Establishing Meaningful Routines for Children Part 1


“My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. “

– Job 23:11

I find it hard to get back into a routine after the holidays are over. Since I am an educator, I have more time off this time of year so I tend to graze on fudge, my mom’s candy, and my wife’s snack mix. Our family, like many, hustle their kids around to many different fun gatherings such as school and Christmas programs, getting ready for Christmas, and going to visit with family and friends. This is no doubt a busy time of year. Amid all of this fun and excitement, we tend to relax on our routines that we have held on to most of the year. I guess that is why there are New Year’s Resolutions. This year, I want to continue to establish meaningful routines for my family and students in the classroom. Children and adults need routines to help balance their lives. They can help alleviate anxiety with consistent morning and afternoon routines.

Morning and Afternoon Routines that Reduce Anxiety

Establishing routines also may also help children who have anxiety. Children function better when they know what to expect during the day or the week. Children who have elevated anxiety may need more of a structured routine to help give them a little more control of their surroundings. Give them some say in their routine and allow for ownership. This will help to create buy-in at home and in the classroom for children. There are many routines that may be important during the day, but here I will focus on building a consistent morning and after-school routine. For educators, continue focusing on the routines you have established during the year and revisit those norms for all times of the day with your students. For adults who need a bit more of a routine, check out these 5-minute tips from Business Insider.

Morning Routine Tips

  • The Wake up– Give children plenty of time to wake up before school. Having to rush around in the morning can make anyone anxious, especially when we are trying to hustle our kids out the door on time. Try and be cheerful with your child. If we are running late, we tend to be less patient with our kids.
  • Set out clothes the night before- Depending on the child, you may want to have them pick out their clothes the night before so they are not spending a lot of time in the morning looking around for something to wear. This can be a time saver. I should start doing this more myself because I am always searching for something in the morning!
  • Breakfast- Whether your child eats breakfast at school or at home, make sure they are getting something in the morning that will fill them up for a little while so they can start the day off right. Sending your child to school with a healthy snack will also help give your student the opportunity to do their best.
  • Goodbyes- Sending your child off to school knowing that you care about them and you are looking forward to seeing them after school. Arguments in the morning with children leave both parents and children starting the day off frustrated and possibly angry at one another. Give them a hug and give an encouraging word to them before they leave. This could be the words they hold on to all day.

After School Routine Tips

The after-school routine is just as important as the before school routine. Children come home from a structured school environment and often times have homework that needs to be completed by the next day. You may have activities planned a few days a week with your children, but maintaining an afternoon routine will help keep children safer, more responsible, and more hopefully happier. The Occupational Therapy for Children have some great ideas for ways to start and maintain a successful after-school routine. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Adults greeting kids– This seems simple but often hard to do with most parents having to work and not being able to be home until after their children are home. You can tell a lot about how a child’s day has gone by how they walk in the door. Ask them some questions about how their day was. If they simply say they did nothing today, try these questions to probe further.
  • Backpack Check- Not only do you get that smelly lunch out of their backpack, but you can see how organized they are at the end of the day. Check their planner to see what practice they might have for the night and ask them to help you with prioritizing what should be done first and why (test coming up the next day, etc.)
  • Snack and Homework Time- After school is a time to decompress and fuel up from a long day of learning. Give your child something that will fill them up. See the above picture or link for healthy snack choices. Depending on the child, they may be able to start up on their homework or they may need a break to exercise before they can get back to their school work in their designated homework area.
  • Exercise– The Department of Health and Human Services recommend that children age 6 and older have at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. If your child or student is in elementary school, this may not be too hard to do because they may have recess every day. Middle and high school students do not have this opportunity any more so encourage them to get outside. Go outside with them if you can and get some exercise together! Here are 101 activities to do after school with your kids (some are exercise related and some are not).
  • Bed Time- Try and keep the child’s bedtime the same during the week. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school-age children need 9-12 hours of sleep per night and teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep per night for optimum health. Try to limit screen time in the evening because that can keep kids more awake and it will be harder for them to fall asleep. Reading books with your kids or having them read to you is a calm way to end a day. Here are a few book recommendations for bedtime.

I learned a few things this week while researching the topic of routines that I need to work on as a teacher and as a parent. In a perfect world, we would be able to do all of these practical ideas and our children would become molded into what we want them to be overnight. These routines take time and diligence. There may and for some will be resistance at first because children may not like the parameters you are setting for them because they are used to much more freedom. Stick to your guns and keep it up. Try a tip or two per week for a while and let me know how it goes. Next week we will look at how these routines can help build academic achievement and help to teach responsibility. Have a great week and Happy New Year!

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