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Make your life easier: rely on routines

Happy New Year!

Thumbnail of a morning routine checklist for young children
Read on to find printable checklists!

Get 2023 off to a great start by implementing household routines to make your life as a parent run more smoothly!

Some parents resist the idea of schedules and routines because they believe their home will become too rulebound or that fun and spontaneity will be stifled. But young children thrive in the structure and predictability routines provide.

Routines help children feel safe and secure, which in turn makes it easier for them to learn and develop new skills.
Routines help children learn to self-regulate, as they begin to understand and follow the expectations and rules associated with different activities.
And routines can help children develop a sense of independence and responsibility, as they learn to follow a schedule and complete tasks on their own.

Overall, routines play an important role in helping young children learn and grow. Like most things, the key to success with routines is balance: scheduling too much of your day can create stress for your child (and you), but scheduling too little creates stress too. Constant spontaneity without some baseline routine to depart from is just chaos.

Routines are important for both children and parents

Structure and predictability can be helpful for the entire family, not just small children. Routines make it easier for parents to manage their time and responsibilities, in turn reducing stress and conflicts within the household. Routines can help parents establish clear expectations and boundaries for their children, which promote good behavior and support children's emotional and social development. Overall, routines can be important tools for parents to help ensure the smooth running of their household and support the healthy development of their children.

The three most important routines for young children:

The three most important routines to put in place for young children are a regular bedtime routine, regular mealtimes, and a regular morning routine. A regular bedtime routine helps children wind down from their day and prepare for a good sleep, while a morning routine can set a positive tone for their day. Regular mealtimes with healthy food choices help ensure proper nutrition and can also provide opportunities for socialization and learning when the family sits down for a meal together.

Bedtime routine:

Preschool children need from 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night! A bedtime routine for young children helps them wind down and prepare for a good night’s sleep - and a good night's sleep makes them ready for tomorrow's brain-building! Try these steps:

Image of an adult and child reading storybooks together
  • Establish a regular bedtime and stick to it consistently, even on weekends.

  • Create a relaxing and calming atmosphere in the bedroom, with dim lighting and comfortable bedding.

  • Help your child prepare for bed by having them brush their teeth, wash their face, and put on their pajamas.

  • Spend some time together before sleep, cuddling and reading a bedtime story.

  • Turn off the lights and tuck your child into bed, giving them a goodnight kiss and reassuring them that they are safe and loved.

It is important to be consistent and patient as you establish a bedtime routine. With time and practice, your child will learn to wind down and relax before bed, setting the stage for a good night's sleep which in turn leads to an easier morning.

Morning routine:

A good morning routine for young children will help them (and you) start the day off on the right foot.

Children eating at a table
  • Wake up at a similar time each day, even on weekends.

  • Help your child prepare for the day by having them get dressed, brush their teeth and hair, and wash their face.

  • Provide a healthy breakfast and enough time to sit down and eat it.

  • Encourage your child to help with simple tasks such as packing their school or daycare bag.

  • Put your packed bags by the door.

  • Help with shoes and any outside clothing, if necessary.

  • Have a checklist you run through before leaving the house (Bag? Check! Hat? Check! Mittens (or sunscreen)? Check! Jacket? Check! … and so on)

It is important to find a routine that works for your child and your family, and, again, to be consistent and patient as you establish a morning routine. With time and practice, your child will learn to start the day off in a positive and productive way.

Mealtime routine:

To set up a mealtime routine for young children, try following these steps:

A child helping with meal preparation
  • Establish regular mealtimes and stick to them consistently. This will help your child know when to expect meals and can also help regulate their hunger and eating habits.

  • Create a calm and pleasant atmosphere at mealtimes, free from distractions such as television or other screens.

  • Provide a variety of healthy foods for your child to choose from and encourage them to try new foods and flavours.

  • Involve your child in meal planning and preparation by encouraging them to help with simple tasks such as setting the table or washing vegetables.

  • Set enough time for your child to eat without feeling rushed; encourage them to eat at a leisurely pace. Sit down and eat together as a family – this encourages healthy attachment, building strong family bonds.

  • Avoid using food as a reward or punishment and avoid pressuring your child to eat more than they want. Instead, focus on fostering a positive relationship with food and mealtimes.

It may take some time and patience to establish a mealtime routine, but with consistency, your child can learn to enjoy mealtimes as a time for nourishment and connection with others.

What happens when your household has little routine?

Young children who lack structure and predictability in their lives can develop feelings of insecurity and uncertainty, which can lead to behavioural challenges and learning difficulties. Lack of household routines makes it more difficult for parents to manage their time, too—which leads to increased stress and conflict throughout the household. Items get forgotten, chores get left undone, and time always seems to be working against you.

Make life easier on yourself. Life with small children is so busy and there are so many things to remember all the time: routines can save you a lot of time and mental energy. At the same time, they create the right conditions for your child’s optimal early brain development. What could be better than that?

For a calmer, healthier home, rely on routines!


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