In my opinion, routines are very important for children. Actually, I think routines are important for people in general. Personally, I thrive off of routine. Whether it be a loosely followed guideline in my head of how things are going to go for the day, or a very detailed calendar, planned minute by minute with colour-coded post-it notes. Routines are great for a variety of reasons. Everyone can benefit from a routine. Whether you are a business owner, a parent or a college student. I am not going to go into detail about how everyone can benefit from routine but I am going to go into a little about my own experience with children and routine. I think there should always be a balance with routine and children. I think the lack of routine can make a child confused and can actually reflect negatively in their behaviour. They are children and need some structure and guidance. But, just like I said, they are children; they don't need to be overstimulated with too much going on all the time, such as a full day of piano lessons, followed by soccer practice, basketball practice, homework and then chores. They need to have some fun too. DISCLAIMER: I am no professional. I have only been a mother for two years but I have two children and our routine has worked for them immensely. What works for me and my children, may not work for you and your children. Every household is different. In my household, I am currently on maternity leave, my husband works shift work, my children are two years old and eight months old. These factors obviously effect the way a routine is created. Since my husband does shift work and his routine is always changing week-by-week, we try to create some normalcy with the rest of the household. Our children and I have created a routine that works for us and my husband is home with us sometimes in the evening and sometimes in the morning and sometimes not much at all, depending on his shift. We have adapted to that. Both my children have almost the same routine as far as bedtimes, etc. When my second baby was first born, we entered what I call "survival mode" and we were an easy and go-with-the-flow household. Now that my 8 month old sleeps through the night, we have established our routine.
This is a typical day at home if we don't have an activity planned:
7-7:30 a.m. My boys wake up. I am not the type of mom that gets up before her kids are awake to clean up or anything like that. I wish I was but I prefer extra sleep. Good for all you mamas that do that!! As soon as I hear the first waking sounds of either of my boys, who are both in their cribs, I flop out of bed, go to the coffee machine and make myself a coffee, make a bottle for my youngest, a smoothie for my oldest and pour him his favourite cereal. I put on an episode of Paw Patrol (yes - we have the TV on. I know some families are against this. I don't mind this in moderation. This is a whole other topic I could write about). I then get them both out of their cribs. I find this the easiest for me and for them. If I get my kids up and there's no food, they act like hungry vultures and this mama cannot deal with that before her coffee. We hang around for a little while and have lots of lazy time and cuddles in the morning. We play. We laugh. We eat breakfast. We brush our teeth. We just take our time and enjoy each other. Some days we have places to be and this time gets cut short but I try not to make plans before 10:00 a.m. because for now, we love this time in the morning.
9-9:30 a.m. - My youngest naps for about an hour. I take this opportunity to clean, usually dishes, laundry or vacuum, plus I have time to spend with my two year old. He loves helping with chores.
When my youngest wakes up, I take the kids and our dog for a good walk. My two year old knows to grab the dog leash and put on his shoes. You can see on his face that he is happy and the reason he is happy is because he knows what to expect. This gives him a sense of control, stability and comfort. We go to the park and play on the playground. We get some fresh air. I always pack my 2 year-old a snack. This is routine for him. Playing at the park and eating a snack is something he looks forward to. It is part of his day. We go home and have lunch.
12:00-1:00 - My youngest naps for 2 hours. My oldest does not nap. He hasn't napped since before he was two years old. He sleeps 12 hours a night without a nap and does well this way. Every child is different. My youngest, needs these naps. When he doesn't, there is a major difference in his mood. My oldest and I play outside. We draw. We colour. We do whatever he wants to do. I prep or plan dinner at this time too. This is kind of where our routine is more flexible. I go with his flow and how he is feeling.
5:00 p.m. - We eat dinner! If my husband is home, he actually prefers to cook and I clean up. If my husband isn't home because he is at work then I prepare a dinner for my 2 year old and myself. My 8 month old eats little amount of solid food right now too. For dinner time, my two year old sets the table and tries to put away his dishes. This is part of his routine and responsibility. When we ask him to set the table, I get the sense he feels important.
6:30 p.m. - Bedtime routine:
I give the boys a bath. I would be lying if I said this happens every night. Sometimes we are too busy with other activities. Don't worry - I don't let them go too dirty!! If I am home by myself getting both my boys ready for bed, it can be a bit overwhelming so I am easy on myself and just do what I can. My two year old brushes his teeth, puts away his toys, he gets his sticker, and he runs to his room because he knows what's next...A SONG! He kisses his teddy and it's bedtime. He loves bedtime. He loves it because it's so routine for him. He knows what to do and he feels good about doing it. He goes to sleep within minutes. Then, I feed my 8 month old his last bottle and put him to bed by 7:00 too. They are both in bed for the night and I am free to do what I need or want to do. Most of the time it's laying in bed watching Dateline... anyone else?? I hope I am not the only one.
I want to just touch on how routines are different for everyone. My kids always go to bed at 7:00 because that is the bedtime we have established. This works for them and it works for me. It doesn't work for everybody. I have a friend who is a single mom (who kicks ass as it by the way!) and she works full time. Obviously, putting her child to bed at 7:00 p.m. is too early for them because then she wouldn't even get to spend time with her child. I have another friend who works from home in the evenings and her husband is in charge of the bedtime routine. He gets to bath him and put their toddler to bed. That's a cool routine! It works for them. I also have a friend who used to waitress in the evenings and wouldn't get home until 1:00 in the morning so she needed to sleep in a bit in order to function as a mom the next day. She had her child on a later bedtime schedule so she would sleep-in a little bit. That worked for them. Some children are flexible with their routine and that's great. Others need to have a nap at the same time every single day and that's great too. There shouldn't be any judgement over this kind of thing. We are all moms just trying to raise our babies into adults and praying we do a good job. Be kind to each other!