Why Kids Need Routines

Why Kids Need Routines

7 April 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

We all need routine and predictability, especially in today’s world. We might crave a time where we would wake up to more regular news, such as the weather and upcoming events. Lately, we have all experienced how anxiety-provoking it can be to upset our daily routine and emotional states with the continued aftermath effects of the pandemic or stories from the Ukrainian war.

Our kids need routines to help them in an unpredictable world and help them with firm and stable boundaries. According to Arlinghouse and Johnston (2019), a simple bedtime routine can increase not only sleep habits but also family functioning.

Here are six more reasons why routines are important for kids:

The world is messy

As children, we are overwhelmed with sensory experiences and information from the moment we are born. The lights, sights, smells, feelings and tastes can all be too intense. It all seems foreign to us because it is! Imagine as an adult waking up in a different country where people communicate strangely; they eat weird things or dishes, and perhaps they look different to you. I feel this represents how it might be for a child to realize that everything is new when they slowly become more and more conscious of themselves belonging in this world.

Consistent feeding times = trust

If we are young and expect dinner time at the same time, breakfast, lunch and perhaps a midday snack to be consistent and predictable, we start trusting this process and the “players in the game.”

Routines give us time to prepare

If bathtime and storytime are at the same time every day, our children start mentally preparing for these events. They might not enjoy taking a shower or bath, but if they know when it is coming, they will have the time to prepare for it, and it might mean an easier transition.

KidsRoutines should be visual

If we create a visual schedule, we will not only help our children prepare for any upcoming changes, but we are also adding accountability on our parts – to stick with the schedule. This also means that parents can model getting ready for an upcoming change, which could help our children prepare for a transition.

Healthy habits for the win!

When including routines, ideally visually, we support our children in creating healthy habits. We all have (and like) our routines – we probably like having our cup of coffee or tea in the morning, possibly in the same spot. We might enjoy our weekly yoga session and our “Movie Fridays.” Our children could learn these healthy habits from a young age if we start with routines for breakfast time, toilet time, getting ready, brushing teeth, playtime, school, “quiet time,” etc. They might even enjoy winding down with a bit of bedtime yoga, too!

Routines and boundaries create flexibility

This might sound counterintuitive, but if we provide our children with routines and create their own boundaries, it will make it easier to navigate a sudden change in their routine. They might be more flexible with these changes in their routine as they will understand that the rest of the schedule or routine will continue as usual. For example, if your child has a set (visual) routine and the next activity is playing outside, but it’s raining, you can show your child that it’s raining (explaining the reason for the change). Then you can show them on their routine that you can add today’s activity to tomorrow’s schedule and do something different while it’s raining.

With this, we are setting our children up for success. We all want predictability and structure to some extent, and if we create this ourselves, we can better manage the unpredictable world around us. Which, let’s face it – we all need help with.

Arlinghaus, K. R., & Johnston, C. A. (2018). The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 13(2), 142–144.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental