Keeping kids happy all day - why routines matter
Having young kids at home is no easy task. Ask any stay-at-home parent about the ease of their day and expect to be laughed at. The younger the child, the more attention they require and the harder they are to keep entertained. Having some sort of routine in place can be helpful for everyone. For parents, it means less tantrums and arguments as they attempt to get their children to participate in certain tasks or move away from others, and for children, it means security and a greater potential to learn.
Everyone’s family life looks different. What works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for others, so it’s impossible to come up with a routine that will suit us all. Some families enjoy structure and having everything planned out, while others enjoy the flexibility to see where the day takes them. Regardless of your family’s preference, establishing some sort of routine is of great benefit to children. Adding predictability and stability to a child’s life is incredibly important as they grow and develop and try to make sense of the world around them.
Why is routine important for children?
Adding routine to our lives is important for children as it:
- helps children to feel secure and more in control
- helps establish an understanding of time concepts and anticipation
- adds stability and order to a child’s life and helps them learn how to organise
- helps ease stress and anxiety that can come with change
- helps children develop self-control, knowing when and why we do certain things
- allows children to develop confidence and understanding when performing similar daily tasks
- provides children with a basis for learning: what’s coming next, what’s expected, safety, positive behaviour and more.
Even if you are adamantly against scheduling in routines, it is likely that you will still have established daily rituals such as:
- getting up
- having breakfast near the beginning of a day
- having lunch about halfway through the day
- having dinner towards the end of the day
This is a very basic routine that most of us follow in our lives, obviously with individual variations depending on our preferences. There are huge gaps of time between meals though, and having a plan or idea as to how you’re going to fill these gaps with your kids is going to make your job of parenting easier and your kids feel happier and more in control.
How to write a routine for your family
As each day brings with it new and different things, I find that having a basic weekly schedule works the best for me. I like to have our working week scheduled (Monday to Friday) and leave the weekends open to “go with the flow.” (Although, the reality is that while we have no weekend plan written down, there are still basic routines followed, like our weekly Sunday night family dinner or keeping to our ‘bedtime routine’ as best we can.)
I like to start by dividing my day into blocks and adding in the basic routine that is followed each day.
This will generally include:
- Morning block 1
- Morning tea
- Morning block 2
- Afternoon block 1
- Afternoon tea
- Afternoon block 2
- Bedtime routine (bath, books, teeth, bed).
From there, I can add in the various weekly activities into the different blocks of spare time. For example, each Monday you might do the grocery shopping in Morning Block 1. This becomes part of your routine.
Then I fill in the other set weekly activities, such as:
- library sessions
- playdate/play group
- nap times (if you’re lucky enough to still have them!)
- classes (e.g. swimming, sport, music)
I can then have a look at the gaps of time we have left and schedule things into them to make our days easier and to ensure the kids are getting a good range of activities and experiences to keep them happy and developing in the way we want.
Examples of other daily activities to ‘fill the gaps’:
- Free play – yes, so important. It may seem silly to schedule in free time, but allowing children to have unstructured time to play, explore and experience is very important for their development. Just because you have a routine doesn’t mean that there has to be something specific planned for each block of time – it’s just a guide to help you organise your day and for your children to know what to expect.
- Outside play
- Craft activities
- Art experiences
- Technology (limited television and screen time recommended for children)
- Playing at the park
- Dancing to music
- Reading, etc.
Below is a basic template that you could use to help keep your weeks on track. I like to have a new one for each week so that even if your week’s routine is still exactly the same as the last, you can write in the different specifics for the activities you had in mind for the coming week. This basic template allows some room for you to pencil in activity ideas, the materials you will need, etc. to help you stay organised and on top of things.
Click on the image to download the PDF.
If you’d like to take a closer look at how I set up our weekly activities routine, have a look here. Don’t freak out when you see it though. The teacher in me relished listing the various learning and developmental areas I was covering through our weekly activities, but I definitely wouldn’t expect most people to go into that much detail!
Hopefully, with some sort of routine in place, you will not only find yourself feeling less stressed, but you’ll find it much easier to keep your kids happy all day long.
This article was written by Deborah Alter-Rasche for Kidspot Australia and has been adapted for Kidpsot New Zealand.