How routines benefit kids
Ever wonder why routines are so important for children? Think back to when your child was a baby – how restless and difficult did he become when his routine was disturbed in some way? As parents, we often forget that routines provide the vital backdrop against which your child can test his world, play and create his life. Think of the consistency of daily routines as the anchor that grounds him, allowing him the freedom to explore his world and face challenges from a place of inner confidence. Like a sponge, your child is taking everything in (the sights, sounds, smells, taste and feel around him). Research shows that babies can already identify your voice, your eyes and many other things in their world? Tiny nerves in an infant’s brain and nervous system (called neurons) store and “map out” all aspects of his routine. Every time a routine is repeated, the neural network is strengthened. This means that babies literally become “wired” into routines. If a number of familiar things change, it can be very distressing for them. This is why all kinds of changes (even positive ones) can be tricky for children. Even older children feel more secure when things stay the same. Routines are a great way to keep things predictable and have many advantages for your child’s well-being.
Benefits of routines
- build trust and self-confidence – they feel secure because they can trust us to meet their needs and predict their world
- encourage good behaviour and safety – routines are like instructions, training them through repetition and familiarity (e.g. washing hands before having snacks, brushing teeth before bedtime, holding an adult’s hand when crossing the street)
- provide a sense of self control – with routines in place, they feel safe and learn to trust that caring adults provide what they need, leaving them free to play, explore, and learn
- support social skills – play time, meal time, greetings, good-byes and chatting with others are great routine interactions that teach important social skills (e.g. talking, taking turns, sharing, learning to wait and to help others)
- offer important opportunities for learning – getting dressed, meal time, food shopping and taking baths are great chances to support learning, while having fun (e.g. naming colours of clothes, measuring food amounts, naming foods, counting things and learning songs)
- help them develop self-esteem– when activities are predictable, children know what to expect and become confident enough to master skills
- are nurturing, soothing and stabilizing – because they are predictable
Now it’s understandable how routines benefit our children, while at the same time, helps us become calmer, more confident parents. When we are consistent, they feel it and although they’ll likely to ‘test’ our boundaries and sometimes resist the routine, everybody benefits from routines.
Top tips in creating a good bedtime routine
- keep to and mean what you say (as much as possible, knowing that there’ll be odd occasions when their bedtime can’t stay the same)
- prepare them by telling them about bedtime well in advance (from a young age, they can already understand the concept of “after bath time is sleep time”)
- repeat out loud the simple routine of what going to happen before bedtime many times, because kids learn through repetition (e.g. “remember after supper, we’re going to bath, and after bath time is sleep time”)
- make the repetition of the routine a memory game (e.g. “hey, who remembers what’s going to happen after supper? Are you going to bath or sleep?”)
- remember to stay calm and firm yourself (your confidence can be heard in the tone of your voice, and they’ll test and defy you more if you’re sounding unsure or upset)
- avoid getting into power struggles and negotiations about the bedtime routine (clearly state what’s happening as if it’s a fact, e.g. “bedtime is for sleeping, bedtime is not for playing on your tablet”).
- a blue or green bulb for a night light is calming and adds to a sense of security, (red lights can be too stimulating)
- a drop of lavender oil on the bed linen can help restless children to relax and aid sleep once they are in bed (you can also mix a few drops of lavender with a carrier oil like almond or coconut oil to give your little one a relaxing massage).
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