Question: Before we had our baby, my husband and I had very carefree schedules during the evening. How important is routine in the life of an infant?
Answer: Routines start during your child’s first days of life. They set the stage for future experiences. Early routine can include mealtime, naptime and diapering rituals. These are experiences that help establish trust and set the stage for relationships early on. When children have consistent pleasant interactions with caregivers, they know what to expect. If a parent or caregiver provides their child with food, warmth and comfort, a trusting relationship is established early on.
Regular schedules provide a routine that helps give some structure to the child’s world. The effectiveness of a daily routine isn’t so much dependent on the time that you do something each day but that you do something at a similar time each day. Families need to examine their daily activities to come up with a routine that works well for them. This schedule should keep in mind appropriate amount of sleeping time and time between meals for children.
Parents quickly find out that a regular eating schedule is important for toddlers. Children’s bodies become accustomed to eating at certain times, even if we as parents don’t always have a consistent eating schedule. Toddler’s moods improve if they eat at a regular time.
Toddlers on the other hand do not require gourmet dinners, so simple meals can be made quickly to allow them to eat in a timely fashion. A regular mealtime with family together really helps to develop the child’s spirit. If your child needs to eat a little earlier than rest of family, at least allow them to sit with rest of family for a later snack or dessert.
Soothing, consistent naptime and bedtime rituals can take the battle out of rest time. Sometimes, it is tempting to eliminate some of the ritual, but many seasoned parents will agree skipping routine is usually a recipe for disaster. Toddlers transition best to bed when they know what to expect next.
Bath time and reading a story is a very common bedtime ritual. Remember that children crave a routine once it is started, so if they always fall asleep while you are holding them or patting their back, they will have difficulty falling asleep if you are not. Try not to start habits that are hard to break.
Remember to include family time in your daily routine. In this day and age where children’s lives get scheduled from the time they wake up till the time they go to bed, quality family time is often overlooked. Try to make time each day where you can play with your child or go for a walk together. Both you and your child will appreciate this as they get older.
If children are comfortable in their routines, they are able to spend more time learning and exploring than worrying about when they will be fed next or being too tired to explore.
Consistent routines also help to eliminate many parenting struggles.
Good luck as you develop a routine that works best for your family.