Family routines and predictable schedules are important for young children. Children feel secure when they are able to predict when changes in their daily activities happen. For example, young children are able to say good-bye at morning preschool drop off when they know that daddy always comes back after lunch. Or, children are able to transition smoothly to indoor snack time when they know that they will get a second chance to play outside again after nap. Routines and continuity throughout the day instill in young children a sense of control over what is evolving in their environment because they are able to anticipate new and upcoming events.
At times, the predictability of everyday routines can still be a challenging transition for young toddlers and preschoolers. The use of special, individualized rituals can be a supplementary tactic to help children ease into daily routines. Rituals are often used interchangeably with the term routine but the two are actually very different. Routines are a series of consistent events that play out during a day, whereas rituals are special actions that enhance a routine resulting in a deepened sense of connection and sense of relationship.
Imagine, for example a routine scenario for Emma and her grandmother at drop time at Emma’s child care. Emma’s regular routine is similar to that of the other toddlers in her class: a kiss, a hug, and a hand-off to Emma’s teacher. Instead of just turning and walking away, Emma’s grandmother created the ritual of kissing the palm of Emma’s hand and patting it against her face. Emma then responds with kissing Grandma’s palm and patting it on her own face just the same. This small gesture may seem trivial to observers but the bond between Grandma and Emma has been immeasurably enhanced by the ritual, allowing Emma to accept Grandma’s final departure.
Rituals don’t have to be grandiose or drawn out. They can small, simple, and even a little secretive to make it special between those involved. Parents and care providers can think about parts of the daily routine where a child might benefit from having a special ritual in place to help ease transition or self-regulation. As parents we can use rituals to build moments of closeness with children throughout predictable ho-hum activities. Overtime rituals will become the unique memories that children hold onto throughout a lifetime of daily routines.
The Parenting Hub would love to hear about special rituals unique to your child’s daily routine. Please send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Need for Consistency
Why Kids Need Routines and Structure
Love, Learning, & Routines
Rituals & Routines: Supporting Infants, Toddlers, & Their Families
Bridging the Gap Between Home and Child Care