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We all benefit from having a regular routine or rhythm; healthy lifestyle changes, exercise routines and better sleep habits are always more successful if they are adopted as part of a day-to-day routine. Just like adults, routines are especially important for children of all ages but particularly in the early years. When young children know and follow a routine, they feel more confident and secure as their daily activities are predictable and familiar and this security then enables them the freedom to explore, concentrate and learn.

However, routines or transitions are not always easy to both establish or maintain, especially at toddler age. Transitioning from one thing to the next such as the routine of getting dressed, eating breakfast, then brushing teeth, putting on a coat and leaving the house, involves a lot of different steps in a time frame that might not make sense to a toddler who wants to play longer or tidy away their toys. It’s tricky but there are a couple of things that are sure to make transitioning between tasks easier.

Predictability and accessibility.

Children benefit from relationships and environments that are predictable to them: this includes important caregivers who behave in predictable ways and events that occur at predictable times. For example, in a preschool environment routine will offer a place where toddlers can improve their confidence, explore the world around them, and find comfort in their daily schedule. Predictable routines can also help young children develop their understanding and set expectations for behaviour. It can allow children to know what comes next and how to best prepare for it. It can also encourage responsibility, curiosity, and independence.

For example, at dinner time and bedtime, children can anchor their day according to these expected interactions with their families. Furthermore, these are routine moments that provide a high level of accessibility to children. Not only can children know easily when and how they will occur, but also can participate in these routines in meaningful ways by helping to set the table at dinnertime or choosing their own book to read at bedtime.

Consistency: A consistent routine will go a long way to keeping this great wide overwhelming world somewhat in check for our children. Of course, not every day is the same, especially during the holidays, or when invited for dinner at a friend’s or during family gatherings … and life does not always go according to plan, but a general sense of rhythm and routine means that children know what to expect in their day and they will learn to act according to that expectation.

Choice: Giving a choice can help limit the amount of ‘no’s’ throughout the day. For example when it comes to dressing up or even meal times, children feel included and in control when they are able to participate in decisions, and we can facilitate this sense of autonomy by giving them tailored options— “Would you like to wear the blue jumper or the red one?”, “Can I help you with that or would you prefer to do it by yourself?”, “Would you like a story in mum’s room or in your room?”

Popular amongst some Montessori families is the use of routine cards as a tool to encourage patterns of behaviour at home. You could buy them or make your own but essentially, they are cards with words and pictures (photos of your child in action or simple images depicting an action) that describe the steps it takes to complete a particular routine. This could be getting ready in the morning, using the toilet, eating dinner…and so on. Below is a sample, usually it's best to make them more personalised as each toddler has their own struggles with transitions, so it’s nice to customise them.

You’d introduce the cards to your child at a quiet time when you know you won’t have to rush away. Together, you’ll choose the things that need to happen as part of the routine (so, in the morning: wake up, use the toilet, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, shoes & coat, and leave home) and create a routine set with the cards—you could hang the cards up (peg them on a line), stick them on a board, laminate them and add them to a ring binder little book.

Routines take some effort to create. But once you’ve set them up, they have many benefits for us as parents too. When life is busy, routines can help you feel more organised and in control, which lowers your stress. Regular and consistent routines can help you feel like you’re doing a good job as a parent. Routines help your family get through your daily tasks more efficiently and free up time for other things…:)

Virginia is our lead teacher in the Sapphire classroom in our Nicosia setting. Virginia works with our littluns, that is, our 2-3 years old children. In the Sapphire classroom routines are encouraged and reinforced through persistency and consistency on daily basis combined with lots of patience, smiles, love and a good sense of humour. As most of us that work with children know, the littluns are the most challenging age to work with, however, also the most rewarding classroom to work in, as the children's development is so fast! it literally happens right in front of you from day to day. Get in touch should you like to pay us a visit or learn more about Montessori toddlers!

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