Consistent, predictable routines help young children understand the child care environment and feel secure. A regular routine enables children to reduce anxiety by knowing what is coming next. A well-planned routine will also help encourage children's positive behavior by meeting their basic needs for eating, sleeping, active and quiet play, time alone, and time with other children.
Here are a few basic guidelines for setting up a consistent routine in your child care program:
Plan based on children's ages. Children of different ages need different types of schedules and routines. Infants respond best to individualized care, where they eat and sleep on their own biological schedules. Trying to get all infants to nap or eat at the same time is frustrating, both to the infant and the child care provider.
Establish consistent times for eating and napping once children reach the toddler age. Children’s small stomachs and high energy levels need nutritious snacks and meals frequently. All children need to rest, even if they don’t sleep. Children whose basic needs are met will be less cranky and whiny.
Balance active times with quiet times. Children are full of energy and don’t know how to slow down and rest. Planning your daily schedule so there are active play times and quiet play and rest will help children learn how to pace themselves.
Balance group time with time to be alone. Children two years old and older need time to come together as a group, time to play with one or two friends, and some alone time. This teaches them the importance of community, the value of friendships, and respect for individual needs. Create a schedule that balances whole-group activities, small-group interaction, and child-directed free play.
Keep routines consistent. Doing the same things in the same order helps children know what to expect in child care. For example, toddlers may know that when the teacher says it's lunchtime, they need to put away their toys, go wash their hands, sit down at their place at the table, and wait for the teacher to sit down. Most children who have been in child care for a while remember the basic routines and are less stressed when the routine is consistent.
For More Information
Remember that children of different ages need different types of schedules and routines. For more information on establishing predictable routines, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: