The Importance of Routines in Child Development

Routines play a significant role in a child’s learning and development. Such routines we carry out in the day include meal times, bath time, and bed time routines, as well as those embedded in transitioning from one part of the day to the next.

As routines are predictable and occur at the same day with little change to the way they are carried out, they provide an environment of stability and structure to your child’s day. As children continuously come across new challenges and concepts, routines help to decrease stress and anxiety and offer opportunities to:

  • Build their independence and autonomy on completing routine tasks
  • Extend on language development
  • Engage in problem solving
  • Support a child’s sense of belonging and to build relationships

Once children become familiar with daily routines, they begin to expect and participate in them, which gives them a sense of control over certain tasks. This is especially effective for children who struggle with transitioning into new tasks, as routines allow children to know what to expect next, and give them time to emotionally prepare for a change.

Skills Gained Within Routines

Specific skills children gain from routines include:

Sequencing: Routines help children to learn how their days are organised, and what they need to do in order to interact successfully. For example, on getting ready to go to childcare, they will need to follow an ordered sequence of tasks such as waking up, having breakfast, washing up and getting dressed before hopping into the car.

Social skills: Children learn language through watching peers and adults interact with others (modelling). For example, greetings and farewells are common social routines that children can observe and partake in- a powerful way to teach children how to initiate conversations and interactions with others. Other routines may include turn taking, and how to interact with peers when participating in group activities.

Language skills: Perhaps most overlooked, is the ability for routines to support children in learning language. Given the structural nature of routines, specific vocabulary and language can often be repeated whilst undergoing these tasks. For example, during dressing routines, you can teach and repeat the word “wear”, whilst helping your child to put on articles of clothing- “wear underwear, wear pants, wear shirt” etc.

Supporting Language within Routines

To support children in their language development, first listen to the language you use within these routines. You will find that you are often repeating yourself, and using the same words every time you go through these routines. For example:

Routine Language to use
Getting in the car
“Time to go!”

“Open the door”

“Get in the car”

“Put the seat belt on!”

“Close the door”
Bath time
“Shirt off”

“Turn on tap”

“Wash your hair”

“Wash your face”

“Get the soap”

“Put on shirt”

“Zip up jacket”

“Socks on first, then shoes”

“Right foot, left foot”

You can use these daily activities to help your child to understand routine instructions. By frequently labelling actions and items while going through routines, children will learn the associated words, and begin to pick them up and use these words themselves!

For example: Learning clothing and words “on” and “off”

  1. Help your children learn the names of their clothing as they undress to get ready for the bath.
  2. The word “off” can be repeated many times as you help your child remove each piece of clothing.
  3. Your child can be a helper and turn on the tap. Emphasise the word “on” each time you turn on the tap.
  4. Once your child has heard a word/instruction enough times, ask them what you should do. E.g. “What should I do?” 🡪 “Turn on the tap”

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