By Kristen, Contributing Writer
Did you imagine spending happy days with your little ones laughing, doing crafts, reading, exploring nature together… but find that in reality you generally feel frazzled, confused about where the day went, and guilty about the TV time? If so, you’re totally normal – but there is a way to have those peaceful, happy days – at least most of the time 😉 A consistent routine is the key to enjoying your days with your little ones.
Children Thrive on Routine
You may have negative feelings about a routine, but little ones don’t share that 🙂
A routine is not the same thing as a rigid schedule that never flexes, though you may find that your routine stays about the same from day to day. You can think of a routine more like a general flow (or order) of events that stays the same on most days. It may vary a little on weekdays and weekends, and change completely around holiday or vacation times, but in general, it stays consistent (especially meal and sleep times).
Some moms also worry about a routine because it means lack of spontaneity. This wasn’t a problem for me, personally — I’ve always followed the same daily routines. But some moms really do like to be able to get up and go.
As we’ll cover more in a minute, a routine gives your child security and even empowerment. There are so many positive effects that I’d encourage you to be willing to sacrifice spontaneity for a little and enjoy the benefits your little one will gain.
You can still plan on play dates and outings, but make them at a regular weekly time – and you probably don’t want to completely book your toddler or preschooler’s calendar. Limit outings to 1–2 times a week, and enjoy the time with your little one.
You don’t have to entertain your child the entire time you’re together. Giving your child space to be alone and explore crafts, toys, outdoors, etc. without you directing is also beneficial.
3 Ways a Regular Routine Can Keep Your Little Ones Happier
#1: A Routine Lets Your Child Know What to Expect
The main reason children thrive on routine is because it gives them a sense of consistency and safety. They know what’s coming next. They know the general order to the day. The world is big and new to children, and having an idea of what’s coming up gives them comfort.
A child who knows that you read a story first, then have a time to dance and play can sit without the wiggles (or only a few wiggles) for the 5 minutes it takes you to read a story.
A hungry child can learn to smile and clean up because she knows lunch is coming right after cleanup, and right on schedule.
A tired little one won’t resist a nap that happens matter-of-factly every day and gives him or her a pleasant time to recharge.
#2: A Routine Gives Safety to Explore
Your child can explore within the boundaries of a routine because he or she knows what’s going on. A routine also tends to result in a calmer mom because you also know what to expect. You can add valuable together times into your child’s day.
You can also plan out times when your child will play alone (or perhaps with an older sibling) or times when they’ll play more freely under your indirect supervision (for example, an outside playtime). You can use these times to get things done you need to work on. Your child develops valuable skills for independent play.
Your child is also able to explore and use his or her creativity in ways that just don’t happen with adult-directed activities. Because you control the boundaries of these activities — how long it lasts (shorter at first, then longer, probably not longer than 1/2 hour for a toddler), what’s available (toys, craft supplies, etc.), where it happens (playroom, outdoors, etc.) your child is totally free to explore within safe boundaries. You can rest and let his or her imagination soar.
When a little one is comfortable with a situation and feels safe, he or she is more likely to explore. Routine creates freedom for your child.
#3: Routines Cut Down on Discipline Issues
It feels like the modern world depicts children and parents as always being at odds. It’s not just teenagers anymore. The media is full of stories of emotional damage from “overbearing” parents of small children – and it’s full of reports of out-of-control kids.
A routine gives you a way to sidestep most of that. There will always be times where your child is challenging. There will be bad days, and there will be time you’ll feel you’ve blown it as a mom. But if you get into a good routine, you cut down on those times dramatically (and you’ll probably find they happen mostly when the routine gets interrupted long-term).
A routine is outside of your child, and it’s outside of you. The routine is “simply the way things are” or “it’s the way we do things.” Or even less personal: “We had a walk, now it’s time for story. We played for a little, now it’s time to clean. Then we set the table for lunch.” It removes the “me vs. you” dynamic that sometimes rules parent/child relationships because it’s the routine that dictates what’s going on. Mama and littles are just going with the flow.
There’s no sense in arguing about a nap when it’s simply time to take a nap. It’s just a matter-of-fact thing that we eat lunch, run outside for a few minutes, then have a story and a quiet time.
It’s a matter-of-fact thing that we can’t have a snack at 4:45pm because we are about to wash our hands and faces, set the table, then eat supper.
The routine provides backbone and gentle limits or boundaries. Again, a child who knows what to expect and whose day is routine knows what’s coming and respects those boundaries and that timing.
Again, sometimes your child may challenge the routine. But most of the time, you can carry the day calmly and your child will go along with it. Routine is also very helpful in balancing the needs of multiple small children (or homeschooling, caring for children and elders, working from home, etc.).
A strong routine benefits you because you know what to expect and you can give yourself a few minutes of breathing room here and there (I strongly encourage you to make an afternoon quiet time part of your littles’ routine, even if some of them just sit quietly without napping!). A calm, happy mama benefits everyone in the family!
Do you have a routine to your days? What benefits have you found?
Family Supplement Plan!
Get our complete family supplement plan (which we take, in what doses, and when), along with our NEW preventative elderberry syrup recipe. Not available on the blog!