Curious why routine is important for a child? Research shows the benefits for families are more widespread and long-term than we ever imagined!
Learn 7 ways the whole family can benefit from having a predictable daily rhythm and how to quickly become a routine queen or king for your little one!
- What are "Routines" for Kids?
- Types of Routines for Children
- Why Is Routine Important for a Child? 7 Key Benefits
- #1 Routines foster feelings of safety & security
- #2 Routines help reduce power struggles
- #3 Routines empower autonomy
- #4 Routines build self-care skills
- #5 Routines promote healthy cognitive, social, & emotional development
- #6 Routines lead to better sleep (& fewer tantrums!)
- #7 Routines help make time for what matters most
- FAQ on Why Routine is Important for a Child
- Why routine is important for a child? The last thing you need to know…
What are “Routines” for Kids?
A routine is a consistent pattern of daily behaviors, tasks, and activities that typically occur in the same order each day.
Note: Implementing an effective routine goes much deeper than merely following a set “schedule” of events.
As caregivers, a routine is not just something to have, rather something to be! Predictable, consistent, and attentive to a child’s needs.
Many times, this requires flexibility. Children require help adapting their routine as they grow and mature.
Types of Routines for Children
Routines are designed to help caregivers and children:
- Form healthy habits
- Stay well-rested
- Arrive on time to school and commitments on time
- Reserve opportunities for special 1 on 1 time together
- Reserve “downtime” for unstructured play and fun!
Having a predictable morning routine lays a stable foundation for the rest of the day.
Examples of morning routines include:
- Waking up
- Diapering or toileting
- Getting dressed
- Eating breakfast
- Brushing teeth and hair
- Packing school bags or lunch boxes
Bedtime routines are essential for forming consistent sleep patterns as well as helping kids wind down at the end of the day.
Examples of bedtime routines include:
- Bathing or showering
- Diapering or toileting
- Changing into pajamas
- Brushing/flossing teeth
- Reading books or sharing stories
- Hugging/saying goodnight to caregiver
Hygiene Routines for Children
Predictable daily routines teach kids how to clean and take care of themselves.
Examples of hygiene routines include:
- Washing hands before snacks and meals
- Washing hands after using the restroom
- Brushing teeth twice a day
- Flossing once a day
- Changing clothes at the start/end of the day and after messes/accidents
Family Routine Examples
Family routines provide opportunities for caregivers and children to regularly connect. They may also be referred to as rituals.
Rituals are perceived as special and stem beyond the basic day-to-day feeding and grooming tasks.
Examples of family routines/rituals include:
- Sitting down to dinner (or another meal) together
- Sharing and discussing a favorite part of the day
- Family game night
- Holding regular family “meetings”
Family routines and rituals may occur on a daily or weekly basis.
Routines in Early Childhood Education
Preschool or elementary classrooms typically have a daily routine posted on the board… and for good reason!
Early childhood education routines are critical for creating a safe, fun learning environment. Most importantly, one where all students can access learning opportunities.
Importance of Routine for Students
Neurodiverse children, including those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), may experience a particularly difficult time shifting from one activity to another throughout the day.
Sound routines can significantly help children navigate these challenging transitions and maximize time for learning.
Learn 10 key tips to managing smooth routines and transitions in early childhood in one of Such a Little While’s most-loved blog posts.
Why Is Routine Important for a Child? 7 Key Benefits
#1 Routines foster feelings of safety & security
Routines provide children with a sense of predictability and security, which can be particularly comforting in times of stress.
Routines also help children feel safe and confident to explore the world around them. By following a routine, children can anticipate events and know what to expect.
This can be helpful during big changes and transitions (e.g., the birth of a new sibling, starting school, death of a pet or loved one).
Lastly, having routines allows children to develop a sense of trust in their environment and their caregivers. This trust will help them form additional healthy relationships as they mature.
#2 Routines help reduce power struggles
According to Dr. Robert M. Corso, Senior Research Associate at Vanderbilt University, children are more likely to engage in “problem behavior” when they:
- Don’t know what to do
- Don’t know how to do something
- Are waiting with nothing to do
Having a visual routine can make all the difference in preventing challenging behaviors. Visual routine charts:
- Cater to young children’s developmental level
- Empower kids to independently identify “what comes next”
- Enables caregivers to avoid nagging and verbal demands, which can fuel negative behaviors
#3 Routines empower autonomy
One of the most powerful tools I’ve learned from Dr. Jane Nelson’s Positive Discipline framework is “asking” rather than “telling” a child what to do.
An asking approach promotes independence and can help prevent power struggles.
Now, a word of caution: This does not mean asking closed-ended questions such as, “Do you want to….?” or “Can you please…?”
As you can imagine, young kids will quickly accept the invitation to decline!
Rather than repeating requests, caregivers can simply ask an open-ended prompt, such as, “What comes next on your routine chart?”
This asking parent approach empowers children to identify tasks and take ownership over their day-to-day responsibilities.
