Daily routines for toddlers lead to a smoother day
It’s just difficult for children and often comes with tears and frustration. What can you do to make life easier at home?
Establish a daily routine.
Children feel secure and in control when they have a predictable, daily schedule that allows them to anticipate what will happen next.
“Children who don't have a routine may show behavioral problems in a variety of ways,” explained Pam Coleman-Gay, infant and family specialist at Oakland Family Services. “Hitting and aggression are common responses, such as refusing to nap or go to sleep. This creates a battle of the wills between the child and the parent. The child also may be reluctant to start potty training or may stop using the toilet if they are unable to feel the security of a routine and boundaries. For children without boundaries, these behaviors may be the only thing where they feel in control.”
Children thrive in an environment where they know what to expect. Your toddler will love knowing that she eats breakfast first, then she gets dressed, and next up is playtime! Perhaps she will grab her playdough and create all kinds of shapes and animals until her tummy starts to rumble for a mid-morning snack. Afterward she knows it’s storytime with you before lunch and then more playtime!
The day seems to be going smoothly until you utter the infamous phrase that sparks an outburst — “Cleanup time!” Now the tears start streaming down her face and her cheeks get as red as a cherry. What should you do?
Creating some visuals for transition time may help. If your child isn’t done building her block tower when it is naptime, for example, try placing a “Hands Off! Work in Progress” sign at the table. This shows the child that their toys are safe and will be there when they get up from their nap. Another way to help is by illustrating their daily routine on 4 x 6 cards. You can draw or glue pictures on the cards, which can be placed onto a string, to show each daily activity. To help follow the routine, your child can use a clothespin to move along the pictures to understand what will happen next.
Having a routine allows children to develop a sense of order in their lives, paving the way for them to follow the routine independently as they grow into preschoolers.
But what happens when your day is anything but typical? Maybe you may have to run to the mall to buy a birthday present or go to the doctor’s office for an appointment. How do you help your little one from having a meltdown from the changes in routine?
“Be patient and talk with them about the changes,” Pam said. “Be as honest as possible about the changes and when, if possible, they will go back to their usual way again. Allow your child to share their feelings. Lots of hugs will go a long way to help get through the change in schedule.”
Having a regular naptime, mealtime routine and regular playtime not only will make life easier at home but also help your child adjust more easily at school.