
How can a toddler who can’t yet speak, have some sense of control?
Some sense of security?
Some sense of comfort?
Answer: By having some consistency in his life.
Many toddlers like knowing what to expect because it gives them this sense of control, security and comfort.
Routines imply that there is some repetition and consistency.
Repetition and consistency are not boring to toddlers. In fact, many of them love it! Have you ever noticed that your child likes to read the same book over and over again? Or, that he likes to play with the same toy all the time? Or, that he has the same type of routine each time you read a book to him at nighttime (gets his teddy, rests his head on your shoulder, touches the page a certain way). He’s doing it because the routine helps him to relax and feel secure. Confidence grows from these feelings. Routines also help with discipline and compliance because he understands that if he wants to go to the park, he needs to change from his pajamas or clean up his mess.
How can routines help develop language?
By establishing routines, you help create a solid foundation in which to reduce distractions and conflicts. Since the toddler has some sense of control, security, and comfort from consistency, he can naturally focus and learn from his environment. His attention is not diverted from worrying about what happens next. For instance, he knows that after he eats breakfast, he brushes his teeth and then gets dressed.
When toddlers can anticipate what comes next, they are more likely to communicate and socially interact.
They can comment.
If Scottie knows he has to remove his shoes every time he comes home, it will be easier for him to eventually say, “Shoes off” because the concept is understood by his routine.
They can greet others.
If Rita’s mom always says “Hi” when she sees people, Rita will understand that greeting someone is a nice thing to do and will eventually wave, smile, and say “hi” to family and friends.
They can request.
If Max’s dad likes to say “Open sesame” each time he opens a door, Max will learn the meaning of open and soon realize that he needs to say open if he requires help opening a heavy door or twisting a sticky doorknob.
How can you help develop some predictable routines into your schedule?
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