Routines are the Foundation for Early Childhood Mental Health
By Maegan Lokteff, PhD
Almost everyone likes to have a routine. Some people have an exercise routine, a morning routine, and a work routine. Routines create structure and help guide activities. They provide predictability and security.
For young children, routines provide the foundation for positive early childhood mental health. Routines ensure relationships. For young children, routines need to be facilitated by the adults in their lives. Routines also ensure repetition. Repetition helps babies and toddlers learn to connect their relationships to their experiences of safety and security. Routines play a major role in helping children develop social and emotional skills by providing safe and predictable experiences which allow them to develop and practice social and emotional understanding.
Routines and Self-Control
Routines help young children learn self-control by providing a sense of safety and security. When children feel safe in their day to day activities, they have more freedom to explore, play, and learn.
Routines Reduce Power Struggles
Because they provide children with information about what will happen next, routines can reduce power struggles. Children feel more in control and have a greater sense of security regarding what’s happening to and around them. When children feel in control, they may be more likely to respond positively to requests.
Routines and Safety
While routines support young children’s sense of security, they can also support the health and safety of a young child. When health and safety practices like washing hands, sitting in a car seat, or wearing a helmet are expected routines, children are more likely to do them. This in turn supports their health, safety, and sense of responsibility.
Routines and Social Skills
Social interactions are a series of routines. As babies grow into toddlers, they learn how to respond to social cues from routines (they know to say hello when someone arrives and goodbye when someone leaves, for example). Social patterns and routines help young children understand turn taking in conversation and activities as well as problem solving with peers.
Routines and Transitions
Routines can make transitions easier. Routines around transitions, such as bed time or going to day care, help children know what to expect next. This makes them feel secure and makes the change in activity or environment easier to process.
Routines are the foundation for promoting social and emotional health in young children. They offer opportunities for children to build self-confidence, curiosity, social skills, self-control, regulation, and communication skills.
Grand Beginnings, Executive Director; 970.725.3391; firstname.lastname@example.org
Maegan has spent almost 20 years working with children and families. After earning a BS in Child Development and Family Relations and a BS in Recreation at the University of Idaho, Maegan spent several years working in early care and education programs, after school programs, and summer day camps as both a teacher and administrator. She spent four years as a coordinator and advocate for families experiencing domestic violence. In 2014, Maegan completed her PhD in Family and Human Development with an emphasis in child development and early care and education at Utah State University.
The mission of Grand Beginnings is to promote a child-centered school readiness system that fosters early learning, facilitates healthy child development and promotes family success in Grand County.
More information can be found at Creating Routines for Love and Learning, Zero to Three, 2010.