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Why are routines important for children?

Schoolgirl sitting on brick wall with book and bag

There are plenty of reasons why routines are great for kids. They help children to build healthy habits such as brushing their teeth and getting exercise as well as giving structure to their day with things such as set meal and bed times.

For babies and toddlers routines are also important. They can be highly beneficial for their development and overall wellbeing, giving a sense of security, predictability and consistency – which are essential for young children. Here are a few ways routines can benefit babies and toddlers:

  1. Emotional and cognitive development: Routines help babies and toddlers understand and anticipate what comes next, giving them a sense of comfort and security. This predictability reduces anxiety and promotes emotional stability. Additionally, routines provide opportunities for language development and learning new concepts as your child interacts with you during various activities. Daily routines with your baby, such as bath time, nappy changes, and cuddle time create consistent moments of connection and strengthen the parent-child relationship.

  2. Sleep patterns: Establishing a regular sleep routine helps babies to develop healthy sleep habits. Consistent bedtime routines signal to the baby that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep . Bedtime rituals such as having a bath followed by a predictable sequence of events (reading a book in bed etc) makes it easier – in theory – for babies and toddlers to fall (and stay!) asleep.

  3. Behavioural management: Routines help manage toddler's behaviour by setting expectations and boundaries. When your child knows what to expect, they feel more secure and are less likely to act out. Consistent routines teach important skills such as self-discipline, patience, and cooperation.

  4. Health and self-care Routines can play a crucial role in promoting good health and self-care habits. For example, encouraging regular fruit and vegetable consumption at meal and snack times can promote healthy eating habits. Similarly, incorporating consistent hygiene routines for toddlers, like brushing teeth, washing hands, and bathing (don’t forget their toes!) helps instil good personal care habits from an early age.

  5. Skill development: Consistent playtime routines can enhance physical coordination and cognitive abilities. Daily reading routines foster language and literacy skills – practice really does pay off! And regular outdoor time supports motor skills and sensory exploration.

Do children really need routine?

While routines are not absolutely essential for every child, they can provide numerous benefits and support their overall development. Routines offer a sense of structure and predictability that can be particularly helpful for younger children who thrive on consistency. However, it is important to note that the specific need for routines may vary from child to child.

Some children naturally adapt well to changes and may not require strict routines to feel secure. Others, however, may experience anxiety or difficulty managing their time without a reliable routine in place. Routines can be especially useful for children with certain developmental or behavioural challenges, providing them with stability and promoting a sense of control.

Ultimately, the decision to establish routines for your child depends on their individual needs, temperament, and your family dynamics. Reflecting on the benefits above can help you make an informed choice that suits your child's unique circumstances.

How do routines benefit children and young people?

Routines benefit children and young people in various ways, some very similar to those we’ve looked at for babies and toddlers:

  1. Stability and predictability: Routines provide a sense of stability and predictability, which helps your child feel safe and secure. Knowing what to expect throughout the day helps reduce anxiety and stress, allowing them to better navigate their environment.

  2. Establishing healthy habits: Routines not only help your child establish healthy habits but also helps develop a sense of responsibility. Regular routines for activities such as sleeping, eating, bathing, and studying promote good hygiene, proper nutrition, and a balanced lifestyle.

  3. Time management skills: Your child can learn essential time management skills by following a routine. They develop an understanding of the concept of time, how to plan their day, and prioritise tasks. This helps them become more organised and efficient, which is beneficial for their academic and personal lives.

  4. Independence and self-regulation: Routines encourage them to become more independent and self-regulated. By following a structured routine, they learn to manage their own time and complete tasks without constant questions and reassurance. Perhaps it’s making their bed in the morning, getting their school bag and uniform ready the night before, or polishing their school shoes at the weekend?

  5. Emotional regulation: The sense of comfort and familiarity that routines bring, can help children regulate their emotions. Knowing what comes next in their routine can help them develop a sense of control and reduce stress or meltdowns. Routines can also incorporate calming activities or rituals, such as reading a book before bedtime, which can further aid in emotional regulation.

  6. Enhancing learning and cognitive development: Routines can support cognitive development by providing consistent opportunities for learning and exploration. Having regular routines for activities like reading, homework, and exercise can enhance children's concentration, focus, and problem-solving skills. Routines can also create a conducive environment for learning by minimising distractions and creating a structured framework.

  7. Communication and language development: Engaging in regular conversations and exchanges during routine activities, such as mealtimes or bedtime, supports language development, vocabulary expansion, and social skills. Not to mention the sense of achievement when discussing how they’ve navigated the highs and lows of the day!