I was traveling on a month long summer vacation with my son not too long ago. Things were going pretty well considering we were frequently staying at different homes throughout the trip. I aim to keep a pretty consistent stay-at-home mom schedule for my son regardless if we are on the road or at home.
This is after one too many times of pushing my toddler beyond his limits.
One day during our trip, a long time friend called and asked to get together for a visit. She wanted to take a day trip together to a water park with my 2 year old. It was an hour drive to get there, plus a full day at the park, followed by an hour drive back.
With the utmost enthusiasm she asked me what I thought, emphasizing that a day at the water park would be so much fun for all of us.
I thought about it. I’ve been in this situation before. I hesitated for a bit and politely declined. I said that I really wanted to but I was trying to keep my son on a consistent schedule and routine.
And then she asked the big question that I think is often wondered by many…
Do kids really need schedules and routines?
Well…the easy answer is that it depends.
It depends on whether you want my toddler running around like a wild horse in the middle of a forest OR you want him acting remotely civilized. Maybe I’m the only one with a crazy toddler, who tends to behave better when life is predictable, but probably not.
The case for routines and approximate schedules is now backed by both research and parenting experts. I’d love to go on long day trips, exotic excursions and enjoy late night parties. Believe me, my life was way more exciting before kids came along. But throwing my sons schedule and routine out of whack for a day of fun isn’t actually very fun at all.
I’ve let the routine go before.
This past spring, we had family visiting us in Japan. We were so excited for visitors and couldn’t wait to show them all the cool tourist sites around our area. After a mere few days of being out of a routine, my son was a child I did not even recognize.
His behavior was out of control. It was as if he turned into a possessed and angry demon. It took. my. breath. away.
The final straw was after a day trip to the castle ruins. We were on our way home and our son fell asleep in the back seat. The poor child was just exhausted after not getting enough sleep the past few days. Mid-way home the noise of heavy traffic woke him, and the downward spiral began.
He screamed and screamed himself into a fit of rage so strong he was about to make himself sick. And quite frankly, I was about to be sick myself. Sick over pushing him beyond what is reasonable for a young toddler.
Was trying to escape the schedule and routine all that helpful?
The case for schedules and routines with kids.
Approximate schedules and routines pretty much make the world of difference in our home, and actually make life with a toddler pretty simple and enjoyable.
Here are just a few positive things that come from routines and schedules:
- Kids know exactly what to expect.
- Kids cooperate more.
- Everyone gets better quality sleep.
- Everyone sleeps longer.
- Behavior is better.
- Parents can count on children acting more predictably.
- Kids feel more secure and confident.
- Kids are able to complete more tasks independently.
- Kids experience less stress.
- Repetition and predictability of routines fosters learning in children.
These 10 concepts are just the tip of the iceberg. Parenting experts and psychologists agree that routines and schedules make a dramatic difference in children’s everyday life.
Here is some research and recommendations to back it up:
1. “When potty sessions are treated as a part of the daily routine, kids learn to expect them without being nagged (Lekovic 2006).” Source.
2. “Routines are good. Routines are effective. Routines are adaptive. As a rule of thumb, most parents should use structured routines with their children. I could end this post right here. The research about routines is so strong that I feel comfortable breaking this blog’s policy of not providing clinical advice when saying that unless you have specific clinical reasons, most parents of infants and toddlers should use bedtime, mealtime, and other daily routines.” Source.
3. “There appears to be a developmental course to routines and rituals such that they may ease transitions (Fiese et al., 1993) and foster a sense of autonomy while still maintaining connections to the family as a whole. As family researchers, we are challenged to find ways to take into account the developing characteristics of the individual in the context of the larger group. We have found that the symbolic meaning ascribed to family rituals provides a window into how individuals form representations of the connections that keeps the group together.” Source.
4. “A multinational study suggests that having a regular bedtime routine is associated with better sleep in young children up to 6 years of age, and the positive impact on sleep increases with the consistency of the nightly routine.” Source.
5. “Your child may be 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating, 24% more likely to eat healthier foods and 12% less likely to be overweight (Hammons & Fiese, 2011). All three of these statistics are attached to one family ritual—shared mealtimes.” Source.
Ready to find a routine that works for your family?
I’ve written a book with my friend Rachel that has ideas for rhythms, routines and schedules that’ll help your children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. There are over 30 printables (all different routines you can print out) including tips for running your day and figuring out a routine with multiple children!
Do you think kids need schedules and routines? Let’s chat in the comments!
I've created a free email series just for you! If you are struggling with finding a routine, rhythm or schedule, this email series will help you find one that will work for YOUR family. Yes, really. I've seen my sample routines work time and time again for parents. I know it can work for you too.
This free email series will help you:
- free sample routine for your child
- learn one easy routine that will help you get more done (and keep your child happy)
- get simple hacks for managing the day with multiple kids
- get a sneak peak at a book containing 25+ sample routines and schedules
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