Children thrive in a well-ordered and predictable environment, where daily routines such as arrivals and departures, mealtimes, nap times and toileting are dealt with consistently by all caregivers.
Daily routines provide opportunities for children to learn more about themselves, the world and other people. They also offer children a sense of stability, and a feeling of warmth and caring from their teachers. The challenge is to develop appropriate daily routines for children which offer them a sense of consistency and security, yet remain flexible and responsive to the individual needs of each child.
Children (and adults) feel the most secure when their lives are predictable. When adults provide environments that feel safe, children learn that they can trust others to take care of them and meet their needs, so they become free to relax and explore their world.
Young children do not yet fully understand the concept of time, so they do not order their lives by hours and minutes, but rather by the events that happen. When events happen in the same order every day, children have a better understanding of their world, and therefore feel more secure.
A regular schedule gives children a way to order and organize their lives. When young children know what to expect, they become more confident in both themselves and the world around them. They know they will not be confronted with unfamiliar tasks for which they are unprepared.
A young child’s brain is still undergoing major development, especially the part of the brain that is able to plan ahead and make predictions about the future. A routine helps kids practice making these simple predictions, as well as understand concepts such as “before and after.”
Routines also help children develop self-control because they know they have to wait until a certain time to do a particular activity. A regular schedule fosters responsibility and independence because children will be able to perform more activities on their own if they have done the same activities many times before in the same environment.
This sense of order is not only important for making children feel secure at this moment, but it will also allow a child to internalize an automatic sense of how to organize her own life as she grows up.
In order to establish daily routines, most preschool classrooms follow a basic daily schedule. Among other things, a schedule can help to ensure the consistency that children need and also help teachers encourage all areas of development by planning a wide range of activities. It’s helpful to think of a daily schedule as a guide which is responsive to children and teachers.