Routine for Children

Morning and evening routines

Picture charts help kids get ready for school or bed

 Use this example to inspire a pictorial chart that suits your family routines

A routine is “a sequence of actions regularly followed”- by definition flexible but consistent.  Almost all parenting experts and more importantly, parents, agree that having a routine for children in place is a very good idea.  This is especially so for hectic times such as the morning and evening, to keep stress levels low while lots of things get done.  I like to see the lines between routine and ritual blur.  Incorporating sweet little habits into daily events, a candle with dinner or a favourite song before the goodnight kiss, makes the familiar special, rather than dry and repetitive.  Simple rituals make routines more enjoyable for everyone.

Visual maps are great for kids, but they’re also great for parents.  Repeatedly verbally reminding a child, however gently, to brush their hair comes across as nagging.  It’s also incredibly frustrating for the parent.  No fun at all!  Having a chart, especially if your child helps to create it, is one way to move toward more flowing and functional routines.  All parents want their children to take responsibility for their small self-care jobs when age appropriate, like getting dressed, and to move easily from one task to the next.  Ultimately leading to teenagers and adults who know how to prepare and clean up their own dinners!  Read what Dr Harvey Karp says about routines directly from the book, “A Loving Family”:

Routine creates security, ritual adds magic

Predictable routines give children safe islands to rest in amid their play filled days.  In other words, if everything is new every second of the day it’s exhausting.  Small children want to have things that they know, as well as you know, as well as their older brother knows.  When you sing your ‘it’s dinner’ song everybody is on the same page.  When you start the bed time routine it’s very clear to them what’s about to happen in fifteen minutes: they’ll be expected to go to sleep.  This familiar daily terrain gives kids a strong sense of security and peace. 

It’s not hard to turn a daily routine into a fun ritual, in fact it’s super easy. Make up any simple, silly song and do it every time before you do the behaviour, like a ‘brushing teeth’ song.  Or help dress dolly and then help dress your child in the morning.  Toys can be used to role play all kinds of routines before they happen, like the childcare drop off for example.  Do something that allows them to understand what’s coming up in a playful way.  Now we all get bored with a routine after a while.  Often children will update the routine for you saying, “Hey let’s do it this way now mum”.  Allowing them to take the lead encourages their self-confidence and their leadership abilities.  They also enjoy the activity more if they know they helped make it. 

Read more from “A Loving Family”


Goodnight Song

No more work and no more play,

every toy is put away,

ended is the lovely day,

then – goodnight!


Drink your milk all white and creamy,

have your bath all warm and steamy,

close your eyes all tired and dreamy

then – goodnight!


Through the window stars are peeping,

from their holes the mice are creeping,

your sweet bed is soft for sleeping,

then – goodnight!


By Ruth Ainsworth

What do you think?