Did you know that children benefit from routines? Research has indicated that the positive relationship between children and routines provides a foundation for healthy emotional and social development in early childhood (from birth to age 8). Think about the last family vacation or the beginning of a new school year. These are common times when parents notice a readjustment period to begin a new routine or get back into the habit of an old one. In these times, readjustments can include fussy and frustrated children. But why is that? And how can parents help?

The positive impact of routines



Like adults, children can find comfort in a routine, especially in challenging or uncertain times. Those anticipated and predictable actions provide security through familiarity. As children continue to grow, following routines will cater to their independence, feelings of accomplishment, and self-confidence. There’s another aspect of routines that can build confidence – the familial bond. When young children take part in family activities, they develop stronger relationships with the family giving them a sense of belonging that builds confidence.

Emotional regulation

Children who have established routines show stronger emotional understanding and regulation capabilities. Children with these skills are able to better process their feelings and experiences. As a result, they are less likely to become overwhelmed and more likely to address challenges and mental strain. Laying the foundation for this essential skill will prove valuable as they continue to grow and build upon their mental health skills.

Feelings of security

Routines provide children with feelings of security by giving them control, giving them knowledge of how to do a repeated activity or task, and catering to expectations of what comes next. Feeling secure is crucial for children because it allows them to learn better. Learning is an important part of childhood and crucial for their development. When children feel secure, not only will they engage with learning but they will seek it out more and often display a natural curiosity.


How parents can help

As we have seen, there are many benefits that children and families can obtain through routines. But habits can be difficult to build and maintain. Note that routines are the steps to accomplishing a task and schedules are an overview of the day. Build routines and inform children of schedules.

Here are some ways parents can help build routines.

  • Let children help with recurring tasks like drying or putting away dishes.
  • If there’s a schedule to follow, do a morning check-in with your child to let them know what to expect that day.
  • Try your best to give your child a warning when plans change and remind them that it’s okay for things to change.
  • Provide options in a routine, like offering a few choices of what they can have for breakfast, for example.
  • Provide children with steps of a routine when possible, like how dinnertime involves the steps of washing their hands, getting their dishes, and sitting down.
  • Present positive feedback when children finish their routines successfully, thus encouraging them to keep at it and build habits.
  • Keeps recurring events happening at the same time as much as possible like getting ready for bed and getting back from school.
  • When there’s a routine shift like summer vacation or a family getaway, try to keep the timing of routines the same. Continue to encourage getting ready for bed and engaging in family habits like preparing meals together at the same time.

To sum up

By providing children with routines and habits they will gain positive benefits. Self-confidence, emotional regulation, and feelings of security grant a strong foundation for good mental health. This encourages a positive relationship with learning, family, and themselves. With parents help to keep routines and habits going, they can be equipped to grow mentally and emotionally developing in a positive and healthy manner. 

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Head Start, Zero to Thrive