Effective visual routine charts are broken down into simple, single-step activities with visual cues.
#4 Routines build self-care skills
Consistent routines provide an opportunity for young children to learn and develop important self-care skills. Oral hygiene, washing, and grooming all play an integral role in daily routines.
Having a consistent sequence of events helps important self-care tasks become second nature. For example, washing hands after each trip to the restroom.
It’s no surprise that research shows children with consistent bedtime routines have better dental health.
The best part: Following a consistent routine day after day helps put common areas of resistance (e.g., teeth brushing) on “autopilot” for young children. Inconsistency can fuel tantrums surrounding undesired activities.
#5 Routines promote healthy cognitive, social, & emotional development
Research shows children with sound bedtime routines have better:
- Executive functioning: The ability to focus and complete tasks
- Working memory: The ability to retain short-term information and directions
- Inhibition: The ability to control impulses
- Attention: The ability to concentrate and hone in on specific information or tasks
- Cognitive flexibility: The ability to mentally shift between two concepts or tasks
Interestingly, research also shows parents of children with inconsistent bedtime routines struggle themselves in many of these areas.
#6 Routines lead to better sleep (& fewer tantrums!)
Fostering sound routines play a huge role in helping families achieve regular, quality rest.
Research shows that children who follow a predictable bedtime routine:
- Sleep longer on average
- Are more likely to go to bed earlier
- Wake less frequently during the night
If you’ve ever been around an exhausted toddler, you likely know adequate rest is often key for preventing tantrums during the day.
Even caregivers of kids with sound bedtime routines are more likely to experience better quality sleep! (Mindell & Williamson, 2018)
#7 Routines help make time for what matters most
Research shows that growing up with stable family routines can lead to better time management skills in adulthood.
In other words, when parents manage family time in a consistent, predictable way, their children learn to follow suit!
The benefits of time management go far beyond punctuality (although being on time for school reaps major benefits for kids!)
Predictable family routines help reserve time for special moments and activities.
Carving out just 10 or 15 minutes of planned, one-on-one attention each day can make a tremendous impact. This time is most effective when children choose their desired activity (or from a list of options).
- Sharing a story around the dinner table
- Playing a simple card game
- Going for a walk together
FAQ on Why Routine is Important for a Child
What is “no routine parenting?”
So we know routines are important for kids… but can there be too much of a good thing?
The perception that routines are rigid and unchangeable has led some parents to opt for “no routine parenting.”
However, in many cases, they are actually following “schedule-free parenting.”
Schedules vs. Routines
I encourage families of young children to consider a “routine mindset”, over a “schedule mindset”, when possible.
- “My child’s tasks and activities must occur at a precise time each day.”
- “I determine the best time for my child’s tasks and activities.”
- “We must follow our schedule regardless of my child’s individual needs.”
Rigid schedules often do not work for very young children, particularly during the infant and toddler years when feeding and sleeping patterns rapidly change and evolve.
- “I can help my child feel safe by completing tasks in a predictable order each day.”
- “I collaborate with my child and seek their input to form our daily routine.”
- “Our daily routine is flexible and responsive to my child’s evolving needs.” (e.g., sleep and hunger cues)
How can a change in routine affect a child?
Changes in routine are inevitable for every family. Furthermore, many are essential to the growth and development of young children. Here are a few examples:
- Transitioning from a crib to a bed
- Moving from diapers to underwear
- Switching from a highchair to a regular chair at dinner
- Giving up naps
- Starting school
When a child’s routine is disrupted by a new event or change, you may see temporary changes, including:
- Changes in sleep and eating patterns
- Decreased emotional regulation (e.g., tantrums)
- Increased anxiety (e.g., “clinginess” to parent or caregiver)
- Increase in overall “challenging” behavior
Are sticker charts bad?
If you’re looking to establish effective routines in line with positive parenting practices, skip the stickers!
Positive parenting relies on neither punishments nor rewards to motivate behavior. By eliminating these external factors, we can empower internal motivation in children.
Beware that the quick-win of sticker charts is often short-lived. Children eventually lose interest and may require more incentives to keep going.
Instead, at Such a Little While we suggest using visual routine charts, created and implemented in collaboration with your child.
Empower your child to identify “what comes next” and encourage them to reflect on how it feels when they independently accomplish daily tasks.
By doing so, children will take pride in their day-to-day routines and feel self-motivated to keep up with their responsibilities.
Why routine is important for a child? The last thing you need to know…
Want to have your child reap all the benefits of predictable routines but don’t know where to start?
Consider starting small and focusing on just a morning or nighttime routine.
Add in simple visuals that will empower your child to follow along and take ownership over a few daily tasks.
Looking to make it super easy? Join thousands of fellow positive parents from around the globe by enrolling in Such a Little While’s no-cost 30-day positive parenting challenge.
You’ll receive free morning and nighttime visual routine charts, along with a complimentary parenting workbook to help you build a solid foundation in a positive approach to discipline.
You’ve got this!