The Power of Routines for Young Children

We as adults may feel bored and want a change when the same thing happens over and over again in just the same way. Young children, however, often beg for repetition—reading the same book over and over or wanting to wear the same t-shirt for a week. Repetition, in the form of routines, has many benefits for children.

Routines Can Help Children Feel Safe.

When children know what to expect from a situation, they are more able to cope with it. Routines are particularly important around times of separation such as leaving a child at a babysitter’s or tucking them in to bed at night. By always singing a song and giving a hug at bedtime, for example, a parent is teaching a child that there will always be a moment for connection at the end of a long day. If a child knows that you will say goodbye before you leave him with his sitter, he begins to learn that you will not disappear without warning, and that you will come back. This sense of predictability can decrease anxiety and help children cope with challenging situations.

Routines Can Help Children Build Independence.

When children get used to following the same set of steps over and over again, they are more able to do these steps on their own. Routines can be particularly helpful around everyday tasks such as getting ready for school in the morning or getting ready for bed at night. Parents can take advantage of the power of routines by giving their children clear steps for getting tasks done. Consider walking your child through each of the steps in brushing their teeth, for example, and then giving them a chance to repeat the steps on their own. With enough repetition, children will be able to brush their teeth completely independently, freeing you up to do other important things in the morning. Using routines in this way can help children develop a sense of mastery—and make your day go more smoothly.

Routines Can Decrease Power Struggles.

When children have consistent and predictable routines, they are more likely to do what is expected of them. Instead of a parent needing to tell a child over and over what needs to happen next, the routine becomes a part of everyday life. It is just what we do. You can then empathize with your child’s feelings about the situation rather than battling with her. Saying something like “I know it can be hard to stop playing and clean up. I don’t always like to do that, either” can build a sense of connection and cooperation at a time that could otherwise be filled with conflict. 

Adding routines to your day can be a simple way to help your child feel safe, confident and connected.