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Why toddlers benefit from a daily routine

If you plan and follow a routine, you'll get fewer tantrums, less stress and more enjoyable moments with your child.

You've certainly seen it before or experienced it yourself. Just one minor thing causes your toddler to totally lose it.

Later, when all is calm again, you might think back and realize that something during the day went off track. Maybe your child ate later than usual. Or you had to run a last-minute errand and abruptly ended an activity. Young kids aren't yet prepared to "go with the flow," so these kinds of events can send them over the edge.

How routines can help

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Zero to Three, a daily routine can:

  • Give your child a sense of security and stability.
  • Help your child learn responsible and healthy behaviors.
  • Limit conflicts by helping your child know what to expect.
  • Reduce chaos and confusion for the whole household.

Creating a routine

It's best to create a routine by following your child's cues and patterns rather than trying to impose your own routine, according to the AAP. But you can create a generic plan and see how it works for your child and household. Start with these examples:

  • On weekday mornings, make sure everyone knows what has to be done. For example, your toddler may know that the day starts with breakfast, followed by a bath.
  • Try to have meals at the same times every day. Create a fun routine around mealtimes. For example, have your child go from playtime to mealtime by washing his or her hands and then getting out a special placemat.
  • Make dinner a special time. Have the family eat together without the TV on. Use this time together to bond with your child, reinforce good social habits and encourage good nutrition.
  • Make sure young kids go to bed at the same time every night. Use a special game or book to help ease the transition.
  • During the weekends, set some family time aside. You can stay home or go on a special outing.

Be flexible

While planning is good, don't have too much structure. Kids should be able to make some choices, says the AAP. A good example is asking them if they want to wear a sweater or jacket when going out. If you're fine with either choice, let them choose which one they want.

It might take some time to create a routine that works, but it will be worth it in the end.

reviewed 10/25/2019

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