Routines as Patterns

Some people may perceive routines to be rigid, repetitive and boring.  Others may consider routines to be organized, orderly and helpful.   What about routines for children and families?  Are they necessary, and if so, why?

Infants enter the world as completely dependent on others to care for and meet their every need.  As they grow and develop muscle control, mobility and communication skills they slowly make their way towards interdependence.  During this time young children are not only learning important life skills, but also to make sense of the world and how it works.

Humans generally learn and understand new information by noticing patterns and by interpreting meaning by plugging new input into existing frameworks or patterns in our minds.  Patterns bring order to our world and help us organize the data that is taken in by our senses.

Routines can be viewed as patterns of behavior that are reliable and consistent.  Babies and young children especially need predictable routines in order to feel safe and secure and to have a sense of predictability and comfort in their worlds.

Routines do not have to be rigid or prescribed; but they must be consistent.  Routines are the ebb and flow of family life and can be generated naturally without interference from the outside world.

Routines can be flexible.  A family may have a weekday routine and another routine for weekends.  Routines, as patterns, repeat themselves.  Five days of this, two days of that, followed by another five, then two and so on.

Routines can be bound by time, but do not have to be followed down to the minute.  It is far more important that babies know that bath time comes after dinner and is followed by story time and bed than to know that bath time occurs at 7 pm no matter what.

Many parents set up family routines around their child’s sleep schedule.  A sleep-centric routine is easier to accomplish for a family’s first child than for subsequent children as schedules become more complicated and thus routines are impacted as the family gains members.  Routines can be adjusted to accommodate the needs of various family members, keeping in mind that sleep must be prioritized to maintain appropriate lengths of time for uninterrupted sleep in order for healthy development to continue.

What are some challenges you encounter in the area of setting up routines?  What works or doesn’t work for your family?

How have routines helped your child?

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