It’s easy to assume that the point of establishing a good routine is to anchor the day in a predictable structure.
However, the benefits of a consistent and positive routine are far-reaching; enhancing child development and promoting feelings of security and attachment.
How do routines help a child’s development?
Why routines are good for parents too
But remember, don’t be a slave to routine!
A good routine will encourage improved social skills, time management, reliability, independence and responsibility, and can be a wonderful bonding experience for all members of the family.
As children learn to do things for themselves rather than being told what to do, they are less likely to rebel, and the sooner positive habits and routines are ingrained the more likely children are to follow them as they grow up.
Crucially, a good routine will also promote a sense of security, forming an area of consistency when other life situations or developmental changes may destabilise their lives in other ways.
Keeping days structured helps parents feel organised and less stressed.
They can make sure that time is used efficiently, which in turn clearly exposes periods of free time that the family can enjoy together.
Having structure can help many parents to feel as though they are doing a good job, and in adopting a regular routine they are less likely to forget one of the many duties they may be juggling.
Whether it’s doing the food shop on a Wednesday evening or washing PE kits ready for school on Monday, having an element of predictability is great for parents too.
Not least because working to a schedule often presents less opportunity for arguments within the family. If there are a number of fixed factors such as football practice on a Saturday morning or meals planned in advance there are less power struggles to squabble about.
Parents just need to communicate plans for the day with everyone involved, so they feel included and there are no surprises!
Good routines are well planned, predictable and consistent. They establish clear daytime and night-time activities and help to boost productivity around the house.
A good routine sets expectations of what is required of each family member. This is reassuring for young people, particularly if they make a valuable and active contribution to the family unit.
Lack of routine can be stressful for children, so in managing their expectations, establishing boundaries and outlining goals and objectives, children learn to develop skills such as independence, responsibility and teamwork.
Learning constructive habits and having consistent routines will set the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle, and help children cope with the difficulties of increasing self-responsibility and independence.
Plus, as there are goals in all routines – be it cleaning teeth twice a day for healthy teeth and gums or going to bed at 7.30pm in order to have a restful night’s sleep – children feel a sense of achievement in sticking to and participating in the routine.
Having a clear routine should lower stress, not perpetuate it.
Be mindful not to overcomplicate the weekly routine or set a series of unrealistic targets for both your child and yourself. A planner doesn’t need to be packed with ideas to be successful.
Set predictable family routines that surround getting ready for school, bath time, mealtimes, bedtime and playtime. This will help to set and manage expectations in young people.
Whether it’s a roast dinner every Sunday or a movie night on a Saturday evening, family routines often become family traditions.
Routines become ingrained in family life and are often an opportunity to promote family values. Respect, hard work, resilience or time management can be demonstrated in the way a family chooses to organise itself.
Family traditions are special, positive and looked upon fondly. They can even help children to get excited about what’s coming up; that way they can appreciate it all the more.
See routine as a way to collectively have fun whilst achieving a shared vision.
Sleep is important for children’s growth and development.
It plays a crucial role in the development of young minds, having a direct effect on happiness, cognitive function, mood and concentration.
When children start school at the age of four or five, they get tired quickly and rely on a good night’s sleep to help them recharge their batteries.
A good sleep routine will not only serve them well throughout the entirety of their schooling – it’s been linked to improved academic achievement. These benefits continue as children enter their teens, at which point sleep deprivation increases the risk of depression, damages health and impairs cognitive function.
Find out more about how to help your child sleep.
Sharing chores between family members help children to understand the importance of making positive contributions to the household in which they live.
If children expect chores to be done for them, they don’t develop independence, responsibility or teamwork.
However, children that are encouraged to take ownership for certain tasks will become more independent and proactive, as well as feel a sense of gratification for achieving a task and doing it well.
Rewards can be given if children complete their assigned tasks, be it hoovering the lounge, folding the laundry or setting the dinner table. However, be careful not to reward children for tasks such as getting dressed or making their beds – these should be a given!
As children become more accomplished at carrying out the tasks independently they will develop a sense of autonomy, self-discipline and self-control as well as respect for the house. Plus, children who have been brought up to complete their fair share of chores are more likely to be compliant and respect authority, particularly when asked to obey a request or order at school.
Our relationship with healthy food begins in childhood.
From enjoying a balanced and varied diet to eating meals at the dinner table, healthy eating habits begin during those formative years.
Children watch their parents to learn how to behave. Set a good example, you can guarantee they are observing you to learn how and what to eat.
Eating as a family at the dinner table is a bonding experience. It’s a chance to debrief from the day, air concerns or share achievements. Mealtimes should take place away from the distractions of screens and devices.
Learning to respect our bodies and keep them healthy is essential in supporting child development.
Incorporate teeth brushing, bathing, hair brushing and handwashing into their daily routines, and these basic but vital habits will soon become second nature. By introducing these important hygiene and healthy habits into a child’s life early, young children are more likely to keep them for life.
Parents that role-model the importance of living a physically active life are most likely to inspire their children to do the same. By demonstrating a regular commitment to exercise you are showing that it’s an important part of the routine.
Talk to your children about why you make time for physical activity, highlighting the positive mental and physical health benefits of doing so.
Even better, add a daily allocation of exercise into the weekly routine. Maybe it’s a kick about in the back garden, a long walk at the weekend or joining an after school club, but spending time being active will instil this healthy behaviour from a young age.
Exercise brings a host of benefits to children’s physical and mental health, including:
Teaching the importance of keeping active from an early age can help to reduce your child’s chances of developing serious illness in later life.
There’s no doubt that creating a routine is vital to positive child development. But from time to time, life throws us a curveball.
On the occasion that the routine has to change – be it a special time like a birthday, you have visitors to stay or a parent has to work late so can’t cook dinner – use it as a chance to demonstrate how to adapt routines, show resilience and think on your feet.
If the routine has to change, use it as an opportunity to show spontaneity, creativity and flexibility, whilst explaining why the routine has been altered on that particular day and when normal service is expected to resume.
Good, regular routines help the whole family to build stronger relationships, reduce stress and encourage healthy habits. They’re essential in the development of young children but are helpful for parents too.
For some extra help to maintain routine in a busy week, consider after-school activities with Premier Education. They are designed to encourage self-confidence, creativity and general skill development; all in accordance with PESSPA guidelines and conducted by highly-trained professionals. If your school doesn’t currently offer breakfast and after-school childcare, find out more about lobbying for wraparound care.
During the long school holidays, it can be especially hard to keep up with routines. We encourage children to Stay Active at home with a series of activities and games, or join a holiday camp for a memorable experience of fun that ensures consistent routines throughout the holiday.