Put yourself in your toddler’s shoes: every day their world is changing. They are growing bigger, stronger, and are able to do things on their own. One day they are crawling, then walking and finally able to run. Everything has a word to describe what is going on… so much to learn! Even eating brings new amazement, new tastes, different colors, textures and smells to taste, see, smell and feel, and names to go with all of it. Then we work from eating with our fingers, to using a spoon and then finally a fork. We become able to zip our coat, use the bathroom and so much more all by the age of three!
Each child in my class is realizing that she is her own little person, with likes and dislikes, moods and a personality of her own. Darwin is learning how to get his own snack and sit at a table. While Cobin realizes the rules of the classroom and can do work with little help from a guide. Ema is learning how to express herself either through her words or screaming. When all else fails, there’s the wonderful tool that is known to all of us as a temper tantrum.
All this power is tiring and often overwhelming. That’s were routines help. A predictable order in a day is one of the greatest presents you can give your child. A reliable schedule imposed on so many new things offers a refuge in the storm of emotions that otherwise mark a typical day. Daily rituals build trust, too. They help a child relax, knowing their basic needs will be met. Since a toddler can’t tell time yet, routines also provide a framework by which they can pace out the day.
Parents benefit from routine too! A well-adjusted, self-regulating (more or less) child is a more pleasant member of the family. Without a gentle sense of order for the day, life with toddler can quickly dissolve into complete chaos. Regular ways of doing things serve as unspoken rules. Coming to school by 8:20 starts a routine for class. Children walk into the classroom with one of us and are eager to work and learn. Our day is disrupted by a visitor or late child, whose presence or late arrival disturbs the routine of the class. When we know ahead of time of a visit we are able to help the children make an easy adjustment. A late child brings a lost sense of routine because they are starting the day after everyone else.
Some parents start routines from birth, others ease more gradually into it. Routines are meant to evolve naturally, along with your child. If you have not initiated regular routines into your family life yet, toddlerhood is a wonderful time to start.