Familiar activities can be comforting for children and adults during uncertain or challenging times. Just like most adults, preschoolers feel more confident when their daily activities are familiar and follow a predictable pattern.1 This can help children to feel in control of their environment and confident enough to participate in activities and tasks because they know what comes next, which makes them feel safe.1 Familiar activities and routines early in life can help develop relationships and help children develop a sense of belonging.1 As children grow, they become more adept at following routines and exercise their growing independence, which can give them a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Why Routines Matter

Routines support healthy social and emotional development in early childhood. The repetition of simple patterns helps them understand the world around them, give them a sense of stability, and play an important role in their emotional and social growth.2

  • Self-control. Consistent routines that happen at the same time and in the same way every day help children of all ages learn to feel a sense of trust and safety.3 When children know what’s coming next, they can better regulate their behaviour.

  • Power struggles A stable routine allows preschoolers to anticipate what’s coming next, which gives them a sense of control over their lives.3 This is a huge deal for kids because they often crave independence but are constantly being told what to do. The idea that they can do things on their own, and do them correctly, because they know what they’re supposed to do, can eliminate a lot of power struggles around cleaning up, hygiene, and bedtime.3

  • Safety. Routines guide actions toward a specific goal, and two of the most important goals for parents of preschoolers are the health and safety of their children.3 Routines can be used to help older kids learn positive, responsible behaviour like looking both ways and holding an adult’s hand before crossing the street, washing their hands after using the bathroom or before eating.3 This consistency can help preschoolers stay safe and take some responsibility in their own lives.

  • Social skills. As your preschooler interacts with classmates and teachers, they begin to learn patterns and routines for successful social interactions.3 Not only do these routines help build language, but your child will talk through taking turns, sharing, and helping others, routines that will help them later in school and later in life.

  • Coping with transitions. Transitions between activities may be stressful for some children and they may resist going to bed as a result. Your preschooler may come to rely on routines to ease these transitions. Some parents may use a timer or a special song or game to indicate the end of one activity and the beginning of another.3 While some children may resist, having a routine in place can ease these transitions since they’ll know what to do.

  • Learning opportunities. Every routine is a learning opportunity for your preschooler: mealtime, running errands, taking baths, and getting ready for bed.3 Take your child to the grocery store with you and let them help you pick out things to put in the cart, this can help practice language skills, talking, counting, and using the senses. It also helps to build your preschooler’s confidence as they help adults complete tasks.

Types of Routines for Preschoolers

A schedule represents the big picture for your preschooler and includes activities that happen throughout the course of the day; a routine is the steps that are needed to complete each part of the schedule.1 A preschooler who feels confident in their ability to complete a routine is likely to be more confident and less combative. If your child can handle parts of a routine on their own with minimal assistance, let them do it!1 For the greatest success, families should try to keep routines and schedules similar each day, but should also try to maintain some flexibility, provided the preschooler is given a head’s up about how their day will change.1

Some potential routines that preschoolers and caregivers can use include:

  • Bedtime. Bedtime routines can help your preschooler’s overall well-being, dental health, executive function, and readiness for school.4 Parents and caregivers who help their children through a solid bedtime routine can expect that their child will have better quality of sleep, which is associated with cognitive, physical, and emotional benefits.4

  • Using the bathroom. Most preschoolers know how to use the toilet, which is likely a result of a strong potty-training routine that took place when they were younger. As a result, children know how to use a toilet successfully and wash their hands afterward.

  • Washing hands. Caregivers who model good handwashing routines for their children can help build a strong hygiene routine. Preschoolers should learn to wash their hands before preparing or eating food and after using the restroom, wiping your nose, cleaning around the house, or handling garbage.5 A strong handwashing routine and knowing when to do so can help keep your preschooler healthy.

Your preschooler’s day is full of routines to master that will ultimately give them confidence and independence. Parents and caregivers can support their children by modeling what to do and coaching them through the steps needed to master the routine. Another way that parents can help support your preschooler’s normal growth* and brain development is by supplementing with a nutritional drink for kids like Enfagrow A+.

1. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/article/importance-schedules-routines

2. https://blog.kaplanco.com/ii/why-routines-are-important-for-infants-toddlers

3. https://www.zerotothree.org/resource/creating-routines-for-love-and-learning/

4. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-018-5290-3

5. https://caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/healthy-living/handwashing